This year, between October and December, Jessica Cockerill and Suzi Claflin have been provided a hot-desk and access to scientists, artifacts and research (within approved bounds) at the IMAS research institute so that they can create a piece of writing that will help expose IMAS work to the public.
Check out these interviews to learn more about their experience.
To start with, can you tell me a bit about yourself and your journey as a writer so far?
I’m an American. I grew up on a farm in a place that is awfully similar to Tasmania—lots of small towns scattered among rolling hills. I’m a scientist and I am passionate about science communication. As a writer, I’ve tried lots of different forms, from poetry to long-form fiction, and I’ve found something to love in each of them. I have approached writing like any other science, exploring through experimentation, and letting myself learn through trial and error.
How did you hear about this opportunity? Were you members of the writers centre?
I am a member of the Writers Centre, and I heard about the opportunity by following the Writers Centre on social media.
What did you have to do to apply?
The residency application asked for three writing samples, as well as an expression of interest detailing my project idea.
Are you currently studying at University?
Although I’m not a student (thankfully, those days are over!), I am studying. I’m a postdoctoral research fellow at the Menzies Institute for Medical research studying multiple sclerosis.
Describe a typical day on this residency.
For me, a typical day includes a meeting to discuss something related to the work—topics of interest, approaches, etc., and a few hours writing at the hot desk.
How many days a week are you at your hot desk?
At the moment, one, but this will increase to three in the coming weeks.
How long is your project going to be?
The requirements are a piece of 1200-2500 words. I suspect (it’s early days yet, after all) that I will write one longer piece that comes in around 1500 and a few shorter pieces.
Can you tell me what it is about?
The main piece will be about a graduate student’s search for old whaling records that play a pivotal role in her research.
Has it been difficult finding a focus for you piece?
Yes, but only because I’ve been spoiled for choice—IMAS has so many interesting research projects underway it’s difficult to pick just one to write about.
Do you normally write non-fiction, or is this a new experience for you?
As a scientist, I normally write non-fiction, but of a very different stripe to the work I will be doing in this residency. I’ve been passionate about creative nonfiction, popular science writing in particular, for several years. I’ve worked on various projects in this area, including writing my own blog on about public health and the intersection of disease and society, Direct Transmission: www.DirectTransmission.org
What have been some of the most inspiring spaces for you at IMAS?
The laboratories, without a doubt. That’s where the magic happens!
Have you been out on any of the IMAS boats?
Not yet, but I have high hopes!
What are your plans for the future?
To pursue other science writing opportunities. Eventually, I would like to write a popular science book.