EVST 215: Writing about Science, Medicine, and the Environment Spring 2022 | Apply by November 11

October 19, 2021

EVST 215: Writing about Science, Medicine, and the Environment  Spring 2022

Monday 1:30-3:20

Instructor: Carl Zimmer, Professor Adjunct MBB. 

Apply by November 11 


Below is a brief course description. More detailed information on due dates, formats, etc., will be available on the course syllabus.


Students will complete four writing assignments: an explanation, an article about a class visit to a Yale lab, a longer profile, and a feature. For the two long assignments, students will also write proposals, carry out research, interview sources, revise their drafts, and produce pieces that are suitable for submitting to publications at Yale or beyond. Students will base their work mainly on in-person reporting—not phone calls or email interviews.


Along with writing assignments, students will read newspaper articles, magazine features and book chapters. The class will discuss some of these readings to identify important elements of structure and style, led by students who will present short oral reports.


We will spend much of our time in class discussing students’ pieces. Students will send 200-word comments to the author of each week’s works, and be expected to participate in class discussions.

Office meetings:

Students are required to meet with me during office hours twice during the course to discuss plans for assignments and goals for improving their work.


Admission to the course is by application only. Applications for Spring 2022 are due by noon on November 11, 2021. I will send out an email to all applicants with my decision by November 16.

Enrollment is limited to undergraduates, but graduate students can request to audit the course. Freshmen should wait to apply after taking other writing courses or writing for student publications. While most accepted students are juniors and seniors, I sometimes accept sophomores.

Please email applications directly to carl@carlzimmer.com

Your application should include the following:

–Your name, year, major, and email address.

–A note in which you briefly describe

(1) Your background (include writing classes you’ve already taken and publications you’ve written for)

(2) Why you want to take this class

(3) Which other writing courses (if any) you’re applying to in the same semester.

–One or two pieces of nonacademic, nonfiction writing. (No fiction. No scientific papers.) Indicate the course or publication (including url) for which you wrote each sample. An unpublished work that you didn’t write for a class is also acceptable; please note if this is the case on your piece. Your writing samples should total 5-15 pages, double-spaced. It’s fine if they’re longer than that, but add a note to explain why you want to include them in your application.

I will use these samples to decide whether to admit students to the class, so pick pieces that demonstrate at least some of the skills we’ll be building in the class, such as an engaging style, a strong narrative, and reporting skills.

Accepted students should be prepared to respond promptly to an offer for a spot in the class, so that I can fill any open spaces with students on the waitlist.

Please also note that the English Department does not typically allow students to enroll in more than one writing seminar in a semester. If you are admitted to more than one writing seminar, including college seminars, you must notify both instructors and choose only one.

Attendance at the first class is MANDATORY for all accepted students, as well as for waitlisted students who want to take the course. Only students present at the first class will be able to get a spot. If an accepted student later drops out during shopping period, I will offer their spot to the next eligible student on the waiting list.

Carl Zimmer is a columnist at the New York Times and the author of 14 books about biology and medicine. You can find more information at carlzimmer.com. For a sense of how he teaches writing, see this guidance on his web site