Science Story Workshop

Julia Nepper headshot
Julia Nepper

The Science Story Workshop introduces scientists to storytelling tools they can use to creatively explore their lives, work, and experiences in science. This workshop is not about science communication, but something much more personal and potentially transformational for participants. In small groups of scientists, Julia creates a safe community in which colleagues can investigate their subjective experiences in a field that aspires to objectivity. Through analyzing story arcs across cultures and character archetypes, participants are encouraged to take a step back from their daily routine and reflect on their personal science story. How did they arrive where they are today? What drives them to be scientists and what discourages them from their goals? The tensions and conflicts that are scientists’ nightmares are storytellers’ dreams because they tell of the human struggle behind the successes.

The Science Story Workshop is for scientists who want to explore their professional experiences through a creative lens using the tools of storytelling. It is about scientists expressing themselves, rather than communicating their research.

The Science Story Workshops for each cohort will take place over two 1.5-2 hour sessions over the course of a single semester. The first Workshop will include presentations on character, plot, and tone, as well as team building and writing activities.

The cohort will be limited in number of participants to create a “mini community” of writer-scientists working in a safe, inclusive, and collegial space to explore their stories. The workshop has been designed with antiracism and decolonization ethics in mind, implementing  many of Mathew Salesses’ workshopping principles from his book Craft in the Real World: Rethinking Fiction Writing and Workshopping. Before and after the workshop, participants will take a survey that will provide feedback on the impact of the program, its benefits, and areas for improvement. Participants will then be given the chance to continue their creative writing journeys, partnering with another participant for feedback on their work, in addition to further contact with the workshop leaders. One month after the first workshop, a second one will be held for the same group on the art of editing and revision. Depending on the aspirations of the cohort, an anthology, zine, or other product may be created collectively.

About Julia Nepper:
Julia was born and raised in North Carolina. She came to UW-Madison in 2012 to pursue a PhD in Biophysics with Prof. Douglas Weibel in the Department of Biochemistry. After graduating in 2017, Julia worked at a biotechnology company, Promega, as science writer. In 2020, she returned to UW to work with Prof. Jo Handelsman as a postdoctoral researcher. She is currently investigating the behavior and physiology of plant root bacteria, as well as working with Dr. Chris Thomas and a team of undergraduates to find new ways to discover novel antibiotics.