Independent Study Series: Quinn Donohue ’16 and Science Journalism

Hyphen: Can you tell me a little about your independent study: who was your advisor, what was your main goal for the project?

Quinn Donohue: Last year, I did an independent study for two semesters with Ms. von Breton. It was in Science Journalism; the goal of the independent study was to learn more about science writing, and specifically writing for a newspaper about scientific topics. I had the independent study because I really wanted to join Journalism last year, but because of scheduling conflicts, I couldn’t take the class. I wrote articles on the private space launch industry (was 2,500 words and required a lot of reading and weeks of research), the Iran nuclear deal and the science behind it, and a couple of other articles — one on DHARPA. It was a really great experience, and I loved the chance to work with Ms. von Breton, and I think one of the things that was best about doing an independent study was the close relationship you get to build with the teacher. You had this one-on-one time, once a rotation, where you were meeting with a teacher and hanging out. Because, yes, we have small class sizes at Lick, but nothing beats a one-on-one class size. I think that was the best part of my independent study.

DSC_0784Hyphen: What did a typical schedule of a meeting look like?

QD: We’d meet once every rotation, and there were kind of two types of meetings. One was when we didn’t know what the topic was for my next article, so we’d talk about things we’d read about, things we found interesting in the news, and we’d kind of get in these long discussions about, like, “Oh, did you hear about this,” and “Yes, and it connected to that, and that,” and it was a wide range, which was really fun. Sometimes we’d have really deep conversations about other things; one time we had a long talk about Joseph Heller’s satirical novel Catch-22, which was fun. The other formats of the meetings were when I did have stuff written, and we’d go over my first draft, line by line, to edit it and work out the issues, talk about where I could work on reformatting the draft, additional research, and making it better.

Hyphen: So, you published all these articles in the Paper Tiger — you got to technically be part of the Journalism staff?
QD: Yes, and on the Hyphen. Which is a fantastic website, everyone should check out

Hyphen: So, did you have a final goal for the end product of the independent study?

QD: The final goal was to produce a series of polished, well-written articles that could appear in the Paper Tiger.

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About Zoe Harris

Zoe Harris, a senior, is celebrating her third year as co-managing editor of the Hyphen and as a reporter for the Paper Tiger. She is a leader of the literary magazine club, Lit Mag, and has written far too many weird poems. Zoe loves writing by Junot Díaz, David Sedaris, Mary Oliver, and Richard Siken, and the Harry Potter character she most closely identifies with is Luna Lovegood. She loves the Hyphen dearly and hopes readers do, too.

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