From left to right: Marylou Gramm, Andrea Detlefsen, Andrew Warburton, Lillian Chong, Jakob Sorkness, and Jean Grace. Not pictured: George Bandik, Samuel Pittman, and Nathan Yates.

Welcome to the inaugural issue of Lab Musings!

Lab Musings is focused on creative writing about science by undergraduates at the University of Pittsburgh. The goal of this magazine is to communicate science in an accurate yet compelling and accessible manner to the public.

This issue presents selected works by the first group of undergraduates in the Summer Workshop in Creative Science Writing at the University of Pittsburgh: Andrea Detlefsen, Jakob Sorkness, and Andrew Warburton. A collection of poems by Andrea Detlefsen take us on a whimsical, yet sometimes dark journey into the world of mass spectrometry and its application to the large-scale study of proteins, the “workhorses” of life. A narrative nonfiction piece by Jakob Sorkness challenges the idea that science rests on the “shoulders of giants,” providing a glimpse into the personalities in a biophysics lab and their efforts in using computers to generate movies of protein motions that are valuable for drug design. A journalism piece by Andrew Warburton is a “call to action” to save the environment, addressing misconceptions about green chemistry that have proliferated throughout social media and news outlets.

The Summer Workshop in Creative Science Writing fosters creative writing about science by undergraduate majors in chemistry and/or English at the University of Pittsburgh. During this 10-week program, each participant is embedded in a research lab, attends a series of writing workshops, and receives weekly mentorship by two faculty: one in the Chemistry Department to provide guidance on the science content and one in the English Department to provide guidance on the writing process. The ultimate aim is to develop a writing portfolio with at least one piece that is suitable for submission to a newspaper or magazine with a broad readership that includes non-scientists.

Many thanks to Andrea, Jakob, and Andrew for being such a fantastic pilot group for the Summer Workshop in Creative Science Writing; Andrea for coming up with both the title and logo of the magazine; faculty mentors in the Chemistry Department, George Bandik and Nathan Yates; faculty mentors in the English Department, Jean Grace, Marylou Gramm, and Samuel Pittman; Associate Dean John Twyning for providing awards to the participants; Chair Kay Brummond of the Chemistry Department for her support; Peter Cho for educating me about Medium; and finally, Lee Gutkind for teaching a fantastic creative nonfiction writing workshop that inspired me to revisit my love of creative writing and to start the Summer Workshop in Creative Science Writing at the University of Pittsburgh.

From all of us at Lab Musings, we hope that the stories in our magazine spark your curiosity and inspire you to join us in communicating the value of science in our everyday lives.

Yours truly,

Lillian Chong
Associate Professor of Chemistry
Founder, Creative Science Writing Program
University of Pittsburgh