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Looking for a Worthwhile Elective?
by Sunnie Mao

The College of Chemistry has brought back the Technical Communications course! Effective communication is extremely important when dealing with other engineers, management, and policy makers as well as non-technical coworkers. For that reason, this course was designed to help prepare students for the real world. Students learn to make their writing more direct and concise, remembering to keep the audience in mind when emphasizing main points. Typical assignments include writing resumes, cover letters, journal articles, design reposts, and personal statements for graduate school as well as analyzing their strengths and weaknesses. Don't worry if you're not the best writer because there will be many opportunities for improvement as you revise your work. Many faculty members believe this course provides important skills to be successful.

Here's what Dr. Ciston, the lecturer, has to say:

"It is a real pleasure for me to be teaching 185, Technical Communications for Chemical Engineers. The course is back this semester after a 5-year hiatus after the unexpected passing of distinguished instructor Dr. Paul Plouffe. The department plans to offer two sections each semester, and while it is a technical elective for now, it will be a required course once the current freshmen class reaches their junior year.

"In the course, students learn to communicate technical information effectively through written and oral channels to different types of audiences. The assignments include documents and presentations that chemical engineers need now and in their future careers, such as resumes, cover letters, graduate school personal statements, laboratory reports, design reports, project proposals, and oral presentations. Besides extensive peer and instructor feedback on their work, students also get to interface with people beyond the university, including industry professionals, and "lay" non-technical people.

"I'm new to Berkeley this year, where I am a lecturer in the Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Department. Previously, I was an assistant professor of multidisciplinary engineering at a small private school in Connecticut. Chemical engineering is my disciplinary background. My degrees are from Illinois Institute of Technology (BS) and Northwestern University (PhD). Teaching 185 is really rewarding because I get to know the students and their goals personally, and I get to see their work improve with each draft of each assignment.

"I'm hoping for a hearty spring enrollment. We're offering a morning section 9:30-11:00 and an afternoon section 2:00-3:30. The prerequisites are ChemE 140 and R1A. If people have questions, they can contact me at sciston@berkeley.edu or stop by to see me at Gilman 320."