Undergraduate Programs

The Unique Experience of being both a Biology and Communication Major

A women sitting on the stone work around the Knight statue holding a cup of coffee
A person with her hand to her face looking into the camera

Hello, Everyone! My name is Rhiannon Clements and I am a Potsdam native. Next spring (Spring 2022), I will graduate from Clarkson University with two bachelor’s degrees; one in Biology and the other in Communication

Although these two fields may seem completely unrelated, the past year-and-a-half has demonstrated the need for clear, effective, and accessible science communication. It was for this reason that I decided to add a second degree in Communication to my Biology major — I wanted to combine my love for science and my creative skills as a writer to help make scientific concepts accessible to the general public.

What it’s like to be in both Biology and Communication programs

Studying both Biology and Communication is a fun and unique experience! I love being able to take a variety of different classes. For example, this semester, I am learning how to genetically edit DNA in my Biology class and how to film videos and productions in a Communication class. Taking a variety of science and communication classes keeps my schedule interesting and well-rounded. 

A table that has multiple science equipment set up including a beaker and counter
Doing research in Dr. Hunter’s Fly lab

Both programs provide me with career-ready skills! Communication specifically teaches you skills that can be applied to any type of field you may choose to pursue. For example, public speaking, writing, and even website design are all necessary no matter what profession. Clear communication skills are a universal requirement. Another advantage to a Communication major is that the curriculum is designed for you to be able to pursue multiple degrees or majors at the same time! 

Since I’m pursuing a dual degree, I have to complete 150 credit hours to graduate. Because of this, I’ve taken a number of courses to fulfill this requirement. One of my favorite courses so far was actually COMM 217 – Public Speaking! As most people probably know, public speaking is usually not considered “fun,” however, with the right professor, it can be a creative and even an empowering experience. I also took COMM 315 – STEAM Journalism; my background in biology came in handy here! I was able to use my scientific knowledge to write blog posts and feature articles about science. This class helped me practice my journalistic writing!

Professional Opportunities

A table that has a laptop on it with a microphone stand
Getting ready to go live on air at North Country Public Radio

One of the major reasons I decided to transfer to Clarkson University was because of the Biology Department’s research opportunities for undergraduates. Within my first semester at Clarkson, I began conducting my own research under one of the Biology Department’s faculty members. I’ve presented my project at multiple Research and Project Showcases (RAPS) and I hope to present a poster at a national conference next semester. If you’re interested in doing research, talk to a professor! Their research ranges from studying plants, invasive species, fruit flies, and zebrafish! 

As a Communication major, one of the core requirements is to get an internship in a field of communications. Over this past summer, I was accepted into an internship with the local radio station, North Country Public Radio! This experience was so valuable. I worked in a fast-paced, professional newsroom as a news intern. I had the freedom to pitch ideas and write my own articles about local science that were published on the NCPR website. I even had the opportunity to go live on air to talk about a journalism fellowship I was doing that summer as well! My favorite part of the internship was getting to talk to people that I generally wouldn’t have had the opportunity to talk to otherwise. Hearing their stories was a rewarding experience.

I also was a fellow of the Asian American Journalists Association Voices Fellowship where my partner and I filmed a short documentary about the Asian American international, transracial adoptees in light of the rise in anti-Asian hate crimes across the U.S. Through this fellowship, I was able to connect with fellow early-career journalists like me and make a number of professional connections!

Both of my programs have given me valuable professional experience that has really made my time at Clarkson worthwhile. If you have an opportunity to do an internship or Co-op, I definitely recommend considering it! Working and learning in a professional setting will not only give you technical skills, but it will also help you develop your interpersonal skills.

Studying both Biology and Communication at Clarkson has helped me develop the skills and knowledge I need to pursue my career in science journalism. I’ve had such a positive experience with my Communication major! The classes are fun and the faculty and staff are so supportive. I definitely recommend looking into adding a double major, minor, or even a dual degree in Communication to your academic plan, regardless of your current program of study! Trust me, you won’t regret it! 

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