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Alumni Spotlight: Chanapa Tantibanchachai

The Center for Biology & Society recently caught up with Chanapa Tantibanchachai, a 2015 MS in Biology with a concentration in Biology & Society who is currently an Associate Science Writer for the University of Utah.

How did your degree in Biology & Society impact your career?
My degree in Biology & Society trained me to think of science in a broader context, such as how it relates to law, politics, and ethics. This holistic approach to science helped me consider how to effectively communicate science to those without scientific backgrounds. More specifically, the Center's Embryo Project taught me to write about science in a concise, easy-to-understand, yet accurate manner, which is exactly what I do for my career now as a science writer; I help faculty members with upcoming journal publications synthesize their work into press releases that get sent to media outlets for wider distribution. Too often, researchers don't recognize the importance of communicating their work to the general public. It's my job to explain the significance of transparency and science outreach to them, then summarize 15-30-page manuscripts into 1-2 page press releases and feature stories for the university.

What do you consider to be the benefits of a degree in Biology & Society?
Strong critical thinking skills, unwavering support from Center faculty and staff to pursue unique projects, and so much exposure to peers with diverse interests. While I conducted research on prenatal substance abuse and public health law, my classmates researched undergraduate perceptions of influenza, the evolution of humanities coursework in American medical education, and the origination of premenstrual syndrome, among other things. The variety of topics Biology & Society students are exposed to is incredible.

What advice do you have for someone seeking a degree in Biology and Society?
Don't be afraid to try new things or ask for help. Due to its interdisciplinary nature, Biology and Society can initially be a bit overwhelming because there's so much to learn and everything is intertwined. But that's the beauty of the degree--you can mold it into whatever you want it to be. Speak to faculty and learn about their work, try new classes, harass the grad students, and take in as much knowledge from as many different places as possible. That's how you'll find your niche and get the most out of the degree.

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