Writing in the Workplace: Brian Plouffe, Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Regis College

brianplouffeBrian Plouffe, PhD earned his BS in Chemical Engineering from the University of Rhode Island. He attended Northeastern to continue his study of Chemical Engineering, earning his MS in 2007 and his PhD in 2011. Dr. Plouffe was a Postdoctoral Research Associate at MIT from 2011-2012  and at Northeastern from 2012-2015, where he was also a part-time lecturer He started a company, Quad Technologies, based on his doctoral work and currently works as an Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Regis College. At Regis, he is starting the Biomedical Engineering program from the ground up, including the development of 14 new courses, one new math course, recruitment, and budgeting.

What media do you rely on for writing? What genres or types of writing do you do at work?

I read a number of scientific journal as part of my job and whilst a graduate student/postdoc. My writing is centered on scientific journal publications and grant proposals.

Who do you write for, or what is your audience? What are your goals when you write at work?

The audience for my writing is primarily engineers and scientist, specifically via journal publications. The goal is always to share my research work through publication. I also interface with the scientific community through poster presentations. Finally, my grant writing is targeted towards funding for ideas or for the next step of some interesting findings.

Have you had a challenging writing experience at work? 

Writing the proposal for a new program has been a challenge experience, based on the audience that I’m writing for. The committees that approve new programs are from all fields of study, including business and economics. Therefore, this writing experience has required less technical writing and more business writing skills.

Do you ever collaborate on writing projects?

Yes, always – even the program proposal for Biomedical Engineering.

bp2What is your writing process like?

I tend to first outline (sometimes with figures) and then build the story from the methods sections to results and conclusions. My final step is the introduction. I always write the entire paper and then go back and revise section by section – making notes where sections need to agree and be continuous (does my results support my introduction and conclusion?) For grants, the process is a bit different as the introduction or problem is the starting point and then the proposed methods or approach.

Do you seek feedback on your writing?

I collaborate on all my research so, yes, I receive feedback all along the way. Generally, papers include at least two writers (including myself) but most are more than four people. This provides may opinions and revisions of manuscripts and grants.

What makes you a better writer or helps you reach a better final product?

I like to write and then step away from the document for at least 24 hours to bring a new perspective the next time I look at it. I find outlining and highlighting the doc on paper (I print it out) helps me go back and forth with the word doc and the paper copy with better efficiency.

Can you share a memorable writing experience, at work, school, or elsewhere?

The most memorable writing experience was not really based on the writing itself, but rather the outcome of the writing and the urgency of the document. During proposal writing for my company, we submitted a proposal to CASIS. Unlike most proposals, this particular one only had a 2 week turnaround (usually we have at least 3 months), so it was a quick writing assignment. My colleague at the company was busy with other tasks so it was only me on the proposal (and a bit of feedback externally). Long story short, we turned the proposal around, were awarded the proposal, and have a chance to send product up onto the International Space Station in the upcoming year or two. This experience was intense but worth it for the prestige and excitement of experimentation in space and working with NASA.

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