Meet Katelyn McLaughlin, an environmental science writer at the Illinois State Water Survey!
Tell us a little bit about yourself, your background, and your role at PRI!
I grew up in the Northwest Chicago Suburbs and moved to Champaign in June of 2021 for work. I graduated from Illinois State University in 2018 with a bachelor's degree in English and a focus on publishing and I’ve worked a few jobs unrelated to my major since then. My role at PRI is as an environmental science writer for WaterOperator.org through the Water Survey and this is the first writing-based job I have had since graduating college so I am very excited about that!
What drew you to becoming a science writer and/or communications?
After working in other jobs that were more customer service-focused, I realized that I really missed writing. While customer service requires good communication skills, I was itching to get into a role where I could write more often and communicate through that medium. I’ve always been interested in science and even considered majoring in Biology so I was excited that I would get to merge my love of writing with my love of researching new topics when I started this position.
What are some challenges you’ve faced in your career/your program/your current project?
Since my background is predominantly in the humanities, it has been a welcome challenge to take on a role that requires me to broaden my horizons and absorb as much information as possible about the water sector.
What do you wish more people understood about being a topic-specific writer and/or communications?
Every field benefits from having strong writers and communicators. It’s definitely a common misconception that people who major in English (or any communication-based field) can only go down a very specific career path and I think it’s important to show how versatile and valuable this skill set can be.
What has been the most enjoyable part of your job or past jobs?
I really enjoy the fact that this job allows me to learn more about topics that I have always been interested in while honing my writing skills at the same time.
What advice would you give to those just starting out in your field?
Don’t let imposter syndrome tell you what career path you can follow. Take a chance and go after opportunities that you are interested in even if parts of the role may seem challenging or new.