Deborah L. Illman, Ph.D.

Illman's recent research and teaching activities at the University of Washington have focused on science and engineering communication and media coverage of science and technology.

Her current work focuses on using mental models research methods to characterize the decision-making processes of expert and novice science communicators with the ultimate aim of developing new educational strategies to help  technical experts communicate more effectively with broader audiences. The project has been supported by a Professional Development Fellowship from the National Science Foundaton.

With funding from an NSF Discovery Corps Senior Fellowship, she has studied media coverage of multidisciplinary research using the NSF Science and Technology Centers as a case study and has published a booklet for general audiences on the subject called Profiles in Team Science. Previously, her research on accuracy in science news reporting received support from the NSF Ethics and Values Program in Science, Technology, and Society.    

Engineering communication was the focus of Illman's editorial in the February 2012 issue of ASEE PRISM magazine. As Distinguished Lecturer, she gave a presentation on “Technology Journalism: Strategy to Enhance ABET Competencies and Public Understanding of Engineering” at the 2007 Annual Meeting of the American Society of Engineering Education.  She organized and chaired a symposium on "Public Engagement with Engineering" at the 2004 annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and her research on media portrayals of engineers, which appeared as the cover article of the Spring 2006 issue of IEEE Technology & Society, won an Award of Excellence from the Society for Technical Communication.

Illman is Founding Editor of Northwest Science & Technology (NWS&T) Magazine, and she has been honored with 12 awards for science writing and editing in recent years. NWS&T magazine has served as the platform for a science writing curriculum at the UW developed by Illman. Graduates of the program have obtained placements at national publications, including Science, Discover, IEEE Spectrum, Dallas Morning News, and the Boston Globe. She has given numerous short courses and workshops on science and engineering communication to regional and national audiences. Most recently, she organized and led the first Chemistry Communication Leadership Institute, a week-long intensive training course on communication for postdoctoral researchers. The 2009 Institute was sponsored by the NSF, the American Chemical Society (ACS), and the UW.

She is former Associate Editor of Chemical & Engineering News, the official news publication of the ACS. With a circulation of over 150,000, C&EN is the leading chemistry news magazine nationwide. Based first at the Washington D.C. headquarters and then serving as head of the magazine's West Coast Bureau, Illman covered topics in analytical, environmental, and industrial process chemistry in addition to anchoring chemical education for the magazine.

Illman's professional preparation includes a B.S. in chemistry from the University of Washington (UW) and a doctorate in physical chemistry from the State University of Campinas, Brazil. She is former Associate Director of the Center for Process Analytical Chemistry (CPAC), an organization she helped found in 1984.  CPAC was established with a grant from the NSF Industry-University Cooperative Research Center Program and was aimed at developing new sensors for on-line monitoring and in-situ analysis.

During 1988-89, she served as a Science, Engineering, and Diplomacy Fellow of the American Associate for the Advancement of Science conducting an evaluation study of an international research grants program. Illman also served as a member of the Committee for the Faculty Seminar on Science & Technology Policy at the University of Washington from 1989-1992.    



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