FOR once eschewing the clinical objectivity demanded by her science, Yolande Harley has authored her way to a very laudable third prize in an international writing competition hosted by popular science magazine New Scientist in conjunction with the Wellcome Trust.
For her entry in the 2002 New Millennial Science Essay Competition, Harley, based with the MRC/UCT Research Unit in Exercise Science and Sports Medicine (ESSM), was required to take a more creative approach to her doctoral work in which she is trying to come up with answers as to why black distance runners do so much better than their white counterparts. In her essay, she described a gruelling training session with one of a number of local black athletes she has been working with over the past few years.
As stipulated by the competition, articles were not only to be entertaining and informative, but researchers also had to explore the implications of their work for society. Harley's essay went up against entries from 19 countries, including the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, the United States and Cuba.
For her efforts, Harley won a year's subscription to New Scientist and a cheque to the tune of UKÂ£375 (around R6 000). Her essay will also be published on the Wellcome Trust website.
Apart from having to renounce the shibboleths usually associated with advanced scientific studies and contending with the competition's sparse word count (her first draft was about double the stipulated 700 words, she confesses). Harley also had to learn that it was okay to be a bit florid at times. â€œI haven't written a descriptive essay since high school, and what I've been writing since has been very much university style, objective and science-oriented,â€ she says.
â€œI must admit, I really enjoyed using some flowery language for a change.â€
â€œThrilledâ€ by her success, Harley admits that she had no expectations of winning anything when first emailing off her essay. â€œWhen you enter something like this, you always think it's a bit of a long shot.
â€œBut I'm really happy, because not only is the essay about my work, at the same time it was a bit of a creative outlet.â€
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