Research and Theory Master's

Science/Health Communication

This program is designed to teach scientists and health specialists to communicate effectively via media, and to teach mass media specialists the background science to translate the language of science and health into meaningful and understandable stories for their audiences. These goals are achieved through theoretical writing and applied courses.

Degree Plan

MAMC: Science/Health Communication

Sample Courses


Faculty: Debbie Treise

This course is designed as a broad overview of the fields of and theories used to investigate and understand science and health communication and communication’s effect on public understanding. The class will be useful for you if you plan to: do research or teaching in the science, technology or health communication fields; if you are interested in policy development, or the role of communication in promoting public health; prepare for a career working in science communication or consulting to businesses in the government, science, health or technology fields; public information officer work in a research, health or technology organization, nonprofit, become a better consumer of health and science information (meaning to assess the credibility, risks and benefits of that information),etc.

For any of these purposes, it is vitally important that you understand: what’s happening in the field and how the gap between access to information and informed decision making is widening as information consumers are struggling to understand, evaluate and find credible information; and how it is exacerbating the disparities among some groups. So you must understand the barriers and opportunities.


Faculty: Kim Walsh-Childers

This course introduces students to current research on the positive and negative influences of mass media on individual behavior and the public health environment. We address the uses and effects of social media and other online information, entertainment content, advertising and news, examining impacts on individual health and health policy. In addition, the course content is intended to enhance your understanding of selected mass communication/health communication theories. Other courses available in the college and elsewhere on campus are devoted to traditional mass media health promotion campaigns designed to encourage individuals to adopt or maintain healthy behavior.

To minimize overlap with these courses, this seminar instead focuses on other mechanisms through which the mass media may affect the health environment. Because class enrollment generally is fairly small, the course content can be tailored to emphasize students’ interests. In addition to developing an understanding of a broad range of this literature, I expect each member of the class to become an expert in one sub-domain of the media/health interaction. Each student will select a topic, undertake a systematic review of the related literature, collect data when appropriate, present the results of this research to the class, and produce a paper suitable for submission to an academic conference or scholarly journal.


Faculty: Carma Bylund

In this course, we will examine the role communication plays in healthcare, across the continuum from prevention to end of life. We will explore descriptive studies (e.g., What is the nature of communication in healthcare? What factors impact communication in healthcare? How does communication in healthcare impact outcomes?) as well as intervention studies  (e.g., How can communication in healthcare be improved?)

We will consider the roles of physicians, nurses, allied health providers, patients, and families. We will look not only at provider-patient communication, but also at interprofessional communication. We will also examine research from various epistemological perspectives.


Faculty: Jordan Alpert

This course explores the information revolution in modern society and its implications for health care and health promotion, including examination of the growing applications of information technologies for health care delivery, risk communication, communication campaigns, health information dissemination, health education, disease prevention, self-management of care/patient empowerment, early detection of health risks, health behavior change, coordination of care, and health care delivery system management. The course will review innovative e-health applications across multiple levels of communication, different communication channels, and diverse information technologies.


Faculty: Carla Fisher

Using a life-span theoretical framework, we will explore how family communication is central to health across the entirety of our lives by examining multidisciplinary research in various interpersonal contexts (intergenerational kin relationships; clinical communication). The course is divided into four sections. We will begin by unpacking the life-span theoretical perspective of behavior and health.  We will then apply this lens to connect family behavior and health. First, we will explore family interaction and wellness by focusing on periods of human development (i.e., birth – end of life) and “successful aging.”

Second, we will examine how family communication can function both adaptively and maladaptively when coping with change, including coping with unexpected stressful transitions (e.g., cancer diagnosis) and everyday life stressors. Third, we will link family communication patterns with longitudinal implications, including the development of disease (e.g., heart disease; mental illness), risky or unhealthy behavior (e.g., substance abuse; violence), and healthy habits critical to health promotion or reducing health risks. Students will have the opportunity to explore complex methodologies, health interventions and translational research, and scholarship from multiple paradigms (critical – interpretive – empirical). They will also have an opportunity to conduct their own family, heath communication scholarship and/or translate research into practice.


Faculty:  Janice Krieger

This interdisciplinary seminar is designed for graduate students with an interest in learning how to use communication principles to translate knowledge in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Medicine) disciplines for various stakeholder groups. We will specifically focus on how principles of communication science can inform the development of strategies that enhance the accessibility, understandability and usability of science in the public sphere. Course evaluation will be based on contributions to class discussion, assignments, and a term paper.