Being a good writer could pay off for undergraduates if they enter NAU’s annual Louis Agassiz Prize for Excellence in Writing competition.

The writing competition challenges students to be effective writers about science and technology and offers hefty cash awards for winners. The first-place prize is $1,500, with a possible second-place prize at $1,000 and third-place prize at $500, depending on the quality of entries received.

Students from all disciplines are encouraged to write an essay of no more than 2,000 words that address this year’s theme: Should media coverage of important scientific issues reflect traditional journalistic ideals of balance or the consensus of the scientific community?

Essays will be judged on the originality of ideas, persuasiveness, clarity and elegance of language. The competition reinforces the importance of clear scientific communication.

“As a scientist I spend a significant portion of my time writing,” says Paul Jagodzinski, dean for the College of Engineering, Forestry and Natural Sciences. “From keeping a laboratory notebook to preparing manuscripts for submission to referred journals, writing is central to the collection and dissemination of new scientific results.”

This year’s judges also are alumni and sponsors of the contest. They include Diana Gabaldon, author of the New York Times bestselling Outlander novels; Peter McClean, an independent provider of portfolio risk analytics for institutional investors who serves on several boards in the mutual fund, reinsurance and alternate energy industries, and Jim Uhl, founder, president and chief executive officer of Agate Steel Inc. in Scottsdale.

To submit an essay for the Louis Agassiz Prize for Excellence in Writing, e-mail your entry by the Jan. 22 deadline to Paula Logie, administrative associate for the College of Engineering, Forestry and Natural Sciences.

For information and to read essays from previous winners, click here.