Meet Ashley Dombrowski

Department of Entomology

If you have one takeaway from my interview, it’s that the revision process is an invaluable tool for strong writing. Ask your professors, advisors, roommates, TAs, and the UGA Writing Center to look over any piece of writing. You will not regret it!!!

What topics do you enjoy writing about? 

I enjoy writing about medical and entomological research and breaking them down for a general audience. Pop science-type articles are my favorite to write, but I’d say that research proposals are the most rewarding. I also love writing for leisure, and slam poems are a cathartic way to write and express what you’re feeling.

Are you working on a current writing project? If yes, what is it?

Recently, I worked on my application for the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship (NSF GRFP), which challenged me to think about my questions about the natural world and how best to research them. I also usually have an abstract in the works at any given time and find writing abstracts to be a great exercise in scientific communication and clarity. 

What is your writing process?

My writing process involves a lot of caffeine– I usually start with a huge cup of coffee, and then outline my message. Regardless of whether I’m writing a speech, research proposal, personal statement, or an essay, outlining is crucial. I then map out the sources I plan on using. When you get involved in research, it’s also a good idea to keep a running ‘encyclopedia’ of sources relevant to your topic, with a quick description of each source with any major themes and the citations. That helps a ton! The actual writing process happens fluidly from there, but I make sure to have my advisor or professor review my draft a couple of times. You won’t get it on your first try, even if you’re a strong writer, so continuous review and revision is the ultimate hack to great writing. 

In your opinion, what is the value of writing? Why do you write? 

​My mom is an English professor, and she wrote her dissertation on the impact of creative writing on students in high school, which really encouraged me to get involved more with writing. I was always a spelling bee kid and later did a lot of oratorical competitions, so writing felt second nature to me. I had no problem writing basic essays and written discussions of books, but it wasn’t until I got into college that I realized the power writing has. Writing exists not just to communicate ideas, but to force you to think critically about abstract subjects. I write because it makes me a stronger thinker and a better scientist. 

What has working on The Classic Journal meant to you?

​As a GLA for BIOL 1107, I already teach the iterative process of writing to undergraduates. As a UGA alumna, I am also familiar with the research and writing opportunities available to students, having embarked on undergraduate research myself. I find it rewarding to help students, especially STEM students, develop their writing outside of the classroom. In research, reviewers serve an important role in the writing process, and it’s a cool experience to be on the reviewer end of the process to help students clarify their work. 

Describe your experience working with undergraduate students. What does that relationship look like to you? What have you learned? What have you taught? 

I teach the lab sections of BIOL 1107 as a GLA (Graduate Lab Assistant), which is a unique experience since I took the same class when I was an undergraduate at UGA. Teaching has been a great experience– the students have helped me learn about myself and work on aspects of my communication. I’ve really discovered who I am as an instructor. Working with undergraduates made me realize how much I love helping students be successful in science, especially laboratory techniques that I use in my own research. I try to maintain a nurturing-but-firm relationship with my students, and allow opportunities for me to review their drafts, offering suggestions and praise. I’ve seen a lot of improvement in their writing, which has been the most rewarding aspect of teaching. 

Describe your experience with the publishing process.

My lab recently published a paper about kissing bug development, which included some work that I did while an undergraduate, and it was neat to see that come to fruition after the extensive revision process. I’ve also been a part of an ongoing NSF grant project and a book about fire ant molecular evolution, albeit in a much smaller (collaborator-type) role. 

What would you like for undergraduate students to know about the publishing process? 

It’s not as scary as it may sound! Revision, as I mentioned earlier, is a crucial step of any writing process, and being told that your work needs revisions is in no way an insult to you or your ideas. Your reviewers often have your best interest in mind and want to see your work come across as clearly and thoughtfully as possible. 

What is your biggest writing pet peeve?

My biggest writing pet peeve is when I’m too caffeinated and I keep misspelling words on my computer. This is especially frustrating when I am really eager to write something, and the words simply will not come out coherently on the keyboard because my hands are so shaky!