MET workshops

Polymerase chain reaction: getting to grips with molecular techniques in biomedical writing

Advances in molecular biology have triggered rapid growth in the variety of biological samples that can be used for diagnostic purposes. However, the first real breakthrough that made all this possible was the invention of a technique to amplify tiny amounts of precious DNA material: polymerase chain reaction (PCR). And, although numerous molecular techniques have flourished since, PCR remains an essential research and diagnostic tool. It also often presents a daunting challenge for language professionals with no scientific background who can easily stumble over sophisticated molecular concepts and terminology. This workshop aims to help them overcome these obstacles.

Facilitator: Katarzyna Szymańska, Science to the Point

Purpose: To demystify some common concepts and terminology referring to molecular techniques in general and PCR in particular.

Description/structure: Throughout the workshop, participants will learn about different types of biological samples used in research and in the clinic, and become familiar with the principles and applications of the PCR technique. They will also study relevant terminology and common phrasing. In the spirit of "learning by doing", participants will put their newly acquired knowledge and skills into practice through various interactive activities. The exact content of these activities will be tailored to the group based on responses to a pre-workshop questionnaire. 

Importantly, the workshop will not only benefit language professionals wanting to further their understanding of PCR. The knowledge and editorial skills acquired should also help participants work on texts referring to other molecular biology techniques, whatever their language, purpose or register.

Who should attend? Language professionals specializing or wishing to specialize in the biomedical field, or simply interested in the topic.

Outcome skills: Participants will come away with a basic grounding in the concepts of molecular biology and molecular diagnosis underlying the PCR method. They will have gained confidence in choosing the right vocabulary and phrasing when applying this knowledge in practice, which will help them avoid common pitfalls and gain time when working on texts from the field in the future.

Preparation: Participants will receive a brief online questionnaire to complete before the workshop. They should bring a laptop or tablet on the day; sharing devices will be possible if some people are unable to bring their own.

About the facilitator: Katarzyna Szymańska has a Ph.D. in biological sciences (specialty: cancer), a postgraduate study diploma in translation and interpreting, and a rich international experience in, and between, these two fields. She founded Science to the Point ( to promote cross-discipline dialogue and clarity in scientific communication. She regularly works with scientists and medical doctors as a translator, editor and writer. She also runs tailor-made CPD training in science, scientific and cross-culture communication, and biomedical translation.