40th Class of Mass Media Fellows Heads for Science Newsrooms

For the first time, two of this year’s 15 fellows will work at Spanish-language news outlets.

For 40 years, AAAS has dispatched science and engineering scholars to top newsrooms for summer reporting jobs, and for the first time, two of this year's 15 fellows will generate Spanish-language news.

The Spanish-speaking AAAS Mass Media Science & Engineering Fellows will work for 10 weeks at Univision and at Nuestra Tele Noticias, said Dione L. Rossiter, AAAS project director. In addition, National Geographic and Slate this year joined the ranks of influential media outlets that host Mass Media Fellows each summer. The list of program sponsors has expanded, too, with the American Chemical Society (ACS) stepping forward to help promote public understanding of science and technology by cultivating excellence in science journalism.

Since its inception, the fellowships program has supported more than 625 student scientists, engineers and medical professionals who, in some cases, produced the only original science-news reporting at their assigned media outlets over the summer. The current 15 fellows, selected from a pool of 130 outstanding applicants, are likely to generate between 200 and 300 original science stories for print articles, blogs, podcasts, radio segments, and multimedia features.

Past participants in the Mass Media Fellows program include Erica Goode and Kenneth Chang of the New York Times; Richard Harris, David Kestenbaum, and Joe Palca of NPR; renowned biologist Eric Lander, co-chair of U.S. President Barack Obama's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology; physician and "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" Executive Producer Neal Baer; Victoria Bruce, author of No Apparent Danger: The True Story of Volcanic Disaster at Galeras and Nevado Del Ruiz; and many others.

All fellows take part in a three-day orientation program encompassing topics such as how to conduct an interview, pitch a story, effectively leverage multimedia, and write for radio. Following their newsroom assignments, they return to AAAS for a wrap-up session.

In addition to the ACS, sponsors of the 2014 AAAS Mass Media Fellowships include the American Geophysical Union, the American Mathematical Society, the American Physical Society, the American Physiological Society, Burroughs Wellcome Fund, IEEE-USA, the Noyce Foundation, and the Society for Industrial & Applied Mathematics.

The 2014 class of AAAS Mass Media Science & Engineering Fellowship recipients includes:

Ana Aceves, Undergraduate student
Astronomy, Media Studies, University of California, Berkeley
Hometown: Merced, Calif.
Fellowship Assignment: Univision    

Ana Aceves is currently at the University of California, Berkeley working toward a double B.A. degree in Astrophysics and Media Studies, specializing in science communications. She aspires to one day contribute to her Hispanic community by producing content in Spanish to increase public understanding of scientific issues. When she's not busy doing academic work, Ana teaches a salsa dance class and helps to organize a physics science community at UC Berkeley. She is always eager and enthusiastic about sharing her science knowledge with others. AAAS has sponsored her fellowship.

Joshua Batson, Ph.D.
 Mathematics
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Hometown: Sunnyvale, Calif.
Fellowship Assignment: WIRED


After earning a B.A. degree in (discrete) mathematics from Yale University, Joshua Batson spent a year as a Gates Scholar at Cambridge, learning geometry and topology. In his just-defended thesis, he used tools from quantum field theory to study how knots and links move through space. He enjoys teaching mathematics and science to six-year-olds, high-school students, and adult engineers, and likes to remind people that their skin is crawling with thousands of species of bacteria and that this is a really good thing. The American Mathematical Society has sponsored his fellowship.

Emily Conover, Ph.D. candidate

Physics, University of Chicago
Hometown: Wading River, N.Y.
Fellowship Assignment: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

As a Ph.D. student at the University of Chicago, Emily Conover studies the strange physics of elementary particles called neutrinos. She first got hooked on particle physics at Brookhaven National Lab on Long Island, where she grew up. She then went on to earn her Sc.B. degree in physics at Brown University before heading to Chicago. She hopes to find a career that allows her to share the exciting world of science with as many people as she can. The American Physical Society sponsored Emily's fellowship.

Ben Fogelson, Ph.D. candidate
Applied Mathematics, University of California, Davis
Hometown: Salt Lake City, Utah
Fellowship Assignment: Scientific American     

Originally from Salt Lake City, Ben Fogelson moved west to California, where he earned a B.S. degree in mathematics with a minor in philosophy from Harvey Mudd College. Ben is now a Ph.D. student in applied mathematics at the University of California, Davis, where he uses math to study the biophysics of how cells move around and exert force on their surroundings. Ben loves hearing exciting stories about science, and he is even more excited to spend the summer telling those stories. The Society of Industrial and Applied Mathematics sponsored his fellowship.

Jane Hu, Ph.D. candidate
Psychology, University of California, Berkeley
Hometown: Louisville, Ky.
Fellowship Assignment: Slate

Jane Hu is a Ph.D. candidate in the psychology department at the University of California, Berkeley, where she studies how preschoolers learn from and about other people. She is currently an editor of the Berkeley Science Review, and a contributor to the PLOS Student Blog. Earlier, Jane earned a B.A. degreein psychology at Yale University; after her doctorate, she plans to pursue a career in science writing and outreach. Her fellowship is sponsored by AAAS.

Katie Langin, Ph.D.
Graduate Degree Program in Ecology, Colorado State University
Hometown: Cranbrook, British Columbia, Canada
Fellowship Assignment: National Geographic

Katie Langin's research has primarily centered on the ecology, evolution, and conservation of birds. She completed B.S. and M.S. degrees in Biology at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, where she used stable isotopes to study the ecology of migratory birds. She recently completed a Ph.D. degree in Ecology at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado. Her dissertation revealed surprising patterns of fine-scale adaptive evolutionary divergence within a bird species that is restricted to a single island in southern California -- work that not only has implications for the study of evolution but also has implications for the conservation of this rare species. With her graduate studies complete, Katie is excited to embark on new challenges this summer and learn about the world of science journalism. The Burroughs Wellcome Fund sponsored her fellowship.

Kara Manke, Ph.D. candidate
Chemistry, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
Hometown: St. Louis Park, Minn.
Fellowship Assignment: National Public Radio

After receiving a B.A. degree in chemistry from Macalester College, Kara Manke's passion for lasers and molecules led her to MIT, where she is pursuing a Ph.D. degree in physical chemistry. She now uses laser light to probe microscopic vibrations within supercooled liquids, a class of materials that exhibit mysterious behavior at the molecular level. As a graduate student, she also became a founding organizer of Communicating Science, a series of student-led workshops designed to inspire graduate students in STEM to communicate their work with broader audiences. After she graduates, Kara wants to continue doing science, writing about science, and encouraging scientists to communicate their work with the world. The American Chemical Society has sponsored her fellowship.

Eleanor Nelsen, Ph.D.
Department of Chemistry, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Hometown: Winston-Salem, N.C.
Fellowship Assignment: NOVA

Eleanor Nelsen recently earned her Ph.D. degree in inorganic chemistry from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she studied the interactions between rhodium and organic molecules called alkenes. For the last year, she has been writing for Wisconsin Public Television, investigating the science behind sustainability issues. She lives in Madison with her husband and their small collection of livestock. Her AAAS Mass Media Fellowship at NOVA will be sponsored by the Noyce Foundation.

Casey O'Hara, Master's student
Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, University of California, Santa Barbara
Hometown: Portland, Ore.
Fellowship Assignment: The Oregonian    

Casey earned a B.S. and M.S. degrees in mechanical engineering from Stanford University, and spent several years developing robots and medical devices. But his passions for science and social equity eventually led him to leave engineering and begin a career in education. After eight years of teaching physics and green engineering in the San Francisco Bay Area, Casey entered the Master of Environmental Science and Management program at the University of California, Santa Barbara to dig deeper into environmental economics, policy, and science. Upon completing his current degree, Casey plans to return to education and science communication, working with students and teachers to help understand the complexities of climate change and human impact on marine ecosystems. IEEE-USA sponsored his fellowship.

Rachel Reddick, Ph.D. candidate
Physics, Stanford University
Hometown: Richland, Wash.
Fellowship Assignment: Sacramento Bee

Rachel Reddick obtained her B.S. degree in physics at Caltech before proceeding directly to Stanford's doctoral program in the same subject.  She is currently studying the statistical relationships between galaxies and the dark matter in which they are embedded, with the goal of using the galaxies we see to better understand the structure of the universe.  After graduation, she hopes to transition into science outreach and writing, telling true stories about how the world works. Rachel's fellowship has been sponsored by the American Physical Society.

Julia Rosen, Ph.D.
Geology, Oregon State University
Hometown: East Lansing, Mich.
Fellowship Assignment: Los Angeles Times

Julia Rosen earned a B.S. degree in geology from Stanford University, where she discovered her passion for science while completing an undergraduate honors thesis on lake sediments from the Peruvian Andes. She then embarked on a Ph.D. degree in geology at Oregon State University where she helped drill an ice core through the Greenland Ice Sheet and used samples of ancient air trapped in the ice to investigate the causes of past climate changes. While pursuing her Ph.D. degree, she wrote for Oregon State's research magazine, Terra, blogged for the European Geosciences Union, and worked as an intern at EARTH Magazine. She is looking forward to devoting her time to infecting others with her insatiable curiosity to understand the world around us through science writing. The American Geophysical Union sponsored Julia's fellowship.

Elizabeth Roth-Johnson, Ph.D. candidate
Molecular Biology Interdepartmental Ph.D. Program, University of California, Los Angeles
Hometown: Novato, Calif.
Fellowship Assignment: KQED Science    

Liz Roth-Johnson received her B.A. degrees in Molecular and Cell Biology and Music from the University of California, Berkeley. She is now finishing her Ph.D. degree in Molecular Biology at UCLA, where she has been studying the cytoskeleton and how it relates to fertility and development in fruit flies. After graduating this June, she wants to share her love of cell biology with students and the public through teaching, outreach, and writing. Through her work with Science & Food at UCLA, she has developed a particular interest in using food as a vehicle for science communication. Her fellowship has been sponsored by the American Physiological Society.

Daniel Serrano, Ph.D. candidate
Biological Sciences Graduate Program, University of Maryland, College Park
Hometown: Bucaramanga, Colombia
Fellowship Assignment: Nuestra Tele Noticias

Daniel Serrano is a Ph.D. candidate at University of Maryland who is studying the interactions between immune cells, blood clots, and blood vessels. With an undergraduate background in biochemistry from Virginia Tech, he also applies his findings toward the improvement of drug therapies. After graduation, Daniel wants to work with audiovisual and interactive media as tools for science outreach and learning. He is also interested in expanding the coverage of biotechnology and molecular biology in science news. AAAS has sponsored his fellowship.

Sarah Wheeler, Ph.D. student
Biology, University of California, Davis & San Diego State University
Hometown: San Diego, Calif.
Fellowship Assignment: Raleigh News & Observer

Sarah Wheeler is fascinated by the connection of nature and science to our daily lives. She grew up and currently lives in San Diego, at the interface between a wild ocean and an urban center. The interdependency of local economies and the environment motivated Sarah to obtain a B.S. degree in biology at the University of Michigan. Now Sarah is a student in the Joint Doctoral Program in Ecology at the University of California, Davis and San Diego State University. Her dissertation research expands our understanding of the oceanographic conditions that support thriving fisheries. After graduation in May 2015, Sarah aspires to engage her community in solving societal issues through interdisciplinary collaboration, outreach and science communication. The Noyce Foundation is sponsoring her fellowship.

Rachel Zamzow, Ph.D. student
Interdisciplinary Neuroscience Program, University of Missouri
Hometown: Austin, Tex.
Fellowship Assignment: Philadelphia Inquirer

After completing a B.S. degree in neuroscience at Baylor University in 2010, Rachel Zamzow began a doctoral program at the University of Missouri. She currently studies autism spectrum disorder from the perspectives of pharmacological intervention and underlying neural organization. After finishing her Ph.D. degree, Rachel plans to pursue a career in science writing, in which she hopes to use both her scientific training and communication experience to serve as a liaison between scientists and the public. Her media fellowship has been sponsored by the Burroughs Wellcome Fund