AAAS Mass Media Science & Engineering Fellows Wrap up a Summer of Reporting

The 2013 AAAS Mass Media Fellows shared stories from their summer on the beat. | AAAS/Carla Schaffer
After spending 10 weeks as working for media outlets including the Chicago Tribune, Scientific American, NOVA and Wired, the 39th class of the AAAS Mass Media Fellows returned to AAAS to celebrate and reflect on their experiences.

The AAAS Mass Media Science and Engineering Fellows program strives to increase public understanding of science and technology by offering advanced students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields the opportunity to work as reporters, research assistants and producers for radio and television stations, newspapers and magazines. Since its inception, the program has supported more than 600 fellows.

This year, the 14 fellows included recent doctoral degree recipients, doctoral and master's degree candidates, an undergraduate student and a medical student. They specialized in fields including environmental science, policy and management, cellular and molecular biology, math, astronomy, biology, neuroscience, physical chemistry, chemical engineering, environmental earth system science and physics.

The fellows were joined by two AAAS Minority Science Writers Interns. Now in its ninth year, the Pitts Family Minority Science Writers Interns Program places two journalism majors interested in science writing at Science magazine. Both the fellows and interns showcased their work in poster presentations during a wrap-up event at AAAS on 12 August.

Dione Rossiter, director of the AAAS Mass Media Science and Engineering Fellows Program, was surprised by how much the 2013 class of fellows connected with each other over email, whether they had technical questions, success stories or amusing anecdotes to share. "I was absolutely ecstatic they were using each other as resources and sharing their fun summer shenanigans with each other," she said. "It was sort of like a big group pen pal experience."

Tim De Chant, a 2008 AAAS Mass Media Fellow at the Chicago Tribune, received a new perspective on the program this summer when he mentored a fellow at NOVA, where he is senior digital editor.

"Having been a fellow, I know just how important the skills I learned during my summer at the Tribune ended up being in my career as a journalist and editor," De Chant said. "And now having mentored a fellow, I know that I'm not the only one who really appreciates what this program does, both for the fellows and for the host sites."

As a 2011 AAAS Mass Media Fellow at Voice of America, Rossiter said that participating in the fellowship program was a life-changing experience for her, and she believes that it was also life-changing for this year's fellows. While most of the fellows were already exceptional communicators, they needed training and a way to hone their talents, she said, both of which they received this summer.

"They all left the summer with solid portfolios and a much clearer idea of what their future might look like, either as a professor, journalist, researcher, teacher, freelancer or a combination of all of these things," Rossiter said. "I am excited to follow the fellows and see where they all end up. It was an exceptionally talented and outgoing group!"

Learn more about the AAAS Mass Media Fellows Program