Science, AAAS Select Two For New Minority Internship
Genevra Ann Ornelas
AAAS and the journal Science have named the first two recipients of a new summer internship for minority undergraduate students pursuing careers in science journalism.
Genevra Ann Ornelas of California State University-Fresno and Cathy Tran of the University of California-Santa Barbara will begin their 10-week internships in June at the Washington, D.C., headquarters of Science, one of the most prestigious and widely read journals in the world.
Under the guidance of the weekly journal's staff of writers and editors, Tran and Ornelas will help reporters gather information for news stories; attend scientific meetings, congressional hearings and press briefings; and work on their own stories for the journal or for Science Now, the daily online news service of Science.
The internship is part of a wider effort by AAAS and the general scientific community to diversify the voices of science news reporting. Since science is a global enterprise that affects everybody, those who cover it should reflect that diversity.
"The goal is to expose the interns to science writing by showing them what science writers do," said Jeffrey Mervis, Science deputy news editor and head of the Minority Science Writers Internship program.
"We hope they'll learn that it can be as much fun, if not more, than covering other beats. And we hope that they'll carry that message with themback to their campus, or to their first job. Maybe they'll volunteer to cover a science story that they otherwise would have avoided. Or maybe they'll convince their editor that science is important enough to warrant more coverage."
Which is exactly what Ornelas, a graduating senior, plans to do upon the completion of her Science internship. She said that her community newspaper's coverage of science tends to be untimely and doesn't delve deeply enough into the subject. Her campus newspaper doesn't even cover science, she said.
"I find that totally amazing," said Ornelas. "That's something I'd like to change, but I need a little bit of experience first."
As a biology major, Ornelas says she is aware of the need for the population to be more scientifically aware.
"People out on the street don't know about science and can't be informed about some issues, such as medication and illnesses," she said. "I don't think it's the people's fault that they're not educated, but it needs to be offered to them."
Originally, Ornelas was pursuing a degree in English, but later decided that she was excited to learn science. Well into her biology education, she realized that she missed writing and decided the perfect solution was to combine the two fields. Her biggest interest right now is reconciling the relationship between humans and nature by more effective city planning, she said.
"I'm influenced by growing up in the Central Valley [of California] and watching urban sprawl," said Ornelas. "I'm very interested in the relationship human cities construct with nature." She has many post-summer plans, such as learning Spanish, her family's language; applying to graduate school; and pitching some science story ideas to her local paper, the Fresno Bee.
Joining Ornelas at Science this summer will be Tran, also a graduating senior. With a major in biopsychology and a minor in writing, Tran said she realizes the need in today's news media for science-minded journalists.
After taking some journalism classes during a semester abroad in Hong Kong, Tran has become more critical of science journalism and the unintentional mistakes journalists can make in reporting science news, such as presenting a correlation between two factors as cause and effect. She believes that having science training may give her an advantage as a reporter.
"I think scientists appreciate it when a journalist has a little bit of a knowledge of science," said Tran. Plus, it sometimes leads to more accurate reporting of science news.
Tran had done a lot of journalism in high school and began missing it in college. One of her professors suggested she look into science journalism, which she had never thought of. After some research, she decided that she, like Ornelas, would combine the fields of science and writing.
"It's unique when you're in science to enjoy writing, too, because you're using different parts of your brain," she said. She'll be using both sides of her brain if she decides to pursue a graduate degree in science journalism, and she hopes to someday have a science column in a major newspaper.
Other AAAS activities that support women and minorities in the sciences, as well as best practices in science journalism, include Delta SEE (Science & Everyday Experiences), which is geared toward African American children and their families; the Minority Scientists Network, a bi-monthly online publication that provides support to underrepresented minority students pursuing an education and career in science, mathematics and engineering; the Mass Media Science and Engineering Fellowship Program, a 10-week summer program that places graduate and post-graduate level science, engineering and mathematics students at media organizations nationwide; and the AAAS Science Journalism Awards, which recognize outstanding reporting for a general audience of the sciences, engineering and mathematics.
EHR's Senior Project Director Judy Kass and Mass Media Program Manager Stacey Pasco administer the Minority Science Writers Internship. The two also run AAAS' Mass Media Science and Engineering Fellowship Program, a 10-week summer program that places graduate and post-graduate level science, engineering and mathematics students at media organizations nationwide.
17 May 2005