2004 Recipient: Magazines

AAAS Science Journalism Awards

2004 RECIPIENT: Magazines

W. Wayt Gibbs
Scientific American
“The Unseen Genome: Gems among the Junk”
November 2003

The judging committee proclaimed this article by W. Wayt Gibbs is “a model for science writing.”

Gibbs writes about the bits of “junk” DNA scientists are finding in genes and the discovery “in chromosomes of two vast, but largely hidden, layers of information that affect inheritance, development and disease.”

“Gibbs explained the science and its implications very well,” said John Carey of BusinessWeek. “It’s such an important topic.”

“I thought it read like a thriller — big ideas were put forward for new science and new avenues for science. The story was exciting without oversimplifying,” said Vijay Vaitheeswaran of The Economist.

W. Wayt Gibbs is a senior writer at Scientific American. He worked as a senior computer programmer for several years and as a writer at the national supercomputer center while completing degrees in English and physics at Cornell University. Since 1993, he has covered basic research and development in computers, communications, materials science, biotechnology, chemical engineering and many other areas as a writer and editorial board member at Scientific American. Gibbs recently was one of two recipients of the first annual Wistar Institute Science Journalism Award for his coverage of epigenetics.

“This is such a consequential field and his timing couldn’t be better,” said Raja Mishra of the Boston Globe. “Gibbs certainly explained the biology better than I’ve read before.”

The committee was especially impressed by how Gibbs told two stories — an update on the status of the genome and a cautionary tale of how people can be blinded by their construct of things.