AAAS has announced this year’s cohort of Mass Media Fellows this week – 28 young scientists who will be placed in newsrooms around the country for a summer of hands-on immersion in science journalism.
Before they do, they will head to AAAS headquarters in Washington, D.C., in June for the first in-person orientation since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"After two years of virtual orientation, I'm really looking forward to seeing our fellows in-person again,” says Kristin Lewis, project director for the fellowship. “The in-person experience really helps our fellows connect with each other and form a support network for their upcoming summer."
The orientation provides fellows with a baseline of science journalism best practices to start the fellows off on the right foot. AAAS also recently added a mentorship component to the program, pairing fellows with MMF or The Open Notebook alumni, or host-site editors, for six months following the summer fellowship.
Mass Media Fellows are current or recent undergraduate or graduate science students looking to include public writing in their scientific careers, shift entirely to science communication or use the fellowship to help them decide what is next.
Many of the fellows see communicating science as a kind of calling. Kaveri Curlin, who will be placed at the Philadelphia Inquirer, is in medical school and says, “Medical practitioners are first-hand witnesses to the rapidly disappearing safety net in this country. … Doctors see people in crisis, often with little social support, who are forced to make decisions when presented with all bad options. … I think that more medical professionals should learn how to communicate what they’re observing in clinics with the greater American public. I want to use my degree and expertise to continue to work towards leveling the playing field and giving everyone a fair chance.”
Incoming fellow Rachel Rodriguez says her background “as a Latinx woman in an inner city is what held the key for me to understand why this fellowship is important, and why I would be well suited for it.”
As an undergraduate student, Rodriguez developed an honors thesis looking at the effects of hands-on science experiences on increasing interest in science careers among underserved public high school students. When Rodriguez went into high schools to collect data for her thesis, she observed that “the students did not care to see a stereotypical academic figurehead talking at them -- they wanted someone who was willing to learn just as much as they taught. They wanted me there not only because I could convey science in a way that was less convoluted, but because I looked like them, and at one point in my life, I was them.” Rodriguez will be working at InsideClimate News this summer.
Another fellow, Asa Stahl, is working on a Ph.D. in astrophysics, and has also written a children’s book. Because of freelance editing he did in high school, a local editor he knew reached out to him for input on a children’s history of the universe. He sent the author-illustrator his edits, and she wrote back offering to illustrate a book if he wrote it. The Big Bang Book has since been published to critical acclaim. This experience encouraged Stahl to see science communication as something he could really be a part of. “By seeing how a media organization operates, I will gain a better sense of how my work fits into the journalistic process and what I can do to make more of an impact,” he says. “These skills will be critical as I move forward in my science communication career – and whatever direction I ultimately choose, the fellowship will have been invaluable in helping me decide.” Stahl will be writing for Science News.
Similarly, Sam Zlotnik, who will be at the Smithsonian Magazine, says, “I still feel like my development as a writer has been limited by the conventions of academia. … Working directly with an editor in a science news organization will provide an incredible opportunity for me to sharpen my writing skills, learn to craft exciting narratives and expand my ability to convey complex scientific concepts.”
The 2022 Mass Media Fellows and their host sites are as follows (to see their sponsors, go to the website):
- Gabe Barnard, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch
- Max Barnhart, NPR
- Anuraag Bukkuri, The Miami Herald
- Maggie Chen, WIRED
- Edward Chen, STAT
- Kaveri Curlin, The Philadelphia Inquirer
- Elise Cutts, Voice of America
- Adriana Delagarza, StateImpact Pennsylvania
- Anh Loan Diep, Zócalo Public Square
- Jason Dinh, Discover
- Sophia Friesen, WUNC
- Chiungwei Huang, The Raleigh News & Observer
- Sumeet Kulkarni, The Los Angeles Times
- Mary Magnuson, The Conversation
- Colton Poore, The Las Vegas Review-Journal
- Rachel Rodriguez, InsideClimate News
- Jessica Rodriguez, The Dallas Morning News
- Adolfo Rodríguez Velázquez, El Nuevo Día
- Fionna M.D. Samuels, Scientific American
- Jayati Sharma, The Wichita Eagle
- Asa Stahl, Science News
- Tanushri Sundar, The Idaho Statesman
- Joana Flor Tavares, The San Luis Obispo Tribune
- Sasha Warren, Scientific American
- Elissa Welle, STAT
- Mackenzie White, Science Friday
- Meghan Willcoxon, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
- Sam Zlotnik, Smithsonian Magazine