Telling Stories about Science: My experiences as a science writer


Could you be a freelance science writer? Read on to find out.

Many BCMB students have taken the elective course, taught by Jeremy Nathans, called Great Experiments in Biology. Year after year, students enjoy the class and recommend it to their peers. Why do we like it so well? Other than an appreciation and understanding for the great scientists who came before us, I think that we enjoy the class because Dr. Nathans focuses on the personal stories of the scientists: how they got interested in science, why they studied what they studied, how they reacted and felt and progressed along their path to these fantastic discoveries. In my experience, I always remember the science better when I understand the motivation behind the discovery; I loved discussing science with visiting lecturers and BCMB faculty not just for the academic part of the conversation, but also finding out the background and circuitous path they followed to get where they are today.

If you are finding yourself nodding and agreeing and connecting with what I just described, you might be interested in a career in science writing and communication. Here, I’ve “interviewed” myself; I hope this can stimulate some questions and discussion about our roles as scientists in the world of media and communication.

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Alumni Profile: Seth Zonies, Technology Commercialization Specialist

Seth Zonies

I like to observe the world and know how it works. The thing that always fired me up was how incredible it is that mothers and daughters and fathers and sons could look and act so alike. This is where my fascination with genetics began.

Seth Zonies completed his graduate work in the lab of Geraldine Seydoux in 2011. Before he was a BCMB student, Seth worked at the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) at the NIH in Bethesda, studying the development of hearing in zebrafish. Even before graduate school Seth was thinking about his future:

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Alumna Profile: Dr. Kara Cerveny, Assistant Professor of Biology, Reed College

Kara Cerveny performed her thesis work in Robert Jensen’s lab in the Department of Cell Biology in 2005.  In the short time since, she has completed a post-doc in London, worked as an editor for Cell, and recently joined the faculty of the Biology Department of Reed College in Portland, Oregon.  Below, Kara details her transitions between fields and how her motivations have ultimately carried her to Reed, shares some wisdom about how science compares between the US and the UK, and talks about life as a new faculty member at a small liberal arts college.

At Hopkins 

Upon completing her undergraduate program at Duke, Cerveny knew from volunteer work at a local hospital and at the Duke Marine Lab that she wanted to pursue a career in science.  “[I] decided that I really liked sharing my knowledge and exciting others about science, so I applied for several different teaching jobs and landed a great position at Friends Select School in Philadelphia.”  During the following two years, she gained experience in designing and teaching several science courses.  Kara’s curiosity, inspired during various volunteer positions in labs at Duke and elsewhere, soon prompted her to apply to graduate school.  “I decided that I really liked asking questions and doing experiments to answer them.”

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Alumnus Profile: E. Loren Buhle, Life Sciences Executive at IBM

Each month, BCMB News will highlight an esteemed alumnus of the program.  This month, contributor Tom Schaffer interviews Dr. E. Loren Buhle, Life Sciences Excecutive at IBM.  

Dr. E. Loren Buhle attended the BCMB program from years 1980 to 1985, completing his thesis work in the lab of Ueli Aebi in the Department of Cell Biology.  Beginning as a tenure-track professor, he segued into the pharmaceutical industry and later his current position at IBM by creatively parlaying the skills he acquired during his graduate work. His career arc demonstrates the utility and potential of a BCMB PhD beyond more traditional academic career paths in the life sciences.

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