Journalism

Science Journalism Alumni

More than 200 students have graduated from the Center during the three decades we’ve been training science journalists. Our graduates work for newspapers, magazines, broadcast outlets and institutions throughout the world. Together, we’re a far-reaching and powerful network!

Meet Brad Plummer

Brad Plummer, multimedia communications manager at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in Menlo Park, Calif., talks about how the graduate program in Science and Medical Journalism honed the critical thinking skills that he relies on daily to tell visually compelling stories about the science performed at SLAC.

Meet Barbara Moran

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Barbara Moran is the author of The Day We Lost The H-Bomb and a winner of the 2011 National Association of Science Writers Science-in-Society Award. Here she talks about why she entered the Science and Medical Journalism program and how it jump-started a career telling some of the most outrageous – and true – stories in science.

Here’s what some of our alumni have to say about their time at the Center for Science and Medical Journalism:

Shannon Fischer, Associate Online Editor, Boston Magazine

Shannon wasted no time after graduating from Boston University’s science journalism program. A year after receiving her master’s, the former neuroscience lab rat became the Associate Online Editor for Boston Magazine. When she is not busy translating the local life and culture monthly into a dynamic web experience, Shannon covers all things geek. Her popular blog dissects everything from frizz-busting hair care to the PR follies of human gelatin.

Prior to the program, Shannon studied psychology at Amherst College and Northeastern University. For her summer internship, she wrote a feature and news articles for Smithsonian Zoogoer.

How did you become interested in studying science journalism? What sort of work did you do before the program?

I went through the usual back door that I think applies to a lot of the science writers. I started in science and then decided I wanted more than one problem every five years. And I enjoyed writing so I switched over. The best part is you do something different everyday and that’s why I switched and that’s why I love it still.

I was doing behavioral psychology and neuroscience lab work. I got half way through a Ph.D. program and that’s when I decided wait, I think there’s something else that I want to do with my life. So I abandoned it and applied to BU.

What has your career path been like since graduating?

I graduated and I took a couple of months to figure things out. After a few months, I found out that I got the Boston Magazine internship. So I took that and I started out as a lowly editorial intern. But it was so much fun and I was sort of the intern that wouldn’t die. I kept on coming back and coming back and coming back. I am pretty neurotic as it is so I think they appreciated my obsessive attention to detail as a fact checker. I pitched a couple stories and was handed some stuff. I actually got my recent feature assigned to me while I was an intern, which is crazy. But then the summer internship ended and I sort of stayed on and cut back the days a little bit so I could look for work while I interned. That didn’t really work because I kept on doing work for my internship anyway and that morphed into freelance and the opportunity for the online editor came up and I applied.

What does your work as an online editor entail?

It’s so much fun. I never actually intended to go into web because I was sort of a traditionalist in some ways—like three steps away from a typewriter, basically. Not so much now. I am one of a two-person team and I translate the magazine from the print form to online. I try to figure out how to get things that wouldn’t ordinarily work online in the best possible format. And I am starting to manage some of the web extras, which are really ramping up. I am getting to do a ton of multimedia: editing audio, doing some video and photography. I am learning Photoshop on the fly. So I am part art, part multimedia, part managing editor, and part online.

How did the program prepare you for this role?

It did really well. I was surprised by how prepared I was. When I am writing the blog, Doug is right there in my head saying summarize thematically. The breadth of what they do from the radio and documentary classes, you just sort of soak stuff up. That documentary class gave me enough grounding to be able to feel my way around editing audio and basic video. You get on the internet in that third semester and you do the web zine and it all finally comes together. It forces you to think about blogging. It makes you think about design, and how to put a webpage together. I think all of that helps you get creative and I need creativity in this job.

But it’s all about the way they make you think as well as what they equip you with in terms of raw skills. Being in those class pitch sessions with everybody weighing in on your pitch, they make you think and criticize. All of a sudden, you’ve got ten points of view. You leave with that. It makes you more skeptical.

Adam Rogers, Senior editor, Wired magazine

adam_rogers

Winner of the AAAS Kavli Science Journalism Award

From the age of 15, Adam knew that he wanted to be a science writer. He came to the Center immediately after graduating from Pomona College in Claremont, Calif., with a degree in Science, Technology and Society. He did his internship at the Harvard Health Letter, and after graduating worked as an associate video editor with Gino Del Guercio. Soon after, Newsweek hired him as a science researcher. In 1999, he volunteered to cover the 2000 presidential campaign for Newsweek’s campaign book, and “spent the next 18 months on the road, chasing politicians.” After a year-long stint in Newsweek’s Washington bureau and a Knight Science Journalism Fellowship at MIT, he moved to San Francisco and Wired magazine, where he is now a senior editor.

Did the program live up to your expectations?

Yeah. I needed to know how to be a professional journalist and I needed to know how to get a job. Two for two.

What was the most beneficial aspect of your experience at BU?

Reporting and writing a lot of stories, and meeting a lot of working journalists.

Did attending the program give you an advantage over competitors in the science journalism market?

Very pragmatically, there are a lot of people who think it might be fun to be a science reporter. It’s because we’re so glamorous. So if you’re a hiring editor, and you’ve got a bunch of resumes and clip files on your desk, someone with graduate school experience is going to stand out.

Less cynically, good science writers think about the theory and practice of the job — like good practitioners in any field. But we’ve only existed for a while, and the stories we cover have gone from occasional filler material to regularly appearing on front pages and magazine covers. We have to think hard about how to do what we do. Even in its early days, the BU program enforced that rigor. It does so today to an even greater extent.

Amos Zeeberg Managing Editor, Online, DISCOVER Magazine

amos_zeeberg Amos went straight to Discover Magazine after earning his degree in science journalism. Six years later, he is still there. No longer an intern, Amos now leads the magazine’s web strategy as its online managing editor. He directed the launch of their award-winning blogs network in 2007-2008.

Amos studied physics and chemistry at Harvard and wrote for Mother Jones before attending BU.

How did you become interested in studying science journalism at BU?

I was interested in science since I was in high school science classes. I studied chemistry and physics in college. I was doing research during my junior year—and I liked doing research and I liked the topics—but I realized I didn’t want to be a scientist. It didn’t fit my thinking then since I was more of a generalist. So when I graduated I really didn’t know what I was going to do.

Journalism was something else I was into and I eventually realized I could write about science. I was actually doing research for a book at the time on the social history of cotton in the U.S. The author saw that I had a science background so he had me research cotton pesticides. And I thought it was interesting enough that it turned me onto the idea of writing about science. I figured going to J school would help me get some more background so I looked around and saw that BU had a good one. I applied to a bunch of different places and visited and I was impressed and happy with what I saw from the BU program.

What has your career path been like since the program?

I did an internship at Popular Science during the summer in the program and after I did an internship at Discover and I’ve been there ever since. I started doing fact checking and writing and researching little odds and ends for the magazine. I got to write one news article that turned out to be more interesting than everyone thought the story was and that was cool. I also did some research and writing for a big group feature in the magazine.

I now run the web site on a day-to-day basis and also sort of long-term strategy wise.

What skills from the program have you found most valuable?

There’s a lot of good training. There’s a conscientiousness that you get into from a raw journalistic sense and also in terms of getting the science right. Also, knowing about how stories work and how to structure stories.

You were one of the first classes to produce an independent web magazine. How did this exercise help you as went on to manage Discover’s online course?

I learned content strategy. How does an idea of a story translate onto a web site. It added to a general understanding of how content goes online and how it reads and how it feels. It’s kind of a new frontier and it’s not as formalized as other media so it’s nice to be put in a place where you work on that and think about it hard. That’s a good way to learn about anything. Get immersed in it and think about it. And it’s a very big question: what’s the right story, what’s the right framing of the story, how do you present it, how do you edit it, so I think it added to that.

Featured Work

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Author Q&A: Only Pack What You Can Carry

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