"Newsbriefs" by SciCom alumni win kudos from D.C. science writers

March 27, 2012

Nadia Drake '11 / Science News
Rachel Ehrenberg '03 / Science News

The D.C. Science Writers Association has awarded its 2011 Science Newsbrief Award to SciCom alumna Nadia Drake, staff writer at Science News, for her story on the origins of a strange pattern on one of Saturn's moons.

The award recognizes crisp, bright, stylish newswriting, which typically flies under the radar of other writing prizes. Students in the SciCom program take an intensive fall course in writing about new research in the style of various online and print news outlets, in tight stories between 90 and 500 words.

Four science writers on the DCSWA board judged more than 60 entries from the 2011 calendar year. Drake won for her piece "Iapetus Gets Dusted" in the August 13, 2011 issue of Science News. One judge said that in just 310 words, Drake "compellingly and precisely reports on a puzzling mystery: the source of Iapetus' two-colored appearance."

"It is very difficult to write short and well—this author admirably succeeds."

Drake also received an honorable mention for her news brief "Fruit of the Loo," in the September 10, 2011 issue of Science News. One judge said that Drake's story "reeks of succinct and tight wordcrafting while sticking to the 'potty-based' hook throughout."

A second honorable mention went to SciCom alumni Rachel Ehrenberg, also a staff writer at Science News, for "Hidden Dalliance Revealed by X-Rays," published in the magazine's web edition on March 31, 2011. One judge said the story had "nice phrasing, a comfy and familiar feel, and introduced the new and intriguing word 'pentimenti'"—a reappearance in a painting of a design which has been painted over.

Drake worked as an intern at Science News following her graduation from SciCom in June 2011, and she has covered astronomy as a staff writer since September. During the Santa Cruz program, she interned at Nature, the San Jose Mercury News, and the Santa Cruz Sentinel. She was a triple major in biology, psychology, and dance at Cornell University, and she earned her Ph.D. there in genetics and development.

Ehrenberg, a 2003 SciCom graduate, covers interdisciplinary sciences and chemistry for Science News. She earned a B.A. in botany and political science from the University of Vermont and an M.A. in evolutionary biology from the University of Michigan. She was an intern at the Dallas Morning News under editor Tom Siegfried, now editor-in-chief at Science News, and a science writer at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst.

Drake will receive a $500 prize and a crystal trophy at the DCSWA award ceremony on April 21. Both honorable mentions come with framed certificates.