Nadia Drake '11 joins National Geographic "Phenomena" blog

April 08, 2014

Science journalist Nadia Drake, SciCom class of 2011.
Astronomer Frank Drake holds data from "Project Ozma," the first scientific search for intelligent life elsewhere. Photo: Nadia Drake
The future merger of our Milky Way galaxy with the neighboring Andromeda galaxy was the subject of a "Phenomena" entry by Nadia Drake. Image: NASA; ESA; Z. Levay and R. van der Marel, STScI; T. Hallas; and A. Mellinger

The roster of science bloggers at National Geographic includes some of the field's most luminous writers. SciCom graduate Nadia Drake has now joined the team to cover space science in her blog "No Place Like Home."

Drake's colleagues on the site, called "Phenomena," are noted freelance journalists Virginia Hughes, Brian Switek, Ed Yong, and Carl Zimmer. Each author had an established blog elsewhere before National Geographic unified them under the "Phenomena" banner.

Drake, a 2011 graduate of the Santa Cruz program, kicked off her new column on March 10 with a look back at the research of her father, astronomer Frank Drake, who conducted the first scientific search for extraterrestrial intelligence in 1960. The two-star survey, called "Project Ozma," led to more than five decades of increasingly sophisticated searches. As she grew up, Nadia Drake was a witness to much of this history.

"Having grown up in a house steeped in star-studded mysteries helped me to achieve a certain level of comfort with these kinds of cosmic questions," Drake says. "But I never pursued astronomy academically; the spectre of failure was ferociously large and I just wasn't that great at math and physics. So I never got too close to the subject to lose the sense of wonder I'd felt when, as a kid, I looked through a telescope and saw Saturn for the first time. Not just a point of light, Saturn was an actual planet, colored with bands of varying shades and surrounded by those big, beautiful rings."

Planetary science will be central to "No Place Like Home," Drake says. Her early posts include stories about Mercury, Saturn's moon Titan, surprises in the solar system—and a rumination on planets that wander on their own through the galaxy.

Drake also intends to cover research on the breadth of astronomy, astrophysics, and cosmology. "There are few things as omnipresent and enigmatic as the night sky," she says. "You can spend all night staring at the stars and end up with more questions than answers. When I look up at the stars, I spend some time thinking about all those worlds that are invisible to my eyes, but which science has revealed to us."

Phenomena blogger Carl Zimmer, a noted book author and frequent contributor to The New York Times, welcomed Drake to the National Geographic community with a Q&A on his blog, "The Loom."

"Brian, Carl, Ed, and Ginny are exceptionally kind and generous people. It's been such a treat being brought aboard," says Drake. "I am a lucky, lucky person, and I hope that in some way, I can share this heap of fortune with other writers."

Drake received her A.B. in biology, psychology, and dance at Cornell University. She remained at Cornell to earn her Ph.D. in genetics and development. During the SciCom program, she was a reporting intern for the Santa Cruz SentinelSan Jose Mercury News, and Nature. She moved to Washington D.C. for an internship at Science News, which turned into a job as the magazine's astronomy reporter. Drake then returned to the Bay Area for a science reporting job at WIRED. She is now a freelance contributor to The Proceedings of the National Academy of SciencesWIRED, and other publications, in addition to her regular column at National Geographic.