Faculty News

Kate O'Donnell (left) and SciCom lecturer Mary Miller of the San Francisco Exploratorium applaud the deployment of a NOAA buoy to monitor the conditions of San Francisco Bay for a real-time exhibit in the new Exploratorium, which opened in April 2013. Photo: Lea Suzuki/The Chronicle

Peter Aldhous received several awards for his April 6, 2016 investigative piece for BuzzFeed, "Spies in the Skies," written with science reporter Charles Seife of New York University. The story earned top honors from the Global Editors Network for "Data Visualisation of the Year (Large Newsroom)." The annual Data Journalism Awards are sponsored by Google and the Knight Foundation. The piece also earned two awards in the Kantor "Information is Beautiful" annual competition: Gold in the "Data Journalism" category and the overall award for the "Most Beautiful" entry. Aldhous, who teaches data reporting and visualization for SciCom, and Seife examined databases of flight records over major cities to chart the daily and weekly activities of surveillance planes from the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security.  

Investigative reporting lecturer Martha Mendoza received her second Pulitzer Prize in April 2016 for a series of stories exposing slave labor in the Thai seafood industry. Mendoza is part of the four-person Associated Press team that produced Seafood From Slaves, which traced slave-produced seafood from Asia to major U.S. supermarkets, restaurants, and food suppliers. The pieces resulted in the freeing of 2,000 slaves. The AP won the prestigious Pulitzer Prize and Gold Medal for Public Service, the first time AP has received the award in its 170-year history. It is the second Pulitzer for Mendoza, an AP national reporter since 1995 who has taught investigative and policy reporting for the SciCom program for more than a decade. See this story for a full report.

Multimedia lab coordinater Lisa Strong published a how-to primer on using the iPhone 6 and other smartphones for high-caliber video production in January 2016. Her story, "Ready for Its Close-Up: Shooting Video with a Smartphone," appeared on The Open Notebook, a craft site for professional science writers. "Do you think it’s time to start practicing your video skills? If so, you probably have the perfect tool in your pocket or bag right now," Strong writes. "I think the necessary technology has finally arrived."

Guest lecturers Lisa Krieger and Paul Rogers of the San Jose Mercury News won the country's two top awards in environmental reporting for their ongoing team coverage of California's severe drought. The duo shared both the 2014 Edward J. Meeman Award for Environmental Reporting from Scripps Howard and the 2015 John B. Oakes Award for Distinguished Environmental Journalism from Columbia University. Judges for the Oakes Award lauded Krieger and Rogers for their "outstanding ongoing coverage" of the drought; the award recognized 98 stories published by the team in 2014. Krieger works individually with SciCom students each fall on their 800-word news features for publication in the San Jose Mercury News, while Rogers gives an annual guest talk on newsgathering and beat reporting.

Erika Check Hayden received a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting to report on the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, Africa, in November-December 2014. Hayden spent more than two weeks on the ground in Sierra Leone to meet with caregivers, researchers, public health officials, families and citizens to examine the country's ongoing efforts to contain and suppress the spread of the virus. Hayden is a staff reporter for Nature, where many of her stories from Sierra Leone are posted; she also will write about the events of her trip for WIRED.

Peter Aldhous will join the new science reporting team at BuzzFeed in February 2015. BuzzFeed hired Virginia Hughes, freelance journalist and columnist for National Geographic's "Phenomena" blog, in December 2014 to launch a new science vertical at the popular site. Aldhous is the first full-time staff reporter hired to join Hughes. He will report from San Francisco.

Lisa Strong is video producer for the education and outreach team in summer 2013 on ocean expedition AT26-03 aboard the R/V Atlantis. Co-principal investigator Andrew Fisher of UC Santa Cruz is leading the expedition to the Juan de Fuca plate in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Washington state. The scientists will study the flow and chemistry of water moving through the ocean crust, as well as look for life forms that live in the rock below the seafloor. They'll collect data and run experiments using the ROV Jason, which has HD video cameras, lights, and manipulator arms run by human pilots on the Atlantis. The education and outreach team will blog and produce live webcasts and video here: http://www.oceanexploration.org/atlantis

Mary Miller coordinated an effort to place an ocean buoy at the Exploratorium's newly opened location on the San Francisco waterfront. The buoy, on loan from NOAA, will measure carbon dioxide concentrations in the bay and atmosphere and display and interpret real-time data about ocean acidification in the new Bay Observatory gallery. Miller directs the Observatory's Wired Pier project, a suite of instruments on the roof and in the water at Pier 15 that will measure weather, climate, water quality and bay conditions. Wired Pier data and visualizations will be shared with scientists, students and educators on the Web and displayed on a video wall and monitors in the Observatory, allowing visitors to check current conditions and track environmental change over time.

The weekly Food & Wine section of the Santa Cruz Sentinel, overseen by Sentinel Features editor Marc DesJardins, took first place among newspapers of similar size (15,001 to 35,000 circulation) in the California Newspaper Publisher Association's 2012 Better Newspapers Contest.

Martha Mendoza is the winner of the 27th annual Brechner Center Freedom of Information Award from the University of Florida's College of Journalism and Communications. The honor recognizes Mendoza award-winning series for Associated Press, "Access Denied," which tested public right-to-information laws in 100 countries.

Program director Robert Irion received the Diane McGurgan Service Award from the National Association of Science Writers at the society's annual meeting in Raleigh, North Carolina, in October 2012. The award recognizes Irion's volunteer work as cochair of the NASW Education Committee, which offers national programs for undergraduates and graduate students interested in exploring careers in science writing.

Martha Mendoza gave an invited talk at a TEDx event in Santa Cruz on September 15, 2012, titled "Why Open Government is So Crucial to Our Society." Watch Mendoza's talk here (YouTube video, 19:36).

Evelyn Strauss launched a major new website, the MS Discovery Forum, in April 2012. Strauss served as the first executive editor of the site, a free resource created for researchers in the field of multiple sclerosis and related diseases. The site includes news and feature articles on MS research, many written by students and graduates of the SciCom program. Also featured are reports from the field's scientific meetings, a drug-pipeline database that consolidates information about drugs in development, discussion forums for sharing ideas, and summaries of the field's classic papers. The MS Discovery Forum is a joint venture of the Accelerated Cure Project for MS, the MassGeneral Institute for Neurodegenerative Disease, and the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics.

Martha Mendoza was cited as a finalist in the 2011 Investigative Reporters and Editors Awards for her sweeping Associated Press report to gauge the effectiveness of freedom of information (FOI) laws adopted by countries worldwide. On a year-long reporting stint in Mexico City, Mendoza learned to use the country's new FOI laws. This inspired her to find out what other countries had similar laws and to encourage other reporters to use them. Mendoza's report synthesized the outcomes of FOI requests filed by 140 AP reporters from around the world. Read more about her investigation in this SciCom news story.

Robert Irion, program director, spoke at the National Press Club on June 21, 2011, as an invited panelist in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's annual Space Weather Enterprise Forum. Irion discussed public awareness of solar physics and space weather, topics he explored in an April 2011 feature article in Smithsonian.

Ken McLaughlin won a first-place prize in the 2011 Greater Bay Area Journalism Awards, sponsored by the San Francisco Peninsula Press Club, for coverage of the California governor's race; and an award (with photojournalist Dai Sugano) for best video in the California Newspaper Publisher's Association 2011 contest for "Torn Apart," a chronicle of the yearlong struggle by a San Mateo woman to keep her family together as she fought deportation to Mexico.

Martha Mendoza received the 2010 Science in Society Journalism Award in Science Reporting from the National Association of Science Writers for her Associated Press series, "When Drugs Stop Working," with Margie Mason.

Peter Aldhous won the 2010 prize for Best Investigative Journalism from the Association of British Science Writers for his 25 March 2009 feature in New Scientist, "How My Genome Was Hacked" (pdf download), with Michael Reilly. 

Robert Irion received the 2010 David N. Schramm Award in High-Energy Astrophysics Journalism from the American Astronomical Society for his April 2008 feature in Smithsonian, "Homing in on Black Holes." He is a two-time winner of the Schramm Award.