SciCom Class of 2020

 

S. Hussain Ather

B.A. (physics) Indiana University, Bloomington

hussain.jpg

The son of a grocery store clerk and a daycare assistant, I began my story on the coattails of Indian Muslim immigrants in search of opportunity. As a child, I grew fond of mathematics as an empowering way to understand the world. Soon, I fell in love with writing for its expressive power in conveying human stories. Inspired by writers like Atul Gawande and Susan Sontag, I wanted to share tales from the history of science.

At university, I studied physics and philosophy, one intertwined with the other like a Möbius strip. I continue to relentlessly pursue the appreciation gained from contemplating science, whether by debating ethical issues in medical research or solving a math problem. I now hope to share my perpetual quest for beauty with the world. 

Fall internship: Eos

Amanda Heidt      

B.S. (marine biology) University of California, Santa Cruz
M.S. (marine science) Moss Landing Marine Laboratories          

amanda.jpg

I was eight when a teacher casually mentioned that the tapioca pearls in our pudding were frog eggs. Dropped spoons clattered to the tabletop as my companions howled in disgust. Ever-curious, I wondered: was my teacher telling the truth? I needed a larger sample size to know for sure. I gathered my classmates’ rejected treats, spoon poised in the name of science.

Today, that childhood memory still sums up my relationship with science (and pudding). As a marine biologist, I am drawn to the weird and wormy, the mud dragons and water bears, those branches on the tree of life lacking the obvious charm of an otter at rest.

In writing about science, I draft a recipe for personal satisfaction and engagement with the natural world. And it might actually have frog eggs in it…

Fall internship: Inside Science News Service

Jesse Kathan

B.S. (wildlife biology) University of California, Davis

jesse.jpg

I spent my childhood summers scraping my knees on the creekbeds and talus slopes of the Sierra Nevada. I didn’t know it then, but the forests were changing—becoming hotter, drier, more unpredictable. When I returned years later to study the scorched stands left by the 2013 Rim Fire, I found an environment further changed. Since then, I’ve trampled grasslands in record-breaking heat, paddled through wetlands in historic floods, and watched fish populations dwindle towards extinction. I’ve been struck by the enormity of the climate crisis, and increasingly convinced that its stories need to be told.

Now, I’m writing about how climate change affects ecosystems, culture and policy. The coming decades will see the Earth grow unfamiliar and increasingly inhospitable. Through my journalism, I am trying to imagine how we might continue to inhabit it.

Fall internship: Monterey County Weekly

Jack J. Lee

B.S. (biology) California Institute of Technology
Ph.D. (molecular biology) Princeton University

jack.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have a confession: I love making PowerPoint presentations. When I started graduate school, I dreaded assembling figures and writing slides. My attitude changed as I prepared for a talk during my second year and realized that I was simply telling a story. I embraced the challenge of transforming microscopy images into narratives that guided the audience toward my conclusions.


My graduate work revolved around analyzing those images; that experience inspired me to become a data engineer. Though I enjoyed the technical details of the work, I missed the fulfillment of crafting stories. As an aspiring science journalist, I hope to use data to explain scientific news and concepts through a variety of media—maybe even a PowerPoint or two.

Fall internship: Stanford Medical School Public Affairs 

Erin Malsbury

B.S. (ecology) and B.A. (anthropology) University of Georgia

erin.jpg

A friend and I once brought identical stuffed wolves to second grade. She said they should have pups. So I, having just learned about life’s origins, eagerly shared with my classmates what I thought was innocent science.

My mini-lecture on mating drew the wide-eyed attention of nearly every student before my teacher overheard. With her eyes wide for a different reason, she denounced my crash course as inappropriate. I learned then that communicating facts can be complicated.

Later, as an ecology and anthropology student, I channeled my love for communication into environmental outreach and teaching. As my zeal for explaining ecology to pre-med students and school groups grew, I searched for ways to engage larger audiences.

Through journalism, I now hope to make science accessible to everyone, from unabashed second-graders to their flabbergasted teachers.

Fall internship: Monterey Herald

Jerimiah Oetting

B.S. (ecology, evolution & behavior) University of Minnesota—Twin Cities 

jerimiah.jpg

I was a few hundred feet from the summit of Mt. Siyeh, one of the highest peaks in Glacier National Park, when I spotted a grizzly. The massive animal was flipping over stones and catching the resultant flurry of tiny moths with well-timed snaps of its jaw. I wondered why a bear would climb thousands of feet for such a miniscule food source, and I felt inspired to describe the captivating scene to others.


We humans have distanced ourselves from the raw struggle for survival through invention, but are there limits to what technology can solve? Science and storytelling have always been intrinsic to our success as a species. As a science communicator, I hope to use both to untangle our endeavor to make peace with the planet.

Fall internship: Monterey County Weekly

Ashleigh Papp

B.S. (animal science and biology) California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo

ashleigh-no.hat.jpg

In fifth grade, I heard a rumor that music influenced intelligence. So I purchased 30 mice from the local pet store and a few CDs, and designed my first great science experiment.

I learned that listening to rock music for 48 hours straight didn't affect a mouse's timed maze race, and my experiment won an award at the science fair. My little heart beamed as I experienced the fulfillment of communicating science for the first time.

As an adult, I remain forever in awe of how science offers us opportunities to explore the world. Attempting to use words to help others learn about and understand its wonder — regardless of their backgrounds, ages or musical preferences — shall be my next great experiment.

Fall internship: University of California, Santa Cruz News Office

Ariana Remmel

B.A. (biochemistry and molecular biology) Reed College
M.S. (chemistry) University of California, San Diego

ari.jpg

I was always going to be a chemist. As a child, I used a coffee filter to separate a marker’s black ink into a rainbow of pigments, entranced by what seemed like real-life magic. One of my favorite chores was checking the pH of our aquarium because I could use a test kit that changed from a sickly yellow to a soothing blue when the water was safe for its inhabitants. I learned to love the smell of vinegar when mixing dyes for Easter eggs because I knew it would make my designs even brighter.

Chemistry brings color to my life. I started my career doing chemistry in a lab. Now I tell stories across the spectrum of science that help people experience how vibrant the world can be.

Fall internship: Monterey Herald

Lara Streiff

B.S. (environmental systems) University of California, San Diego

lara.jpg

As the sun set into the Indian Ocean, I distributed flashlights and led a few novice snorkelers into our island’s lagoon. I’d warned the snorkelers to be careful with their lights. But as they hit the water, they flailed their arms, strobing the reef below.

Suddenly, I felt a hefty thump on my left, knocking me sideways. I spun to see a large brownish-gray form darting past me—a massive nurse shark. It had probably been disoriented, blinded by our flashlights. When I explained the encounter to the snorkelers, they grew quiet, realizing that they had disturbed the shark and put us all at risk.

As a science writer, I hope to do the same thing on a larger scale: to use storytelling to increase awareness of the creatures around us, and prevent environmental harm.

Fall internship: Stanford University News Service

Jonathan Wosen

B.A. (biology) Williams College
Ph.D. (immunology) Stanford University

jonathan.jpg

It was time. Mom and I had spent the afternoon squeezing juice out of the grapefruits, lemons and oranges assembled on the kitchen table. And now for the experiment. I slowly poured some lemon juice into a cup of milk and watched the magic unfold. Ah, interesting, I thought, before dutifully scribbling the findings in my notebook: “The liquids combined to form a cheesy-like substance.”

I never published the results of that sixth-grade science project. It was science in its purest form: playful, irreverent and fueled by childlike curiosity. As a budding science writer, I hope to capture those qualities in my writing. There’s a world of wonder around and within each of us; I’m in search of the right words to bring that world to life.

Fall internship: Santa Cruz Sentinel