SciCom Class of 2019

Sofie Bates

B.S. (genetics and genomics) University of California, Davis

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When I was eleven, I convinced my classmates that dragons were real. I’d watched a film about dragons—complete with dissection of a computer-generated “dragon”—and felt compelled to share such groundbreaking science with my classmates. As I presented my findings to my classmates, they bounced in their plastic chairs, hands raised high with questions. My teacher intervened, explaining that dragons didn’t exist—but “mockumentaries” did.

My passion for communicating science resurfaced during a college research conference. As I explained my genetics experiments, I realized I was more excited to talk about the science than I was to do more benchwork. Now, I hope to instill the same sense of wonder in grown-ups as I did in my sixth-grade classmates. But I’ve learned my lesson: fact-check first.

Fall internship: Stanford University News Service

Bailey Bedford

B.S. (physics) University of Oklahoma
M.S. (physics) Pennsylvania State University

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As a child, I loved hearing and telling stories, but I struggled with spelling and reading. Then, when I was nine years old, I discovered the Harry Potter books. Captivated by these adventures and mysteries, I began reading on my own. After that, I plowed through books, even taking them out to the playground to read during recess. Later, a diagnosis of dyslexia helped me understand my struggles and improve my spelling and study habits.

Science was always another story I couldn’t put down, which led me to a physics graduate program. As a teaching assistant, I gained a deeper appreciation for how to use a good story to educate. Now, I strive to both captivate my audience and help them understand the complex world around them.

Fall internship: Eos

Katie Brown

B.A. (environmental studies) California State University, Monterey Bay

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My love for the ocean emerged from summers of building sandcastles, catching waves and working on the beaches of Los Angeles County. After enrolling in a biological oceanography class in college, I traded in my swimsuit for a lab coat.

I moved up to Alaska and worked alongside fishermen on the docks, gutting fish to study what they were eating. I learned that scientists and citizens could work together to conserve finite resources, then joined an international team of researchers who are trying to conserve sacred forests in Ethiopia.

These research experiences opened my eyes to the constant tango between human activity and ecological health. Now, I hope to use science communication to further investigate how people and the planet can prosper together.

Fall internship: KZSC radio

Erika K. Carlson

B.A. (physics) Pomona College
M.S. (astronomy) University of Wisconsin–Madison

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When I was eleven years old, I read a magazine story about the science of flavor. An illustration accompanying the story showed a large, pink milkshake brimming with the names of all the chemicals that make up strawberry flavoring. To this day, I can’t look at a strawberry milkshake without picturing a long list of chemical compounds.

Studying physics and astronomy also changed the way I see the world. Every shadow and reflective surface became an opportunity to ponder how light behaves. Each night sky offered a new chance to wrap my mind around the vast scales of our universe.

As a science writer, I now want to highlight the extraordinary nature of the ordinary world around us—to do for others what that strawberry milkshake did for me.

Fall internship: Santa Cruz Sentinel
 

Erin I. Garcia de Jesus

B.S. (microbiology) New Mexico State University
Ph.D. (microbiology) University of Washington

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Growing up, I loved to roam my yard collecting insects. I punched holes in the lid of an old plastic ice cream container and stuffed it full of grasshoppers and butterflies. I particularly loved black swallowtails; inspired by their yellow-spotted beauty, I wrote stories featuring elusive, imaginary butterfly species in the Alaskan wilderness.

In college, I saw insects in a different light: as vectors of disease. I studied how mosquito-borne viruses impact human health, but I was happier writing about my work and hearing about other projects than doing my own research.

I eventually realized that as a science writer I could write about anything, from viruses to my beloved butterflies. I grabbed a pen, laid down my pipette and embraced doing what I love most: learning and writing about science.

Fall internship: Santa Cruz Sentinel

Thomas S. Garlinghouse

B.A. and Ph.D. (archaeology) University of California, Davis

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As evening fell on San Clemente Island, we staggered back to camp. My crew and I had spent all day digging through the remains of a Native American village on this tiny island 50 miles west of Los Angeles. As we sat around the fire, a journalist interviewed me about ancient fishing strategies. Our conversation rekindled a long-dormant desire to combine my loves for writing and archaeology.

After graduate school, I went to work as an archaeologist, studying Native American sites in California. But that evening on the island never strayed too far from my thoughts. Now, after twenty years, I have finally decided to pursue my dream of becoming a science writer. After entrusting my stories to other journalists, I will now try my own hand at writing these tales from the past.

Fall internship: UC Santa Cruz news office

Hannah Hagemann

B.S. (earth science, environmental geology concentration) University of California, Santa Cruz

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Growing up, I wrote in my journal about the infinity of tides rolling in and out, the fragrant, earthen smell of redwood trees, and the craggy peaks of the Sierra.

I later became a geologist, investigating industrial neighborhoods contaminated with lead and other cancer-causing chemicals. On one cleanup site, a resident told me that he would not let his children play outside because he feared they would inhale toxic dust. He asked me about the chemicals I’d found on his property. But I was legally forbidden from telling him whether the contaminants could harm him and his family.

Now, by reporting on stories at the intersection of science, politics and community, I can share crucial information with the people who need it most. Through my journalism, I hope to empower people to protect pristine wilderness and neighborhood backyards alike.

Fall internship: Monterey Herald

Rodrigo Pérez Ortega

B.S. (basic biomedical research) Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México

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I used to spend long childhood afternoons in my mom’s lab. Sometimes, I played solitaire on an old computer while centrifuges and ultrafreezers hummed in the background. Other times, my mother’s graduate students let me look through the microscope at the parasites she studied. I felt so at home in the lab that I later decided to study biomedicine in university.

One afternoon during senior year, I listened to a Radiolab episode while counting fluorescent neurons in the dark. I became hooked on storytelling, and wrote a short entry for a friend’s science blog.

As I published more stories, I realized that I enjoyed explaining neuroscience to others. I now embark on a new journey, hoping to help everyone embrace science as eagerly as I did as a curious kid in my mother’s lab.

Fall internship: Monterey Herald

Priyanka Runwal

B.S. (environmental science) University of East Anglia, U.K.
M.S. (biodiversity) University of Oxford, U.K.

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It had been a typical day in the arid grasslands of Kachchh. As a field ecologist, I had spent the afternoon counting plants and collecting leaves in our 40-square-mile study site in the Indian state of Gujarat. I crouched to record my last entry for the day—and realized I wasn’t alone. A pair of wolves had been watching my every move.

The wolves sprang toward me as I took off running. They chased me for a quarter of a mile before I finally made it to the safety of my pickup truck. It was an alarming reminder that the drylands I studied are not the barren, lifeless wastelands that most people assume them to be.

Deserts are teeming with life, though it is often camouflaged. Now, as a science writer, I am determined to get people curious about the natural world—even in seemingly desolate environments.

Fall internship: Inside Science News Service

Helen Santoro

B.A. (neuroscience) Hamilton College

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My beginning was peculiar: before I opened my eyes, I had already been inside a brain imaging machine. At one day old, I was diagnosed with a prenatal stroke, thus beginning my relationship with neuroscience.

Years later, doctors studied my brain’s electrical activity. As I lay on a table with electrodes glued to my scalp and cables flowing from my head like Medusa’s snakes, I watched in wonder as my brain waves crawled across a monitor. The doctors changed my diagnosis from stroke to cyst—a structural abnormality in the brain. To understand this diagnosis, I studied neuroscience in college.

Now, I use writing as a means to illuminate the brain’s beauty. With pen and paper, I hope to provide readers with the same sense of wonder I felt watching my brain waves years ago.

Fall internship: Stanford University School of Medicine