SciCom Class of 2017

Devika G. Bansal

B.Tech (biosciences and bioengineering) Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur
Ph.D. (molecular neuroscience) National University of Singapore

Devika Garg-Bansal

My earliest recollection of being in total awe of the world was when my mom told me that the sun is a star. She sparked my curiosity, and encyclopedias became my favorite books. Through school, I learned so much more about the universe out there—and the one within us. Each time I understood something fantastic, I shared it with my younger siblings. They became my first audience.

Graduate research on fruit fly behavior deepened my scientific wonder. Naturally, I wanted to keep sharing. My quest for science outreach led me to probe neuroscience, precision medicine, and even California’s drought through a kaleidoscope of words and data visuals.

With a focus on new media, I wish to cover interdisciplinary advances in science, technology, engineering and medicine for all those who love the world’s surprises.

School-year internships: Santa Cruz Sentinel, Stanford University School of Medicine, San Jose Mercury News
Summer internship: UC San Francisco news office

Sukee Bennett

B.A. (ecology and evolutionary biology) University of Colorado Boulder

Sukee Bennett

I was six when I first saw the Leonid meteor shower with my dad. Staying up past 2 a.m. on a chilly school night was a thrill, surpassed only by the shooting stars themselves. Years later, I watched meteors dash across an expansive Australian sky, where college research had drawn me to study wallabies. Such nights and wildlife inspired me to tell stories, but I didn’t have the tools to go beyond campfire chats.

My simple tête-à-têtes evolved to large-scale presentations when I worked as an educator at the New England Aquarium. Then I joined a team working toward sea turtle conservation in Costa Rica, where telling stories to inspire the local residents was essential. I’m now equipping myself to pursue communication through such stories, around the world—wherever the stars may lead.

School-year internships: Monterey HeraldSan Jose Mercury News (reporting, multimedia)
Summer internship: UC San Francisco news office (multimedia)

Teresa L. Carey

B.S. (environmental science) University of Michigan
M.A. (fine arts) Ohio University

Teresa L. Carey

I wanted to sleep in a treehouse for my honeymoon. But the best treehouses were on the Pacific coast, and I was 3,000 miles away. I needed a creative way to get there, so I entered the Blue Ocean Film Festival YouTube contest. I never thought I’d actually win VIP passes to the Monterey Bay event, but I did!

As a professional mariner and science student, I already loved stories about the sea. I expected a relaxing week watching films. Instead, I met ocean movers and shakers like Wallace J. Nichols and Sylvia Earle. I had finally found my people. Their energy resonated with me, and I absorbed it all.

Data and statistics may inform us, but people and passions effect change. I hope my work will inspire people to come together and create solutions.

School-year internships: Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, KAZU-FM public radio, Inside Science News Service
One-year internship: PBS NewsHour (Washington D.C.)

Ula Chrobak

B.S. (environmental science, soils and biogeochemistry track) University of California, Davis 

Ula Chrobak

When I go rock climbing, my imagination gets to work. I visualize the ancient seafloors that became limestone, and the molten rock that slowly cooled into the granite above me. I also look down, grabbing a handful of soil to examine its texture and color.

The humble soil beneath our feet has always compelled me. In my studies, I learned how the properties of soil reveal its origins, yielding a detailed story of the landscape. Outside class, I used my soil science knowledge to lead composting workshops.

My first job required me to write environmental impact reports for warehouses and housing subdivisions. That sole focus on development wasn’t what I wanted; I craved a career where I could view the environment from many perspectives. A lifetime of digging for stories awaits.

School-year internships: Stanford University News Service, Santa Cruz Sentinel, Science
Summer internship: Climbing Magazine and University of Colorado Boulder news office

Sarah Derouin

B.S. (geology) St. Norbert College
M.S. (geology) Fort Hays State University
Ph.D. (geology) University of Cincinnati

Sarah Derouin

I grew up on a farm on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. My days of quiet wonder growing tomatoes, uncovering crawfish, and collecting the prettiest rocks were the beginnings of my development as a scientist, although I didn’t realize it. In college and grad school, geology felt like the perfect fit. For my Ph.D. research I discovered new details about the glacial history of my home state, and I thought back to my childhood explorations through the lens of geologic time.

My work as a professional geologist, with its dry site characterizations and seismic safety analyses, dulled those passions. Only when I started teaching at a community college and writing about current geology topics did I realize that science reporting, not technical reports, fulfilled me. Now all the world, both past and future, is open to explore.

School-year internships: Santa Cruz Sentinel, Eos / American Geophysical Union, Stanford News Service
Summer internship: EARTH Magazine

Emma Hiolski

B.S. (marine biology, biochemistry) Eckerd College
Ph.D. (microbiology & environmental toxicology) University of California, Santa Cruz

Emma Hiolski

I grew up in Chicago near a Great Lake, but I was enchanted by the distant, exotic world of marine biology. My siren was the memoir Dolphin Chronicles, which called me to the warm, salty waters of Florida’s Gulf Coast for college. Before I knew it, I was also studying biochemistry and even some neuroscience.

Though these disparate topics cohered during my graduate research—I studied how marine toxins affect the brain—I felt too specialized. I had too much fun learning about my peers’ work. My department’s science writing course helped me recognize that I could share my excitement and always continue to learn. Coincidentally, the memoir that inspired me was written by SciCom grad Carol Howard, who had laid a path I followed to my own calling more than 30 years later.

School-year internships: Monterey Herald, Science, Stanford University School of Medicine
Summer-fall internship: Chemical & Engineering News (Washington D.C.)

Sarah E. McQuate

B.S. (chemistry) University of Puget Sound
Ph.D. (biochemistry) University of Colorado Boulder

Sarah E. McQuate

When I was 10, I bought three-foot-long pencils inscribed with “Sarah and her animals.” I thought this saying summed up my affection for dinosaurs, whales, my cats, and other creatures. As I scoured books and encyclopedias for information about my favorite animals, I became obsessed with science.

I soon found that science is beautiful. How is it that tiny molecules can interact to create life and that single-celled creatures like bacteria manage to make us sick?

To answer these questions, I went to graduate school and used microscopes to visualize Salmonella infections in living cells. I loved the images from these experiments and I created an online alter ego, Potassium, to share them with friends and family. Communicating the joy of science became my passion, and Potassium has led me here.

School-year internships: Salinas Californian, Big Picture Science radio show, Nature
Summer-fall fellowship: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (Richland, WA)

Yasemin Saplakoglu

B.S. (biomedical engineering) University of Connecticut

Yasemin Saplakoglu

The first time I felt like a science communicator, I had red cabbage in one hand and brussel sprouts in the other. Wearing a lab coat down to my toes and goggles too big for my face, I explained to my 7th grade classmates—as they all held their noses—why I was extracting colors from malodorous vegetables.

Numerous chromatography experiments later, science remained my muse and writing became my pastime. I was captivated both by observing the spontaneous beating of cardiac cells cultured together and by the elegant fall of words in a sentence. Inspired by my rediscovery of a box of stories I had written as a child and from a talk given by Rebecca Skloot on the interwoven fields of science, writing, and ethics, I found myself running toward the redwoods.

School-year internships: Stanford University School of Medicine, Monterey Herald, San Jose Mercury News
Summer internship: Princeton University Office of Research

Aylin Woodward

B.A. (biological anthropology) Dartmouth College

Aylin Woodward

My mother was always reluctant to take me to the zoo. I’d spend hours watching the silverbacks knuckle-walk back and forth like errant pendulums. That fascination for primates (Homo sapiens included) and their locomotor preferences followed me to adulthood. It ignited a fierce curiosity about why we walk the way we do, and why that matters.

Yet I also loved sparking debates, and my political science interests pulled me into the fraught world of social commentary. Could I spend the rest of my career begging chimpanzee calcanei to reveal their secrets?

Adrift in the sea of indecision, I spent a year helping Dartmouth’s president articulate his passions and priorities. Writing became the most powerful tool in my arsenal. Now, I want to harness that medium to tell the stories behind our evolution as a species.

School-year internships: Salinas Californian, San Jose Mercury News
Summer-fall internship: New Scientist (Boston)