Being confronted with our own biases is a humbling experience. I hate to admit it, but for most of my life, even when I was in college, the images I had of scientists and engineers were typically of men. Growing up, the parochial school I attended taught us that men are supposed to be providers and women are supposed to be nurturers. According to my teachers and pastors, men are more logical and women are more emotional; therefore, men are more reliable for leadership roles. Popular culture at that time, which is unfortunately not very different from today’s, was full of references to dumb blonde women, women’s “excuse to be crazy” once a month, and men’s mistrust of “anything that bleeds for seven days and doesn’t die.”
Author: Kristina Lenn Editors: Christina Vallianatos and Whit Froehlich
I first read The Disappearing Spoonin 2012 while I was home from grad school on a break. As a chemical engineering student, nothing appealed more to me than a book about the periodic table. And I’m not referring to a typical chemistry textbook that discusses the different trends in the table as you go from left to right or top to bottom. This is a book that weaves together science, history, and the impact that the subjects of Mendeleev’s kingdom have had not only on the world but also on their discoverers.
Sam Kean, the New York Times best-selling author not only of The Disappearing Spoon but also of The Violinist’s Thumb, The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons, and Caesar’s Last Breath, has taken his passions for science, history, and writing and melded them together to create four books that were each Amazon’s top science book of the year. The books cover the periodic table, DNA, neuroscience, and the alchemy of air, respectively – all vastly different from one another yet equally enigmatic.
I hate to admit it, but I still have yet to see this movie that everyone is raving about and says is better than Man of Steel and Batman. But as a woman, I find it encouraging to have a female superhero join the likes of Spiderman and Superman who have many movies featuring their exploits. It’s nice to see that Hollywood is finally starting to portray women as more than damsels in distress needing male superheroes to come to their rescue. Continue reading “Where is Wonder Woman?”→
MiSciWriters member Kristina Lenn chatted with Nick Wigginton, the assistant vice president of research at the University of Michigan, about the importance of communication among researchers and the big responsibility science writers carry in the current political climate.
Anyone who has ever done collaborative research can list the benefits of being able to work with another group and learn about the cultural differences between researchers. Dr. Nick Wigginton knows better than anyone else how important communication is to successful collaborations.
Prior to his tenure at Michigan, Dr. Wigginton received his doctorate in Earth Science, and his dissertation was a collaborative effort by his department, physics, chemistry, and biology. This interdisciplinary gauntlet gave him the tools he needed to succeed as an editor for Science magazine where he needed to address the research and cultures of multiple departments.
For the first in our series “Conversations about Science Writing,” MiSciWriters editor-in-chief Irene Park chatted with Kara Gavin, a lead Public Relations representative for the Michigan Medicine and the Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation. Irene asked Kara some questions about her experiences that led to her current position and whether she has any tips for new, budding science writers.
The transcript is lightly edited for brevity and clarity.
MSW: Could you describe your current position?
KG: I am one of seven writers on the staff at the Michigan Medicine Department of Communication. I find and tell stories about research for a very broad audience to internal and external worlds – about the research going on in medical school labs.
I’ve been at the University for almost 18 years. When I first started, there was not a lot of research coverage. It was very much hospital PR [public relations] with very little research news. Over time, we noticed that we could get so much more attention with research news than clinical news. So it became more about finding stories about research and translating them into stories to represent the institution.
The advance of social media means that everything we produce reaches many audiences. We are always looking for reporters to get interested in the research we write about, so there is a media relations function still. Now, everything I write goes up the University of Michigan Health Lab blog. The blog was created last year as a platform for sharing not only research news but reflections on science and society and Q&A’s with researchers.
My job is equal parts writing, connecting reporters with our experts, and cultivating future stories by giving talks. I give several talks a month: teaching researchers how to use Twitter as professionals, or why they should engage in the PR process.