September 23, 2014


Here’s what a few former SJP Fellows had to say about the MBL’s unique program:

“I found the experience fascinating and fulfilling.  Most stories I have worked on focus on scientific work after it has been done. It is a rare experience for me to see it being done …  This kind of an experience should be a requisite part of the career of any science journalist.” Erik Olsen, The New York Times (2013 Environmental Fellow)


“It was a wonderful way to see how, exactly, science works. As a journalist I pop in and out of labs and hear about the research after its completed. But participating in the research itself gave me a deep understanding of how long it takes to complete research, the attention to detail that’s required, and the *patience* that a scientist must have in order to come up with legitimate, reliable results.” —Erin Biba, Correspondent, Wired Magazine (2013 Environmental Fellow)

“The journalism industry is now suffering an unprecedented economic contraction and reorganization, just as science and technology writing is becoming ever more crucial to elucidating important public and societal debates. Educational programs such as the SJP are critical for preparing science/technology journalists to meet the forthcoming challenges.” —Steven Ashley, Scientific American (2012 Biomedical Fellow)

“Spending 10 days in the shoes of a scientist gives me a deeper perspective on what scientists do, what their motivations are, what questions I need to ask them and what kinds of stories are out there that I am missing.” Maggie Koerth-Baker, Boing, New York Times (2012 Environmental Fellow)

“The program was an invaluable introduction to cell biology, microscopy, and the life of a scientist. Despite being editor of The Biologist magazine, my degree is in physics … The hours I spent in the lab with professional biologists opened my eyes to the beauty and depth of a different science. It will have a huge impact on my editorship.” —Sue Nelson, The Biologist (2012 Biomedical Fellow)

“What a fabulous experience: Like stepping through the looking glass, sliding down the rabbit hole and finding oneself in the unfamiliar role of scientist. Even if only for a few days. The very best part was going through the whole process from working in the field, collecting data, evaluating what one has (or rather doesn’t have) and then presenting it, and not just have somebody speak about it. Even the most detailed and vivid talk leaves you on the outside. This is the closest one can come as a journalist to experiencing what if feels like to be  scientist.” —Madeleine Amberger, ORF Austrian Broadcasting Corp. (2012 Environmental Fellow)

“More and more, as magazines and newspapers cut their budgets, time becomes a rarer commodity for journalists. The time to immerse yourself in your subject matter, the time to converse with your peers, the time to question things, the time to let things sink in, the time for serendipity or creativity – all of it shrinks as the demands on journalists to multitask and produce material nonstop grow. The gift of time afforded by this fellowship may seem like a luxury, but when it comes to the job of communicating science to the public, such time spent in the field, with great peers, learning from great scientific minds, is not a luxury but essential. This fellowship is like a whetstone for us journalists: it sharpens our minds and hones our ability to communicate science accurately, passionately and infectiously.” —Anne Casselman, Freelance (2013 Environmental Fellow)

“I feel that every science journalist should take this course. It is truly unique in letting reporters ‘step into the shoes’ of scientists …  It was an excellent way for journalists to look at the science from the other side and also to cement their knowledge of basic scientific concepts. I know I will be using what I have learned for many years to come.” —Euna Lhee, freelance, Fulbright Young Journalist (2012 Biomedical Fellow)

“The SJP biomedical track gave me a lot of insight into the work scientists do and gave me long-term, unfettered access to scientists who think creatively and speak freely. I am certain that I am coming back from this program more prepared to do my job than before. The experience was overwhelmingly positive… and I largely credit the course directors, Kerry Bloom, Chad Pearson, and Racheal Bloom, for making it such a valuable encounter.” —Brendan Maher, senior editor, The Scientist (2007 Biomedical Fellow)

“The instructors in the SJP biomedical track were top-notch. Their lectures were clear and they were mixed well with the lab work.” —Stephanie Nano, supervisory editor/reporter, Associated Press (2007 Biomedical Fellow)

“As an editorial writer at the Los Angeles Times, this [Alaska fellowship] informed my work even if I didn’t directly write about Toolik Lake. For example, just after I returned from Toolik Lake, the state legislature was debating a carbon cap, which would make California a leader in legislation to slow climate change. I was able to convince the paper to support the bill and to urge our Republican governor to sign it. Whether our editorial position helped make the bill into law I can’t say. But the state’s largest paper went on record as supporting it and other efforts to address climate change.” —Mary Engel, Los Angeles Times (2006 Environmental Fellow)

“It’s clear to me that my time at MBL made me a much better science journalist in three ways. First, I got a lot of bedrock knowledge in two fields—the basis of the ‘postgenomic’ era (at MBL) and ecology (at Toolik). Second, I saw how to improve my questions—that it’s important not to look for a bottom line, an answer, a good quotation, without also finding the intellectual context. Another way to put this is that science comes from its own context, and you can’t do good science writing if you don’t see how the work matters to scientists as well as to readers. Third, and most important, I learned, from the experience, to look for *how* scientists know things, not just *what* they know…it’s a rare day when I don’t think about how much the fellowship meant to me.” —David Berreby, freelance (1995 Fellow)

“I took the marine ecology course in the MBL Science Writing Program’s first summer, in ’86. I was just starting out as a science writer and I look back at that summer as life-changing. The course gave me a feeling for the depths and difficulties of the practice of ecology. I got to watch teams of computer modelers and I got to watch lone biologists in rowboats. I saw how hard it is for scientists to achieve a clear view of the planetary climate, or the local pond. I also made friends with many like-minded people—journalists, biologists, historians of science. Some of those friendships have lasted to this day. All of them enriched my understanding of the scientific enterprise. I think I write better and think better because of the program, and I hope many more science writers will get a chance to benefit from it.” —Jonathan Weiner, Pulitzer Prize Winning Author, The Beak of the Finch (1986 Fellow)