February 10, 2016

Testimonials

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

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Chris Joyce of NPR, 2015 Environmental Fellow, talks with Bill Klimm, captain of the MBL’s collecting boat.

“I would recommend this fellowship to all. It was tremendously useful to be hands-on, to see the practical lab/field work side of science and the painstaking effort it takes to get coherent results. It will continually provide a backdrop to every science story I do. Our instructors were fantastic, illuminating, and often inspiring. The fellowship also provided me with story ideas and boosted my knowledge in several fields.” —Nick Clark, Environment Editor, Al Jazeera English (2014 Environmental Fellow)

“Trying to answer a scientific question oneself, which is what we did during this course, really helps to understand both the beauty and the limitations of the scientific enterprise. I now realize better just how much the answers nature gives us are partial, and open to a range of interpretations−any result can in fact be interpreted in many ways, especially in ecology, which is a science of complexity. But I also see better the amount of effort−both physical and intellectual−and the amount of creativity scientists have to invest to get these answers, however limited they are, and the treasure that they hence represent.” −Yves Sciama, Science et Vie, France (2015 Environmental Fellow)

2010 Polar Fellow Jane Qiu of Nature. Credit: Emily Stone

“I absolutely loved the MBL Science Journalism Program. I loved my professors, their assistants, and the other fellows. To feel part of an actual scientific investigation made me understand, more than ever, what scientists go through with their work. I was also exposed to some state-of-the-art imaging tools, which was very exciting for me. To see how visual microbiology is becoming only inspires me (a documentary filmmaker) even more to want to communicate the work and discoveries of science to the public. —David Jacobson, Documentary Filmmaker, Los Angeles (2014 Biomedical Fellow)

“Showing journalists how painstaking is the scientific process is a great way to encourage journalists to be equally meticulous in our reporting of science. In effect, we should exercise just as much care with our coverage as scientists do with their research.”−Chris Joyce, NPR, Washington, D.C. (2015 Environmental Fellow)

“I walked away with a deeper understanding and appreciation for the most basic units of life−cells−and the complex dance of organelles and proteins interfacing inside the human body and other living organisms… By experiencing scientific research methods firsthand, I left this course feeling more empowered to approach complex stories on biomedical research.”−Nancy Eve Cohen, freelance radio journalist (2015 Biomedical Fellow)

“I’m a trained scientist (with a Ph.D. in chemical biology), and I still learned an immense amount from the Environmental Hands-on Course. … I feel much better prepared to tackle environmental reporting than I did before because I now have a much better understanding of the work these scientists do.”—Sarah Webb, Freelance Journalist (2014 Environmental Fellow)

“I found the fellowship to be tremendously valuable. Journalists never get a chance to do hands-on lab work; to get inside the minds of scientists in that way. This was a rare opportunity that’ll inform my reporting for many years to come.”—Julia Belluz, Vox.com (2014 Biomedical Fellow)

“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)

Collecting eggs or sperm from a sea urchin. Credit: David Jacobson, 2014 Biomedical 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 Boing.net, 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)

2015 Environmental Fellow Amy Quinton of NPR/Capitol Public Radio explores a whelk. Credit: Rachael Buchanan, BBC

2015 Environmental Fellow Amy Quinton of NPR/Capitol Public Radio explores a whelk. Credit: Rachael Buchanan, BBC

“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)