I don’t just write for fun; I make my living as a freelance science and travel writer. How does one go about getting such a fantastic job? Well there are many roads, but I started out with a background in science as a self-designed Evolution major – focusing on geology, ecology and genetics – and then, after stints on an organic farm and in a genetics lab, I got a master’s degree in science writing from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland.
Science journalism is a rare art and an increasingly indispensable one. Climate change, fracking, earthquakes, tsunamis, epidemics, invasive species, GMO agriculture, evolution, genomic medicine–chances are if you’re at all interested, informed, or concerned about anything rooted in science, you’ve probably come across the work of a science writer. Our job is to translate the jargon published in scientific journals into language that everybody can read and understand. I love my job. I learn something new everyday. Just this past week I have written about supervolcanoes, coelacanths, comets vs. asteroids, dinosaur embryos, Arctic ozone, and our ancient ancestor, Australopithecus sediba.
Now aspiring science writers have one less program for learning the art of writing about science: Katherine Newman, the Dean of Arts & Sciences at Hopkins, has axed the graduate program in science writing. Apparently, the numbers weren’t adding up. How can a place like Johns Hopkins underestimate the importance of communicating and disseminating the very scientific research that has made it rich and famous?
Only four schools offer an equivalent degree: MIT, NYU, Boston University and UC Santa Cruz. All great programs, but they lack Ann Finkbeiner, the long-time director of the Hopkins program, who has now resigned. When I was applying to grad schools, I thought the program at MIT was my first choice. Then, I met Ann. Ann is a fantastically engaging writer and an even better teacher. I loved every minute of my experience at Hopkins and can’t help but feel sorry for the incoming class, who were told just last week they need a Plan B, and for future science writers everywhere, who won’t get the same opportunity I had to learn this ever enlightening craft.
Links to my science stories can be found on my professional website: http://marycapertonmorton.com/links.html. Also check out Ann’s wonderful science blog: The Last Word On Nothing. Onward and upward, Ann!