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Unexpected Award Phone Call: A Good Way to Start Your Day

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Aneurysms in the coronary arteries of a Kawasaki victim. Public domain; click for source.

Yesterday morning as I was tucking into my first cup of tea, I received the startling news that I’ve won the American Meteorological Society’s Award for Distinguished Science Journalism in the Atmospheric and Related Sciences. Dr. Marshall Shepherd, president of the AMS, called to inform me of the news. I was especially shocked since I hadn’t applied for the award and had no idea I was in the running. Let me tell you, this is a great way to start your day!

The award was for the Nature story I did last year about Kawasaki Disease, the cause of the mysterious malady that appears to be crossing to America from Asia on rivers of air high in the atmosphere, and which inexplicably sometimes causes aneurysms and even heart failure in very young children. In spite of being studied since the 1950s, no one has yet identified whether that cause is even a living organism, much less what it is. You can read the story here (where there’s also a short audio interview with me about the story). I also blogged about the story here and did a follow-up post about one interesting theory about its cause here.

The AMS describes their award this way:

The Award for Distinguished Science Journalism in the Atmospheric and Related Sciences recognizes outstanding science reporting and writing about scientific discoveries, principles, advances, and impacts in all media outlets including radio, television, newspaper, magazine, and online.

The award is given for reporting that makes atmospheric and related sciences material accessible and interesting to the general public and is published or broadcast all or in part during the preceding calendar year. To be considered, each story, including those in a body of work, must go beyond routine reporting of an event, such as publication of a scientific paper, to put the event in a wider scientific context.

Dr. Shepherd said the citation for my award reads, “For a vivid, detailed account of ongoing research on a medical puzzle that brings together epidemiology, microbiology, and global atmospheric circulation.” Recent past winners have included Alexandra Witze of Science News, Quirin Schiermeier of Nature, and Margot Roosevelt of the Los Angeles Times. I’m honored to be in such company.

Sincere, grateful thanks to the AMS and its judges, to my editor at Nature Mitch Waldrop for all his hard work and guidance, and to the entire features team at Nature, in particular chief features editor Helen Pearson.

My first science writing award was for a two-part story about a mysterious outbreak of a previously unknown disease in Wyoming elk that turned out to have a truly bizarre cause, so I am starting to wonder if I’m on the “Freaky Disease Epidemiology” beat when it comes to winning awards. I guess, as they say, these are the problems you want to have.

Jennifer Frazer About the Author: Jennifer Frazer is a AAAS Science Journalism Award-winning science writer. She has degrees in biology, plant pathology/mycology, and science writing, and has spent many happy hours studying life in situ. Follow on Twitter @JenniferFrazer.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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