This is a series of Q&As with new, young and up-and-coming science, health and environmental writers and reporters. They - at least some of them - have recently hatched in the Incubators (science writing programs at schools of journalism), have even more recently fledged (graduated), and are now making their mark as wonderful new voices explaining science to the public.
Today we introduce you to Dani Grodsky (Twitter).
Hello and welcome to The SA Incubator. To start off, where are you from?
Hi! Thanks so much for talking with me. I am originally from Staten Island, New York and am currently a 3rd year undergraduate at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.
How did you get into science and how did you get into writing? And how did these two trajectories fuse into becoming a science writer?
Well, I started off from a very young age with a deep passion for science. Ever since elementary school, where I popped balloons filled with confetti to simulate the range of germs when you sneeze or tested which liquid made a submerged gummy bear expand, I feel in love with the journey of discovery that science fosters.
For the last three summers of high school I had the opportunity to do research at some of the country’s top universities (Cooper Union, Rockefeller University and NYU) in organic chemistry, cellular biology and visual perception. Around the same time, I also began tutoring students in a variety of math and science subjects. It was amazing to take part in building their connection to science and I was inspired to continue providing others, on a broader scale, with the opportunity to learn about the fascinating scientific ideas and innovations that are always evolving.
Once I came to Brown, I had the luck of taking a course at the beginning of my freshman year in which we read the works of contemporary authors who would subsequently do a live reading and Q&A with us. Throughout the semester, it struck me how writing empowers the author to instill a feeling or idea while at the same time organically allowing the reader to discover how he or she relates to the topic. It dawned on me that science writing would be the perfect outlet for me to spread my own passion and bridge the public with the scientific world.
Are you currently doing any form of science writing for a job or internship?
Indeed. For the past year I have been working part time, along with my studies at Brown of course, at the Brown Medicine Magazine. It is a triannual publication that reports on the variety of great people, research, events and initiatives that are occurring at the Warren Alpert Medical School. It has been a wonderful experience to develop pieces that highlight such influential work on the forefront of medicine and care as well as bring a community of people together all bonded by this one institution.
What do you see as the significance of the science communicators' role in society?
Science pervades the every day. It is in the food we buy at the grocery store, the weather we watch in the morning on our television, the medicine we take and even just the functioning of our bodies. More than this, it has paramount implications in policy making and the health of our society and economy.
For a topic so crucially important, science can not and should not exist in a bubble for only those willing and able to derive meaning from esoteric descriptions. This is where the science communicator comes in- not only recounting such descriptions in more accessible terms to enable and promote understanding but, more importantly, leading members of the public to discover for themselves the significance, intrigue and ubiquitous impact of science.
How do you see the current and future science media ecosystem, how it differs from the past, and what role will new, young science communicators like yourself play in building it and making it the best it can be?
The way in which information is communicated and spread has certainly been revolutionized- an evolution that has never stopped in the entire history of man. The love and motivation behind sharing stories of scientific inquiry remains at the base of science communication and is what drives a group of new talent to consistently accept the passing torch. However, the means through which we have the ability to communicate is the source of difference and my generation is fortunate enough to be part of a transition period that breed exhilarating potential for growth.
Today, story telling is being taken to new heights with the use of accompanying technology. As impactful as the written word can be in transmitting ideas, it will always be limited to the one dimensional surface – captivating in so far as it can be dissected and processed. The use of multimedia and ceaselessly advancing technology adds a dimension that can more fully stimulate the senses and create a form of learning that reflects that of true experience.
In the classroom, science is made to “come alive” with the implementation of hands-on activity, including the use of tools that scientists use to more precisely perceive the world. Now science communicators are taking on the role of recreating this same opportunity for the larger public audience. I can envision a day, probably in the lifetime of this new generation of communicators, when setting the scene in writing is accompanied by a three dimensional hologram and the ability to capture and render perception will bring the readers view uncannily close to that of the scientist. It will be our job to seamlessly integrate these parts into a coherent and captivating whole.
What are your plans for the future?
One thing I am certain about is my continued pursuit as a science communicator. Ideally, this will take shape in the form of covering topics of the mind. I enter Brown with the strong conviction to study cognitive neuroscience and my fascination with how the brain shapes the totality of our perceptions and actions has remained unfading. More specifically, in my writing I want to further explore cognition as it relates to motivation, decision making and the emerging area of behavioral economics. Overall, I am excited to continue my pursuit of using reporting and story telling to incite discussion along with new or stronger connections to science.
Thanks to you as well! This has truly been great.
Previously in this series: