Every week (or so) I post a quick Q&A with one of our bloggers on the network, so you can get to know them better. This week, I chat with Christie Wilcox from Science Sushi.
Hello! Let's start with first things first. What is the name of your blog and why did you choose that name - what does it mean?
The name of my blog is Science Sushi for a couple reasons. The first was that I wanted an image that would explain how interesting and great science can be when it’s kept simple. No over-inflated results, no tenuous connections to barely-related concepts – just the research, all by itself, stripped of the scientific jargon that usually makes it inaccessible. The word “raw” kept coming to mind – that I reveal the “meat” of a study, or expose its “tender flesh.” At some point, while throwing those words around, I imagined a plate of nigiri, but overlaying the rice were atoms and animals and all the cliche images of science instead of raw slabs of fish. Suddenly my brain was filled with visions of hand rolls bursting with DNA helices and gene sequences served alongside an Erlenmeyer flask instead of a tokkuri of sake. The visual was too powerful to ignore. So, Science Sushi it was.
…oh, what's the second reason you say? Well, because I love sushi. No, not love – love is what I feel for my job and my family. The emotion I feel towards sushi is such a deep passion that I don’t have a good word to describe it. It’s the first thing I think of when someone asks what my favorite food is, or what I’m in the mood for. I could eat it at every meal and never grow tired of the sweet taste of tender raw fish and sticky rice with just the right touch of shoyu and wasabi. It seemed entirely appropriate, then, that I describe my passion for science and writing in the context of my passion for food. Which is why the about page for Science Sushi begins like this:
Here at Science Sushi, we invite you to experience the flavors of science like you never have before. While others overdress their science news with exaggerated headlines and inappropriate conclusions, ours is served raw to expose the rich texture and simple flavors of the freshest discoveries. For the more refined palate, we also offer more comprehensive dishes, where complimentary research studies are slow-cooked together to bring out the subtle and complex flavors of different scientific concepts. Each mouthwatering post is held to a high standard of scientific accuracy, leading to quality you can taste.
Where does the artwork for your banner come from, and what are you trying to convey with it?
My banner art is my own creation, built from the visions I just described. I went through a lot of iterations of the design, from a plate of nigiri, to a hand roll bursting with science, but the simple sushi roll seemed to work the best. The key was to make it look almost like a regular sushi roll in terms of colors and shapes, such that if you were far enough away you might not realize what it really was. Then, when you look closely, BAM! The roll is bursting with biology!
Tell us more about yourself - where are you from, how did you get into science?
I'm from a lot of places - my parents moved a lot when I was a kid, so I've lived in Massachusetts, Hawaii, Vermont, and Florida. I wouldn't say I pursued a career in science - more like a blindly stumbled into it in high school. Don’t get me wrong – everyone else who knew me as a kid could have seen it coming. There’s a note in my school record from when I was five about how I liked to “find dead geckos and open their mouths to see their tongues.“ Of course, by the time I was in high school, I was like most teenagers: I didn't know what the heck I was supposed to do. So, I did a little of everything. I directed a play, did an independent study in Hawaiian history, and took AP Physics. It was really that physics teacher of mine, Brian Giannino-Racine, who is to blame for all this science stuff I do now. He did the most blasphemous thing: he made science – and not just any science, but physics – seem like something fun and interesting to study. Even though I got a C in his AP Physics class, I still liked his classes so much that I thought I could become a physicist, and, technically, that is what I started with when I got to Eckerd – a double major in Physics and Marine Science. It only took one advanced physics class to change my mind, but the passion for science in general that he brought out in me has stuck.
How did you get into science blogging and science writing? What were the early influences on you regarding your blogging style and topics?
You can blame one person for getting me into blogging: Allie Wilkinson (founder of This Is What A Scientist Looks Like). As a part of one of her classes in grad school, she has to start up a blog. It just so happened at that time in my life I had a lot of down time and was really, really bored. So when she told me all about it, I looked around and read some of the early greats like Ed Yong and Carl Zimmer and became inspired. I thought, hey, I can do that! – and so, my first blog, Observations of a Nerd, was born. Early on, I really stuck to emerging news that caught my eye, but as time as progressed, I found myself doing more long form, topic-synthesis pieces and sharp, critical responses to poorly-done science reporting. As far as style goes, I have a lot of influences, but I would say that my favorite writer and the one which I most aspire to resemble is Douglas Adams. In his book Last Chance To See, Adams effortlessly weaves together science and humor in his quirky but approachable style, and I only hope that my blog contains 1/10 of the humor and relatability of his writing.
What is your blog about? Who is your target audience, and why do you think people should read your blog?
My blog is about whatever science I find incredible, influential, or wildly inaccurate and in dire need of correction. I really try to write to anyone - that is to say, my audience is anyone else who might be interested in that topic, whether they're a high school student looking for more information or a fellow scientist keeping in touch with breaking science in their field. Since my audience is diverse, my topics tend to be as well. You'll see a heavy dose of genetics and marine biology because those are my fields of study and thus tend to catch my eye, but I'll write about anything that makes me think Wow, that's cool! I find the natural world unbelievably fascinating, and I figure that everyone else would, too, if only they could see it through my eyes. Far as I'm concerned, all I have to do in my blog is give my audience a glimpse at what the universe looks like to me, and they're sure to be as amazed by the science as I am.
As for why someone should read my blog, well, it's awesome. That's a good enough reason, right?
Previously in this series: