Science Writing Graduate Students

 

Laura Castañón

Graduate Student, Science Writing, '18

lacast@mit.edu
Laura Castañón Laura has never managed to be just one thing. While growing up in Needham, Massachusetts, her indulgent parents allowed her to fill their home with collections of insect molts and unidentified bones as well as the deconstructed remains of old TVs and a ship’s radar. She attended Washington University in St. Louis where she earned a first major in theatrical design and technology and a second in environmental studies, while spending her free time performing story-based comedy. After graduation, her job titles ranged from mad scientist to tall ship bos’n to theatrical carpenter and electrician. She has repaired windsurfers, lectured about climate change, built elaborate golden candelabras, and taught preschoolers how to pet a snail.

Laura sees science writing as the perfect intersection of these disparate interests. Her experiences in performance and education have made her a lively communicator and storyteller, and her dual interests in technology and nature make MIT the ideal place to turn those skills into writing.

Laura has two dogs and a gecko to keep her company through her endeavors. The dogs are a constant delight and remind her that hiking is better than working. The gecko reminds her that she is slightly less important than a piece of banana.
TJ Dimacali

Graduate Student, Science Writing, '18

dimacali@mit.edu
TJ Dimacali TJ grew up in Manila, the Philippines, on a staple of vintage comics and classic sci-fi, which instilled in him a lifelong love for literature and science. After graduating with a creative writing degree from the University of the Philippines, TJ found himself pursuing a variety of odd jobs from financial news info editor to cultural commission speechwriter to advertising copywriter. He put this diverse experience to good use when he eventually landed a job as Science and Technology Editor at GMA Network, one of the country’s largest media companies. He managed to secure some accolades along the way, including the Philippine government’s Gawad Scriba Award for Science Communicators. He is also an alumnus of the Asia Journalism Fellowship, the Netherlands Fellowship Program, CERN School Philippines, the Silliman University National Writers Workshop, and the Iligan National Writers Workshop. His sci-fi short stories, which often blend Philippine history and mythology, have appeared in local and foreign anthologies. TJ is attending MIT as a Fulbright scholar—like Dolph Lundgren, only a bit less buff.
Greta Friar

Graduate Student, Science Writing, '17

gfriar@mit.edu
Greta Friar Greta Friar is a science writer living in the Boston area. She can be reached by email at gfriar@mit.edu or on twitter @gretafriar.
Giorgia Guglielmi

Graduate Student, Science Writing, '17

guglielm@mit.edu
Giorgia Guglielmi Born in Foggia, a sweltering town between the spur and the heel of the Italian boot, Giorgia invested a significant part of her life trying to understand how life works. She holds an undergraduate degree in Biotechnology and a M.S. in Molecular and Cell Biology, both obtained with distinction from the University of Rome “Tor Vergata,” and a PhD in Biology summa cum laude from the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Heidelberg, Germany. In the rare moments away from the lab, Giorgia enjoyed writing for the EMBL magazine, organizing science outreach events, and sharing cool facts about biology with students across Europe. After two chilly and writing-intense semesters in Boston, she has moved to warmer climates to report for Science Magazine in Washington, DC. When not writing about science, she can be found on Twitter or running at the National Mall.
Fatima Husain

Graduate Student, Science Writing, '18

fhusain@mit.edu
Fatima Husain Fatima was born in Houston, Texas but raised in West Des Moines, Iowa, where she spent most of her time caught between writing and gardening. Fascinated by the soil and atmospheric chemistry that affected each season’s roses or hydrangeas, she studied biology and chemistry by day and posted actively in gardening forums by night. She continued her study of nature and its stories at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, where she performed arctic paleoclimate research for three years while she earned an Sc.B. in Geology-Chemistry. She has published her work in numerous media, including The College Hill Independent, where she served as science editor for two years. Her other works have been published in the Catalyst journal, The Brown Daily Herald, Johns Hopkins University’s Imagine Magazine, the Lyrical Iowa journal, Closed Captioned magazine, and online at theindy.org. When she’s not attempting to germinate avocado seeds in her kitchen or researching geoengineering experiments, she can be contacted at fhusain@mit.edu or on Twitter @fatimagulhusain.
Ashley Junger

Graduate Student, Science Writing, '18

ajunger@mit.edu
Ashley Junger Ashley grew up in the suburbs of St. Louis, her bedroom shelves littered with well worn books and various rocks found while exploring the surrounding creek system. As an undergraduate at DePauw University, she pursued both of these passions, double-majoring in Biology and English Literature. While pursuing her bachelors, she was also an Environmental Fellow, and on the executive board of both the environmental club and the outdoors club. Ashley explored her interests with several internships, researching water purification methods for a non-profit, studying butterfly population dynamics in a Costa Rican nature reserve, and writing about antibiotic resistance for Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute’s magazine. Ashley found she was most engaged when she worked on projects that combined her interest in the natural world with her passion for writing, especially when she could focus on human impacts on the environment.

She looks forward to further developing her science writing skills at MIT, so she can get others as excited about advances in ecology, zoology, and environmental sustainability as she is. In her spare time, Ashley enjoys experimenting with embroidery, hiking, and trying out new recipies.
Robin Kazmier

Graduate Student, Science Writing, '17

rkazmier@mit.edu
Robin Kazmier Robin Kazmier grew up in Alpharetta, Georgia, with a bedroom full of maps and a dream of living in the jungle. Her curiosity about the human relationship with nature led her to pursue a BA in anthropology and geography at Northwestern University. After a stint in the education abroad field, Robin took a trip to Costa Rica and stayed there for almost nine years. She spent the first few years working on a cocoa farm in a remote village, and later became a medical Spanish instructor, moving to Costa Rica’s urban center to lead Spanish immersion programs for US health professionals.

Robin’s transition to science writing began when she took a job as editor and project manager of natural history books at Zona Tropical Press. There, she put together field guides to the birds of Botswana and several Central American countries as well as nature photography and children’s books. In 2015, Robin joined Costa Rica’s leading English-language newspaper, where she launched a publishing division and served as general manager. Her work on the wildlife and biodiversity of Costa Rica appears in The Tico Times and she is the author of National Parks of Costa Rica (Cornell University Press, 2015). You can find her at rkazmier@mit.edu or on Twitter at @rokazmier.
Lydia-Rose Kesich

Graduate Student, Science Writing, '18

lkesich@mit.edu
Lydia-Rose Kesich Lydia-Rose grew up in Portland, Maine, where she developed an early passion for life science. She studied developmental biology at Smith College, where a major part of her education included leading a research project on disruption of neural crest development by environmental hydrocarbons and the creation of a new technique for studying protein turnover in yeast.

After graduation Lydia-Rose joined the gubernatorial campaign of a clean energy entrepreneur in her home state of Maine, where her responsibilities included communications work, fundraising, and science policy. She hopes to use the skills she develops at MIT to pursue a career at the interstices of science and politics, where smart, persuasive writing has the power to create real change.
Brandon Levy

Graduate Student, Science Writing, '17

levyba@mit.edu
Brandon Levy Brandon was born in Boston but raised down the street from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Chevy Chase, Maryland. After bursting onto the reporting scene with an investigation of the food served in his middle school’s cafeteria, Brandon went on to win several writing competitions and serve as editor-in-chief of his high school newspaper, The Tattler. Meanwhile, the combination of an early interest in biology and his family’s many eccentricities made him intensely curious about why people act the way they do. Brandon earned a B.S. in Neuroscience from Duke University, where he volunteered in a neuroimaging lab and wrote a senior thesis on the influence of emotional facial expressions on social decision making. After graduating, he returned to Maryland to work in the Laboratory of Brain and Cognition at the NIH’s National Institute of Mental Health. Finding the day-to-day grind of scientific inquiry to be less-than-thrilling, he began writing about NIH-funded research for several of the institution’s publications and was soon hooked. He has also worked as a member of the press team at the NIH’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Brandon is psyched to hone his writing chops at MIT but also slightly terrified of the New England winter. When he’s not writing or reading Stephen King novels, Brandon enjoys singing, cooking, and cheering on Duke’s basketball team.
Raleigh McElvery

Graduate Student, Science Writing, '17

mcelvery@mit.edu
Raleigh McElvery Raleigh McElvery was raised on the adage, “Never let the facts get in the way of a good story.” However, as a Neuroscience major at Bowdoin College ’16, she realized that facts can make for an even better story. A self-proclaimed brain zealot, Raleigh once had the chance to see her own brain via MRI scans. But the black and white images left something to be desired. What kind of wiring associates Wednesdays with the smell of freshly baked bread? Or yields a penchant for ice cream but a strong antipathy towards the cold? In an effort to unravel the intricacies of the human brain, Raleigh chose to begin with a smaller, less complex system: the goldfish. At Bowdoin, she researched the fast-acting effects of steroid hormones as they stick to certain areas of the fish brain. Raleigh felt a certain kinship with these tiny teleosts, since things — particularly scientific tidbits — tend to get stuck in her head as well. Consequently, her writing endeavors have included reporting on science-centric events for the Bowdoin Communications Department, investigating the neural basis of fear during a summer in Denmark, and chronicling obesity interventions for the mentally ill with a team from the Geisel School of Medicine. As part of the Communications group at the Broad Institute, Raleigh delved further into the molecular basis of various genetic conditions, communicating findings to the general public. In her spare time, you can find Raleigh challenging drivers as she runs along the Charles River, training her cat to come to a whistle, or creating cubist sculptures from Legos.
Bennett McIntosh

Graduate Student, Science Writing, '17

bamc@mit.edu
Bennett McIntosh Bennett was born in Littleton, Colorado, a Denver suburb best understood as the inspiration for South Park. He entered the lab at an early age, serving as the pilot subject for his father’s psychology experiments at the University of Denver; Googling “facial mimicry” still brings up a portrait of a smiling young Bennett with a face-full of electrodes from one such study. But rather than the perhaps-too-familiar world of psychology, he was drawn to chemistry: as presented in high school, this was the discipline of thermite, exploding methane bubbles, and pennies turned from copper into gold (well, golden brass).

His curiosity thus piqued, Bennett spent four years studying the subject at Princeton, and was only slightly disappointed to receive, in 2016, a diploma for a bachelor’s degree in “chemia” (from the Latin word) rather than “alchemy” (from the Arabic). In the course of his research in labs from Princeton to Brighton, England, and Nove Hrady, Czech Republic, Bennett noticed he would spend more time writing – poetry, op-ed rants about university policy, or omphaloskeptic essays – than in the lab. So he decided to channel some of that writing into scientific topics, reporting on the origin of consciousness, the ethics of CRISPR, and the mechanics of gerrymandering for class and student publications; he quickly discovered that science writers are second only to physicists in their freedom to explore and pontificate upon interesting and important topics they have no formal training in. Bennett hopes to continue that exploration – and do something useful with it – at MIT and beyond.
Heather Mongilio

Graduate Student, Science Writing, '18

mongilio@mit.edu
Heather Mongilio Heather first declared she was going to be a journalist walking home from the bus stop in fifth grade. She grew up in Ellicott City, Maryland, where she first discovered how fascinating the brain is and the adrenaline high from breaking news. After deciding not to choose between her interests, she earned her bachelor’s degree from American University in journalism and psychology. Heather worked at The Eagle, American University’s student-run newspaper and served as editor-in-chief during her senior year.

Prior to attending MIT, Heather could be found reporting on murder, domestic violence, drunken driving and other crimes as a crime and courts reporter. She’s always been interested in psychology and medicine, but since working as a crime reporter, Heather has discovered her interest in the science of crime, including the psychology behind criminal acts and domestic violence as a public health concern. Heather is a self-described brain lover, and she enjoys chasing a good story, breaking news, reading, baking and watching the Patriots and the Red Sox.
Frankie Schembri

Graduate Student, Science Writing, '18

fschembr@mit.edu
Frankie Schembri Frankie Schembri was raised on snowy winters and long books in Ottawa, Canada. She began her undergraduate education at MIT in Mechanical Engineering, but realized that she was most excited about explaining what she was learning to her friends and family. Frankie switched to MIT’s undergraduate Science Writing program, where she was able to combine her background in STEM with her love of communication, and graduated with a B.S. in June 2017.

Frankie has worked in an MIT Mechanical Engineering lab, as a communications assistant at the Harvard Kennedy School (reporting on the intersection of technology and democracy), and as an intern at a public relations firm writing content for software companies. Most recently, she was a communications fellow at MIT’s Office of Sustainability, where she reported on efforts to use the university as a living laboratory by testing researchers’ work on MIT campus operations.

Frankie is fascinated by the power of information technology and computing to shape modern life and hopes to report on these subjects in way that is inclusive to all, arming the public with the information necessary to navigate an increasingly technology-driven world. She is electrified by the opportunity to continue strengthening her skills at MIT. Recreationally, Frankie enjoys meeting cats, eating doughnuts, searching for the freshest memes, and watching baseball.
Kate Telma

Graduate Student, Science Writing, '17

katelma@mit.edu
Kate Telma Kate Telma began pursuing her education after she dropped out of a small high school in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Though she spent considerable time at Brown University perfecting the angles of hexane chair conformers until they became machine-knittable prints, Kate still managed to drink lots of coffee, sew lots of theater costumes, and push enough electrons to make out with an ScB in Chemical Biology. Most recently, Kate has worked at Bolt Threads, a startup poised at the intersection of her two favorite things–genetic engineering and textile design. Growing spider silk in yeast has its tactile limitations, however, and it became apparent that Kate needed to explore alpaca husbandry and fiber creation in New Zealand. When not playing Scrabble or deconstructing the patriarchy, Kate can be found blowing glass or scuba diving in cold water.
Maria Temming

Graduate Student, Science Writing, '17

mtemming@mit.edu
Maria Temming Growing up in Cincinnati, Ohio, Maria Temming always envisioned herself as an author. While other kids played soccer or video games or the clarinet, Maria spent hours hashing out plot lines and characters. She never thought she would find anything quite as fascinating as her own word-constructed worlds—until she took a physics class. At first, Maria viewed physics and astronomy concepts merely as excellent fodder for sci-fi stories, but she soon found herself fascinated with the real science of the cosmos.

As physics and English major at Elon University ‘16, Maria realized that science writing appeased both her inner STEM fangirl, who loved learning about the weird and wonderful phenomena in our universe, and the creative writer, who just wanted to spend her time telling stories. Maria cut her teeth in science journalism by writing for Sky & Telescope in the summer of 2014, and she worked as an AAAS Mass Media Fellow at Scientific American the following summer. During the school year, Maria got her science writing fix by contributing to the university tech blog and working on her thesis project: composing three chapters of a popular science book about the attendees of the Green Bank Meeting of 1961, the seminal SETI conference. She looks forward to further honing her science communication skills at MIT, so that she can get someone else excited about jaw-dropping, mind-bending, and sometimes just plain head-scratching research that physicists and astronomers are doing.
Kelsey Tsipis

Graduate Student, Science Writing, '18

ktsipis@mit.edu
Kelsey Tsipis Growing up in Cleveland, OH, Kelsey Tsipis did not always aspire to be a science writer. She was a child with ardent aspirations, prone to ever-changing interests and great immoderation in her passion. It wasn’t until she took her first science journalism class as an undergraduate at UNC Chapel Hill that she recognized that science writing perfectly suited her inquisitive disposition. As an undergrad, Kelsey focused primarily on a wide range of public health topics, including the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, mental health coverage, and research findings from UNC Chapel Hill and Duke University — winning her the North Carolina Medical Society Scholarship for Medical Journalism. After graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a specialty in Editing and Graphic Design from UNC Chapel Hill, Kelsey worked as a medical editor for an independent, nonprofit global research institute and served on the executive committee of the American Medical Writers Association Carolinas Chapter. Kelsey is now beyond grateful to continue her passion for science writing at MIT with fellow students and professors whom she admires greatly.