Graduate Students: Science Writing


Leah Campbell
Graduate Student, Science Writing, '22
Leah Campbell first became fascinated by disasters after Hurricane Katrina. That storm opened her eyes to how unnatural “natural” disasters are, sparking her interest in the relationship between social systems and the physical world that shapes them.

She majored in geology and geophysics at Yale, where she did research in seismology and earthquake risk. After college, she began grappling with the greatest disaster of all—climate change—and moved into the environmental sciences, doing fisheries research in Bristol Bay, interning with the National Park Service on shoreline change monitoring, and working for environmental nonprofits in California on projects ranging from fuels reduction to water quality and sea level rise.

She began a PhD in urban planning, focused on hazard mitigation, disaster recovery, and stormwater management, but decided that she was less interested in doing research than in communicating it. She plans to pursue a career in environmental writing to educate the public about risk and climate resilience, and to elevate the work of citizen scientists around green infrastructure, urban flooding, and environmental justice.
Iris Crawford
Graduate Student, Science Writing, '22
Iris Crawford is an organizer and journalist who covers environmental and climate justice issues. A first generation Guyanese-American and a native New Yorker, Iris has covered solutions happening around the Just Transition, intersections between the Black Lives Matter movement and environmental justice organizations, race, and income inequalities. Her work has appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, Yes! Magazine, Colorlines, and Oakland Voices, among other publications.

Iris’s series for the investigative and explanatory news outlet InvestigateWest explored the decarbonization debates happening throughout the Pacific Northwest and racial inequities entangled therein. The series was syndicated to publications throughout the US, including the Associated Press, US News and World Report, and Grist.

Iris is a 2021-22 CASW Taylor/Blakeslee Fellow. During her time at MIT, she plans to focus on environmental and climate science with a justice lens. If not writing or reading, she is always on the search for the nearest boba shop.
James Dinneen
Graduate Student, Science Writing, '22
James Dinneen is a writer from Colorado. He received a BA from Colorado College where he studied history and philosophy and Asian studies. After stints as a ranch hand in Idaho, a dramaturg in California, and a cook and corn picker in Massachusetts, he started working as a freelance journalist covering science and environmental stories, among other curiosities. His writing can be found in Science, Discover Magazine, Popular Science, Undark Magazine, bioGraphic, Hakai Magazine, Mongabay, and Smithsonian, among other publications. James is a 2021-22 CASW Taylor/Blakeslee Fellow.

At MIT, he looks forward to writing about path-breaking research and the people conducting it, all the while following Einstein’s edict to make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler. You can find his work at
Shel Evergreen
Graduate Student, Science Writing, '22
Shel Evergreen is a multimedia pro who has been called a “Swiss Army knife” for her versatile skillset in writing, video production, graphic design, and more.

Prior to coming to MIT, Shel helped launch a community-led climate action plan for the City of Boulder as well as the city’s first-ever Racial Equity Plan. She also ran communications for the Colorado State University Energy Institute, and documented XPower, Inc.’s renewable energy microgrids alongside her media team in East Africa.

Her personal experience growing up in rural Oklahoma and her past social work and public service helps her shine a light on connections between scientific advances and societal challenges. While at MIT, Shel aims to tell meaningful stories that contribute to a more equitable world.
Emma Foehringer Merchant
Graduate Student, Science Writing, '22
Emma Foehringer Merchant is a journalist who has covered environmental issues ranging from natural disasters to wonky energy regulations to air pollution.

Her interest in environmental writing began in high school after she wrote a mock bill for the US to join the Kyoto Protocol as a class assignment. Since then, she’s edited her high school newspaper and reported on the environment for publications including The New Republic and Grist.

Most recently, Emma covered clean energy as a staff writer for Greentech Media and helped alums of that organization form a new publication called Canary Media. She graduated in 2014 with a degree in environmental analysis from Pomona College, where she lived through a California drought while studying how climate change is impacting the state’s environment and its people.

At MIT, Emma hopes to deepen her investigative reporting skills to continue reporting on environmental issues.
Maria Rose
Graduate Student, Science Writing, '22
In second grade, Maria Parazo Rose started a newspaper called Kids Weekly, which featured important news for the neighborhood children. She didn’t have access to a photocopier, so the paper had quite a limited run, but her enthusiasm for storytelling has only grown stronger (and more resilient) since. Her experiences growing up in Manila in the Philippines and the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia fostered her early awareness of environmental disparities between the Global North and South. She graduated from Vassar College with a degree in environmental studies, reporting experience in Australia, and a love for geologic time scales.

Since then, she spent a few years working with a small nonprofit on migrant rights and statelessness in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and has served as a producer on Resettled, a podcast that explores the refugee resettlement process in the US, and for NPR’s Morning Edition in Pittsburgh. She has also reported for several outlets, including StoryCorps, The Allegheny Front, and Pittsburgh and Richmond, Virginia’s NPR flagship stations.
Grace van Deelen
Graduate Student, Science Writing, '22
Grace van Deelen‘s love for the natural world sprang from her childhood growing up in the Great Lakes region, where she learned to appreciate both the beauty and fragility of the ecosystems around her.

She graduated from Tufts University, where she spent four years earning degrees in biology and anthropology. During her time there, she researched yield variability on coffee farms in Costa Rica and caught native pollinators in the farm fields of southern Wisconsin. She kept coming back to her love of writing as a way to meld her interests in human culture and the natural sciences, and eventually wrote a thesis about how entomologists practice care for their study subjects.

Grace’s hope as a writer is to convey the awe that science brings to the world while also highlighting how science is as much a social and political process as it is a way to produce knowledge.
Shafaq Zia
Graduate Student, Science Writing, '22
Shafaq Zia’s journey as a science communicator began when her brother was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Since then, she has found herself explaining ASD to family members, friends, and even strangers.

She was first introduced to science writing at Northwestern University in Qatar, where she earned a degree in journalism and served as the managing editor of The Daily Q. As a reporting intern for STAT, she covered the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as emerging research in healthcare technology.

At the GPSW, Shafaq plans to report on healthcare, combining her fascination with science and love for storytelling to produce breaking news and longform pieces.