Graduate Students: Science Writing


Diego Arenas
Graduate Student, Science Writing, '19
Diego Arenas After countless hours indulging in science podcasts while toiling away at his own experiments at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Diego cannot believe it took him so long to realize he wanted to take part in creating the types of programs that he so often relished. Conducting research confirmed the passion for science Diego nurtured as a Cell and Molecular Biology major at Cornell University, but it was the wait time between experimental steps that led to the biggest personal breakthroughs. In the quiet sanctuary behind the sterile walls of the laboratory, Diego found he was most excited about learning science and devising creative ways to share what he learned with a variety of audiences.

As a first-generation immigrant from Colombia, Diego understands the importance of spreading information for the progress of societies and the individuals they comprise. He has started sharpening his abilities as a science communicator through his work at the American Institutes for Research by developing assessment items that align to the Next Generation of Science Standards. He looks forward to honing his skills at MIT and exploring different forms of multimedia to find his niche within the field.

In his spare time, Diego is either binging the latest television series, crafting a new project, or running to his current music obsession.
Ashley Belanger
Graduate Student, Science Writing, '20
Ashley Belanger Ashley Belanger is a journalist whose reporting, features, and essays explore the tensions between what science discovers and what humans experience. Captivated by neuroscience and technology, as an arts critic, she garnered recognition for essays discussing scientific theories in the context of pop music. Through her career, she’s engaged communities both local, as associate editor of Orlando Weekly, and national, as culture writer for the classic television network MeTV. In her freelance reporting, she works to connect public health studies to critical social issues and has generated in-depth web features for Teen Vogue on complex topics, including child marriage and school shootings. She earned a B.S. in Journalism from the University of Florida and, through the Graduate Program in Science Writing, plans to continue investigating public health studies to increase awareness of underreported women’s issues.
Fernanda de Araújo Ferreira
Graduate Student, Science Writing, '20
Fernanda de Araújo Ferreira Fernanda de Araújo Ferreira watched her first science classes from under a desk, drawing while her mother taught plate tectonics to geology students. She took her first official university-level science classes while majoring in General Biology at the Universidade de Brasília (UnB) in Brazil and is now completing her Ph.D. in Virology, studying the nature of the latent reservoir of HIV-2, at Harvard University.

She initially got into science writing as an excuse to take deep dives into various areas of science, from zoopharmacognosy to AI, that were not HIV-2. After writing for Harvard’s Science in the News and GSAS Bulletin, as well as taking courses through Harvard’s creative writing program, she’s excited to pursue science journalism full-time. She writes about all areas of science (including math!), but has a special love for infectious diseases and, unsurprisingly, plate tectonics.
Brittany Flaherty
Graduate Student, Science Writing, '19
Brittany Flaherty Brittany is a Boston-based science writer and “just-for-fun” blogger who grew up exploring the wooded trails and apple orchards of Harvard, MA. When she recently asked her parents about her career ambitions as a kid, Brittany was told, “You just liked nature and reading.” Not much has changed: from aspiring “nature reader” to budding science writer, Brittany has long loved to explore her surroundings and the power of communication. Delighted to learn that she didn’t have to choose just one of her passions, Brittany studied biology, environmental studies, and English at William Smith College. She began to ardently write about her scientific interests at the nexus of medicine, health, and the environment. After graduation, she moved to Vancouver and conducted Fulbright research that examined emerging challenges for the United States and Canada in managing their transboundary water. Brittany then returned to Boston and has written about cancer biology and research for Dana-Farber Cancer Institute since 2012. Brittany is thrilled to join the Graduate Program in Science Writing at MIT, where she hopes to learn more about how best to connect society with science. An avid runner, skier, and yogi, Brittany writes about language and movement on
Eva Frederick
Graduate Student, Science Writing, '19
Eva Frederick Eva spent the long afternoons of her childhood in Sheffield, England, collecting snails from under the rocks at the bottom of her garden. The oldest daughter of an archaeologist and a writer, Eva was raised to value both science and storytelling, and often combined the two. Under her guidance, the snails’ everyday lives became thrilling exploits which she often related to friends, family, or anyone who would listen. These first experiences sparked her interest in communicating her enthusiasm about science and the natural world.

Though still an avid snail fan, Eva’s interests have broadened considerably since her rainy English childhood. Eva went on to major in journalism and biology at The University of Texas at Austin, where she made a brief foray into research, studying bacteria living in honeybees’ guts. Her junior year, she began working at UT’s school newspaper, The Daily Texan, and co-founded the Science & Technology section, later serving as managing editor. Since then, Eva has interned with Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine, where she crafted stories about Texas animals and ghost towns, and also with the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, where she taught kids about bugs, birds, and native plants. In her free time, Eva enjoys hiking, making plant-themed cupcakes, and growing tomato plants in her hydroponic garden.

Eva hopes to use her career to make science more accessible to the public and increase scientific literacy. During her year at MIT, Eva is looking forward to increasing her understanding of science-based policy and learning to make podcasts. You can follow her on Twitter @EvaCharlesAnna.
Rachel Fritts
Graduate Student, Science Writing, '20
Rachel Fritts Rachel Fritts grew up taking every opportunity to explore the natural world, whether by catching salamanders in her back yard, hiking in the Rocky Mountains, or inspecting tide pools on family vacations. That early interest led her to pursue a B.A. in Biology from Grinnell College and an M.S. in Marine Environmental Management from the University of York, before returning to Grinnell for a year-long editorial fellowship. Rachel’s environmental journalism to date has focused on sustainable resource use and wildlife conservation, and can be found at publications like Pacific Standard, Mongabay, Ensia, and Hakai Magazine. She also writes video scripts about evolution for the PBS Digital Studios channel Eons.
Jessie Hendricks
Graduate Student, Science Writing, '20
Jessie Hendricks Jessie Hendricks will be joining the Graduate Program in Science Writing after eight years in Los Angeles, where she has spent time as an actor, science communicator, and content creator. She currently produces and hosts SCIENCED, a scicomm podcast for the SoCal Science Writing group, as well as serves on their membership committee. She has written and hosted many science videos on the YouTube channel Everyday Science, including parody science music videos and a series on the periodic table called #ElementADayInMay, as well as written and guest-hosted for other outlets such as Skybound Entertainment’s Gamma Ray TV. She got her start in science communication while producing citizen science outreach videos for the NOAA Northwest Fisheries Science Center on harmful algal blooms. Her current science writing interests include science storytelling in the entertainment industry, science history, quantum entanglement, and shark immunology.
Zain Humayun
Graduate Student, Science Writing, '20
Zain Humayun Zain Humayun grew up reading and playing football in Islamabad, a city nestled in the Himalayan foothills. In his science books at school, he discovered electricity and the water-cycle — phenomena as enchanting as the magic in his fantasy novels. At the Lahore University of Management Sciences, Zain grappled with integrals in physics before switching to computer science, attracted by the discipline’s unrelenting emphasis on logical clarity. His classes on networks, algorithms and artificial intelligence offered a close look at the inner workings of the Internet. After being inspired by a creative writing class with novelist Bilal Tanweer, Zain returned to his computer science coursework with a renewed interest in storytelling, and the human lives affected by big tech, automation, and algorithmic bias. As a writer, Zain hopes to address the gap between the world’s understanding of computers, and our ever-growing dependence on them.
Lucy Jakub
Graduate Student, Science Writing, '20
Lucy Jakub Lucy Jakub is an essayist and editor. She grew up on the coast of Maine. As a nonfiction major at Columbia University, she developed a mantra for her writing: “follow the weird.” After following the weird through the frat houses of the Upper West Side, it led her to more interesting subjects—bedbugs, blobfish, radiolarians, and speculative biology. Since graduating she has worked at The New York Review of Books, finding commissions for her favorite science writers, removing em dashes, and inserting Oxford commas. She hopes to continue to support print media and long-form journalism from the other side of the editor’s desk. When she’s not writing, she’s baking elaborate desserts for her friends and listening to Björk sing about plate tectonics.
Devi Lockwood
Graduate Student, Science Writing, '19
Devi Lockwood Devi Lockwood comes to science writing from poetry, folklore, and long-distance cycling. For the last four years she has been traveling in 16 countries (about half of that by bicycle) on a mission to record 1,001 audio stories about water and climate change. To date she has collected 750+ interviews, and is working to create a map on a website where you can click on a point and listen to a story from that place. Devi will be launching a podcast (along with artistic / environmental education collaborations) in coming months. You can read her writing in The New York Times, The Guardian, Slate, and elsewhere.

Devi is a 2018 National Geographic Explorer for a project recording stories with ArtCirq, an indigenous Arctic Circus in Igloolik, Nunavut, Canada. In May 2014 she graduated Phi Beta Kappa, summa cum laude from Harvard University where she studied Folklore & Mythology, earned a Language Citation in Arabic, and rowed for the Radcliffe Varsity Lightweight Women's Rowing team. She loves interviewing scientists and non-scientists, and the many doors a good question can open. You can follow her on Twitter @devi_lockwood.
Emily Makowski
Graduate Student, Science Writing, '19
Emily Makowski Emily Makowski is a scientist-turned-science-writer from Buffalo, New York. She double-majored in psychology and evolutionary biology at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, where she did research on how moths smell things with their antennae. Emily started out as a biology major, but switched to evolutionary biology after a particularly harrowing organic chemistry class. Her new major gave her the chance to take many lab classes on animal behavior, her favorite subdiscipline of biology. In these classes, she studied museum specimens, went electrofishing, overturned rocks to count salamanders, and observed lions and cheetahs at the zoo in winter (where she wore three sweaters at once and learned that big cats sleep a lot).

Emily is fascinated by scientific discoveries, but she has always loved writing most of all; in fact, her favorite part of lab work was writing lab reports. Toward the end of college, she realized that she was more interested in writing about research than actually doing research. After earning her bachelor’s degrees in 2016, she worked in ophthalmology labs at Cleveland Clinic and the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center—which sparked an interest in writing about health and medicine—and freelanced on the side. Now, at MIT, she is preparing to become a full-time science writer. She is on Twitter @EmilyRMakowski.
Kate Petersen
Graduate Student, Science Writing, '20
Kate Petersen Kate Petersen spent her early adulthood living in wilderness, traveling by freight train, and being generally feral. Her drive to investigate and experience the manifold facets of life eventually drew her back to civilization to study biology and ecology at the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. She has published papers on lichen and bryophyte ecology, and conducted field studies on the open Atlantic Ocean and deep in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. She is pursuing a career in science communication because she observes the information gap between scientists and non-scientists increasing while anthropogenic impacts on the biosphere reach apocalyptic levels. She hopes that her work will support well-informed social and policy decisions going forward. She is also counting on science journalism to abet her enduring ambition to learn about everything. Kate goes to mountains and old forests whenever she can, and makes art from sticks, bones, and fiber.
Emily Pontecorvo
Graduate Student, Science Writing, '19
Emily Pontecorvo Emily Pontecorvo is a journalist and multimedia producer with experience in film, podcasting, and print. She is dedicated to telling stories about the natural environment and the ways we are changing it, but she enjoys reporting on a wide range of science, including energy, health, and technology. She is particularly interested in climate change adaptation, and related intersections of science and policy. These days she loves telling stories through sound, and feels there’s no equivalent to hearing a good piece of tape. You can see some examples of her work at
Nafisa Syed
Graduate Student, Science Writing, '20
Nafisa Syed Nafisa Syed grew up in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, where she read almost everything she could get her hands on. She had her first experiences with journalism and with the real-world scientific process in high school, producing a radio documentary with her local NPR station and helping excavate human bone in a bioarcheology lab. She graduated from MIT in 2019 with a double-major in Biology and Brain and Cognitive Sciences. While a college student, she became the first editor of The Tech’s Science section, worked in a neurolinguistics lab studying how the brain produces and interprets language, and spent a semester interning at NOVA Next. As an aspiring physician and writer, Nafisa hopes to use her year in the graduate program to become well-versed in writing about public health and medicine so that she can effectively use her communication skills and future medical expertise to serve the public.
Madeleine Turner
Graduate Student, Science Writing, '19
Madeleine Turner Madeleine grew up in Los Angeles County, where every day feels like summer. Swapping the SoCal heat for shade under redwood trees, she attended the University of California, Santa Cruz. Through her college years, she spent many hours organizing student-led classes, picking strawberries for an agroecology lab, and learning to hula-hoop (a quintessential Santa Cruz activity). She always identified as an enthusiastic reader, but didn’t discover a love for writing until taking a science communications class in her junior year. After graduating with a degree in ecology and evolutionary biology, she became a social media intern for Sempervirens Fund, a nonprofit focused on protecting redwood forests in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Today she contributes to Los Gatos Magazine, a local events and lifestyle publication, and Save the Redwoods League’s Giant Thoughts blog, where she writes about redwood science and wildlife. She is thrilled to be part of the MIT Science Writing class of 2019, and looks forward to honing her journalistic skills and expanding the scope of her work.
Gina Vitale
Graduate Student, Science Writing, '19
Gina Vitale Gina Vitale grew up in a town called Phoenixville, where every year a magnificent wooden bird was built, burned, and built again. It was in that town that her high school chemistry teachers graciously allowed her to stay after school to prepare lab materials and type away at her rather unsophisticated novels. After high school she attended Drexel University, where she quickly failed to choose a singular career path - majoring in chemistry, minoring in psychology, pursuing a certification in creative writing/publishing and serving as editor-in-chief for The Triangle. For The Triangle she had the chance to write about gravitational waves, sterile neutrinos, nanodiamonds in batteries, and various other amazing things that she never imagined could exist.

Through her various endeavors as a bench chemist, a student journalist, and a generally curious person, she has realized the need for science to be communicated to the public with the fascination it deserves, minus the elitism and the words that nobody can pronounce. At MIT she hopes to learn more about podcasting, longform writing and anything else that will help her throw sturdy ropes across that communication divide. Ultimately, she aims to become the kind of science writer who can instill the feeling of wonder in others that she first felt in the town that lived to be reborn.

In her free time, Gina is either mumbling the Philadelphia Eagles fight song, soapboxing about the importance of print media, or re-watching the X-Files. She can be reached on Twitter at @GinaCVitale.