A common refrain from my science-writing students is, “Where do you get story ideas?”
A good place to start is hanging out with graduate students and post-docs, who are often thinking and working on problems at the cutting edge. Many of my best magazine articles when I was starting out involved the work of these pioneering newcomers (many of whom are now the leading lights in their fields).
If those interested in writing on astronomy can’t make a personal university visit to find out what’s on a graduate student’s mind these days, there’s a new website that offers the next best thing: Called “astrobites,” it’s a daily astrophysical literature journal written by graduate students for undergraduates. It beautifully fulfills its named mission―providing up-to-date summaries of the latest research in easy-to-go-down write-ups. The graduate students who post these reports―from Harvard, Berkeley, Oxford, Yale, Michigan, UC Santa Cruz, Colorado, Arizona, among others―aim to make active research areas enticing and accessible to undergraduates, but it serves just as well as a convenient overview for journalists seeking hot new topics popping up in the field of astronomy and astrophysics.