Kendra Pierre-Louis hails from Queens, New York. Not only is Queens New York City’s (and arguably the country’s) most homo-diverse borough (county) but this bit of Gotham also teems with biodiversity. In fact, Kendra credits her interest in environmental science, at least in part, to the cicada songs that provided the soundtrack of her childhood and their molted remains that haunted her nightmares. The rest of the credit probably goes to Captain Planet; as a child she watched a lot of television. Kendra believes in being awed and terrified by nature on a semi-regular basis which is probably how she wound up running from a polar bear in the Arctic. Fun fact: polar bears can outrun you. Kendra holds a B.A. in Economics from Cornell University, an M.A. in Sustainable Development from the SIT Graduate Institute, and a Master Composter Certificate from the Queens Botanical Garden. Kendra is the author of “Green Washed: Why We Can’t Buy Our Way to a Green Planet” (Ig Publishing, 2012). You can also find her writing at In These Times, Newsweek, Modern Farmer, and Slate. You can find Kendra at firstname.lastname@example.org and @kendrawrites on twitter. She also exists in the real world.
Hailing from the suburbs of Boston MA, Catherine first realized she might have an affinity for words when, at age ten, she missed the Grand Canyon because she couldn’t put down her book (ironically, Brighty of the Grand Canyon). One fateful July she was completely sucked into Shark Week, and from there she developed a particular interest in marine biology (along with a particularly intricate color-coded Shark Week viewing schedule). She graduated with a biology degree from Wellesley College, followed by a stint working at the Marine Biological Lab in Woods Hole, MA where she found it delightfully impossible to escape science talk. Catherine just finished her M.S. at the University of New Hampshire, with the informal title plumber/fish husbandry specialist/molecular biologist/lab technician/lab instructor/writer/editor. She has long suspected that she belongs at the intersection between writing and science, and she is excited to test this theory at MIT. She thinks aquaculture is an evolving industry that more people need to know about, but she plans to throw herself into any and all scientific topics that cross her path.
In her free time, Catherine alternates between total nerd and total jock, which involves podcast listening, Wikipedia scouring, running (preferably after a soccer ball), rock climbing, and explaining the complexities of American football to unsuspecting victims.
One flight, one very long car ride, and one rickety boat trip later, Margaux arrived at a tiny research station island in the Atlantic. She was far from the mountains of Colorado, bitter neighbors New York and New Jersey, and innocuous suburbs of northern Illinois that punctuated her somewhat nomadic youth. Here, among the coral, rays (sun and marine), and mangrove forests, she was drawn to the life sciences. It was in the great snowy north at the University of Minnesota, however, where she took her B.S. in Biology, working underground in neuroscience laboratories and above ground as a volunteer EMT. Margaux developed a keen appreciation for the intersections of science and medicine with media and information literacy in society. Pursuing science communications made sense. Now, after presenting MRI research for Health and Biological Research News, writing a blog for Halo Neuroscience, and teaching chemistry principles to youth (like how to make elephant’s toothpaste), science writing consumes her. Next thing, Margaux was moving to Cambridge, MA, looking forward to eating bona fide Italian food, immersing herself in the local music scene, and probing the mysteries of science within the halls of MIT.
Equally at home chasing salamanders and scrambling to meet a news deadline, Conor Gearin grew up in St. Louis, Missouri. One day, his sixth grade science teacher read from Stephen Jay Gould’s book of essays about evolutionary biology, The Panda’s Thumb. This seemed to bore all present except Gearin, who now seeks to follow in Gould’s footsteps, writing with humor and insight about complex science. Magic School Bus was also a formative inspiration. He earned his B.A. in English and B.S. in Biology from Truman State University, and has worked as a biology research assistant at Washington University in St. Louis (poking fish brains with electrodes and listening) and University of Maine-Orono (taking water samples and pursuing the aforementioned amphibians.) He has research experience in ornithology, ecology, neuroscience and environmental chemistry. He applies this knowledge during occasional birdwatching trips. His poetry and watercolor paintings have appeared in Mochila Review, Foliate Oak Literary Magazine and Phizzog Review. He likes listening to and playing Irish music. He misses the weather in St. Petersburg. Follow him on Twitter @ConorGearin. He blogs at conorsnotebook.blogspot.com.
Claudia grew up on Long Island, New York, where she spent her formative years wading into tide pools and staring off at the horizon in search of whales. Though her first job aspiration was to be a dolphin trainer, her dad’s old issues of National Geographic taught her that writing about the natural world was a tool through which she could explore as much of it as possible. She spent her undergraduate years at Northeastern University pursuing degrees in Journalism and Environmental Science, while using any free space in her schedule to indulge her interest in marine science– from helping with the necropsy of a 9-foot seal at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, to hauling lines on a 134-foot tall sailing ship off of New Zealand with Sea Education Association. She is excited to dive into a new adventure at MIT, and hopes her graduate work will help her make science as accessible to others as it is wonderful to her.
In twelfth grade, Eben’s high school studio arts teacher named him a “Renaissance man,” a title he strives to embody to this day. Eben labors, learns and revels in the miraculous interplay of science, writing, education, environmentalism and the arts. A science writer, high school biology teacher, frontman for two rock bands, grassroots environmental activist, once classically trained ballet dancer and poetry enthusiast, Eben seeks projects of all sorts that draw on and blend these diverse interests. Eben grew up in a cohousing community in Acton, MA, studied biology, French and dance at Dartmouth College and currently lives in Somerville, MA.
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.
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.
Greta Friar grew up in Newton, MA, where she spent much of her time walking nature trails and volunteering at local wildlife sanctuaries. She earned her B.A. in history of science at Harvard University. After college she worked for several years as an editor and writer for Scholastic Book Clubs in New York. There she created kids’ science books, including The Explorer’s Guide to the Universe and Real Life Zombies: creatures that can’t be killed, as well as more explosive/slimy/glow-in-the-dark experiment kits than she can recall. She returned to Cambridge, MA to write cases for Harvard Business School on topics ranging from biomimicry to crowdsourcing. Greta’s second favorite thing about science writing is that it allows her to study a variety of research questions that fascinate her, without requiring that she spend years working in a laboratory. Her favorite thing about science writing is when she can convince readers to care about a scientific discovery, environmental policy problem or cool new technology as much as she does.
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.
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.
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 a bachelor’s degree in Biotechnology and a M.S. in Molecular and Cell Biology, both obtained with distinction from the University of Rome ‘Tor Vergata’. After a research stay in Cambridge, UK, where she dealt with some nasty, die-hard bacteria, she spent the last five years at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Heidelberg, Germany, finding out how embryos are shaped. Giorgia’s efforts to control contraction in individual Drosophila’s cells using lasers have earned her the nickname ‘fly zapper’ and a PhD in Biology summa cum laude. 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. When not at MIT (guglielm (at) mit.edu), she can be found on Twitter @GiorgiaWithAnI or on a bike somewhere in Massachusetts.
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.