Current Students

Sam Wotipka Photo

Sam Wotipka

Sam is a product of the Pacific Northwest. Born and raised in Oregon, he has also spent time living in British Columbia and the State of Washington. A summer spent growing tiny poplar trees in a muggy greenhouse for a university forestry department inspired a fascination in the scientific process that sticks with him to this day. Since then he has worked in a lab studying photoperiodism in mosquitoes and helped to grow, breed and analyze trisomic corn plants for botany research. The origins of his love of writing are harder to identify, but it probably has something to do with being born to a pair of librarians.

 After graduating from the University of Oregon, Sam has spent the last two years working and living at a large state park on Whidbey Island in Washington State. He is both excited and admittedly a bit anxious about returning to “civilization” this year. While his scientific interests are broad, Sam is especially looking forward to writing about the life sciences and issues pertaining to the management of public lands.

Abi Nighthill Photo

Abi Nighthill

Abi Nighthill grew up just outside of Portland, Oregon. There, most of her skies were obscured by branches, clouds, or both. After wandering aimlessly around Portland State
University for a few years, she moved to Chicago and earned a BA in Poetry with a minor in Environmental Studies. Her thesis focused on haiku poetics and the behavior of jumping spiders, and other major works exhumed the science from Emily Dickinson’s works or followed the story of DARPA’s HI-MEMS (cyborg moths) project. Easily seduced, she found herself interested in many facets of the sciences: ocean ecology, cognitive  neuroscience, quantum mechanics, botany, cyborgs… how fortunate that she could sate her curiosity through writing.  She has since developed and taught a course at Portland State University that explores intersections of science and poetry, and worked on a memoir in hypertext that focuses on uncertainty, poetry, and new media.

Jenny Rood Photo

Jenny Rood

Jenny Rood was born and raised in Boulder, Colorado, where she developed an early love for science and nature from keeping an eye out for scurrying prairie dogs along the highways of her home state. Elementary school science fair experiments on the metal-cleaning powers of lemon juice, the electrical conductivity of pickles, the beauty (or horror?) of everyday bacteria and fungi and the stickiness of adhesive bandages under water were followed by middle school frog dissections and high school genetics lessons that convinced her she wanted to be a biologist. Meanwhile, she published poems and short stories often concerned with animals or biological topics. While pursuing her bachelor’s degree in biochemical sciences at Harvard University, she continued writing, penning an award-winning essay on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. After college she visited the stunning natural wonders of Antarctica and served as a research fellow in the German parliament before returning to Cambridge and the lab bench. Now armed with a deep biochemical knowledge of enzymes and a Ph.D. in biology from MIT, Jenny is excited to have the opportunity to learn how to communicate to others why science is so fascinatingly beautiful.

Lindsay Brownell Photo

Lindsay Brownell

Lindsay Brownell is a native of Detroit, MI, and spent most of her childhood either digging for worms and collecting rocks or with her face buried in a book, often at the dinner table. She attended Davidson College in North Carolina, where she indulged in such nerdy activities as a 12-hour reading/performance of John Milton’s epic poem “Paradise Lost” and Dance Dance Revolution tournaments. She also studied abroad twice; in Costa Rica for tropical biology and in the UK for British literature and art history. She became fascinated with evolution, genetics and Romantic writing (are you noticing a bit of a split-brain tendency)?

After graduating with a dual degree in English and Biology, she taught Spanish in Switzerland, worked at Google in Ann Arbor, MI for two years, and traveled extensively (just hiked the Inca Trail in Peru and is about to leave for the Camino de Santiago in Spain). She is very excited to finally get to wrangle the literary and scientific parts of her brain into cooperation, and will be focusing on the biological sciences. In her spare time, she likes anything having to do with Disney, dancing, Ultimate Frisbee, rock climbing, trying to learn how DSLR cameras work, roaming farmer’s markets, and watching thunderstorms from her window while listening to Beethoven sonatas.

Julie Duke Photo

Julie Duke

Julie’s first book told the story of an “ugly” dinosaur who, à la “The Ugly Duckling,” had simply been hanging around with a dissimilar species. This story foreshadowed some of Julie’s life passions, including writing, studying evolutionary biology and history, and spending time with animals of the non-human variety. Julie grew up an aspiring veterinarian in St. Louis and entered Harvard College an aspiring writer. She exited college with a History of Science degree, having satisfactorily indulged her simultaneous loves for science and writing – particularly in an honors thesis her senior year, in which she explored anthropomorphism and scientific story-telling in the age of Darwin. Julie then worked happily alongside scientists and animals in the Conservation & Science department of Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo for two years.

At MIT, Julie is excited to write about biological science, conservation, and animals (both ugly and cute). She can often be found volunteering at wildlife rehabilitation centers, petting strangers’ dogs, and searching for bits of wilderness in the city.


Emma Sconyers Photo

Emma Sconyers

Emma Sconyers grew up in Newport, Rhode Island, never far from the beach or the local nature preserve, where she could usually be found with stacks of field guides, glass collection jars and a magnifying glass tucked safely under her arms. Her love of the natural world inspired her to pursue a degree in Biology from the University of Rhode Island. However, her love of literature and writing nagged so hard at the back of her mind she decided her junior year to double minor in English and Writing & Rhetoric. After completing a life engrossing honor’s thesis on the history of tuberculosis sanitaria in Rhode Island, her dedication to pursuing a career in science writing was cemented. Upon graduating, Emma landed a job as a Medical Staff Secretary at Newport Hospital where she has been working the past year. When she’s not chasing down doctors to sign endless piles of paperwork she moonlights as the co-director of her old high school’s theater company as well as a photography assistant (both of which she’s been doing for some time). Emma is thrilled to join the MIT Science Writing Program this fall where she hopes to delve into her favorite subjects: the history of medicine, genetics, natural conservation and biological discovery. She is unapologetically in love with Martha Stewart and all things domestic, walking in the woods with her dog and singing old jazz standards far too loudly while she’s doing dishes.

Alix Morris Photo

Alix Morris

Alix Morris grew up in Boxford, MA in a 300-year-old haunted farmhouse home to Scottish Highland cows, donkeys, and chickens. After obtaining her Bachelor’s degree in English Literature, she took the very natural path towards…global health. Inspired by her work for a children’s HIV program, Alix spent a few years working in the field where she wrote the occasional news story about HIV prevention efforts. She then returned to school to obtain her Master’s in Health Science from Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. From there, she traveled to East Africa where she conducted research on ways to improve malaria treatment and diagnosis. It was her desire to communicate the effects of a malaria subsidy pilot program, or the suspected outbreak of the Ebola virus in one of the research communities, or even what she claims was a near death experience with a friendly whale shark and giant manta ray while on vacation in Mozambique, among many other reasons, that drove Alix towards the world of science writing. She’s now eager to learn ways in which to communicate the many wonders of health, science, and the environment. 

Suzanne Jacobs Photo

Suzanne Jacobs

Suzanne spent her earliest years in the New York City suburbs and Lincoln, Nebraska, but primarily grew up in Columbus, Ohio.  After graduating from high school, she headed north to the University of Michigan.  She began her college career wanting to take classes in anything and everything.  After sampling a wide variety of subjects, including Greek literature, extreme weather, philosophy and organic chemistry, Suzanne found herself in a physics class, where she fell in love and never looked back.  As much as she enjoyed her physics classes, Suzanne longed for a writing outlet outside of lab reports, so she wandered into the newsroom at the student newspaper and joined the staff of The Michigan Daily.  She soon became as passionate about journalism as she was about physics and went on to intern at a blog called The Utopianist and at the local NPR affiliate station in Michigan.  Since completing her bachelor’s degree in physics nearly two years ago, Suzanne has continued to pursue both science and writing at the University of Michigan by studying iceberg calving with an engineering professor and doing research for a book on social entrepreneurship with a business school professor.  Although physics and writing often seem like separate pursuits, Suzanne hopes to combine her passions to help show a general audience how amazing hard science really is.