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.
Robin Kazmier grew up in Alpharetta, Georgia, with a bedroom full of maps and a dream of living in the jungle. Her curiosity about the human relationship with nature led her to pursue a BA in anthropology and geography at Northwestern University. After a stint in the education abroad field, Robin took a trip to Costa Rica and stayed there for almost nine years. She spent the first few years working on a cocoa farm in a remote village, and later became a medical Spanish instructor, moving to Costa Rica’s urban center to lead Spanish immersion programs for US health professionals.
Robin’s transition to science writing began when she took a job as editor and project manager of natural history books at Zona Tropical Press. There, she put together field guides to the birds of Botswana and several Central American countries as well as nature photography and children’s books. In 2015, Robin joined Costa Rica’s leading English-language newspaper, where she launched a publishing division and served as general manager. Her work on the wildlife and biodiversity of Costa Rica appears in The Tico Times and she is the author of National Parks of Costa Rica (Cornell University Press, 2015). You can find her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @rokazmier.