Inquiring minds

  • Elizabeth Devitt ('13)
  • Melissae Fellet ('11)
  • Gretta Lorge ('03)
  • Robin Meadows ('87)
  • Laura Poppick ('13)
  • Kim Smuga-Otto ('15)
  • Cameron Walker ('02)
  • Amy West ('12)
  • Sarah C. P. Williams ('07)

With the expertise of scientists-turned-journalists, nine graduates of the UC Santa Cruz Science Communication Program reported these stories about scientific research that span the university's departments. While the UC Santa Cruz scientists may keep offices and laboratories on the redwood tree-studded campus, the impact of their work reaches around the world—and beyond.

At a time when the credibility of science and the news media is under scrutiny, the Science Communication Program is more important than ever, said Erika Check Hayden, the program's new director. "Through our students, alums, and instructors, we have a huge role to play in promoting well-informed dialogue on science," she said.

The "SciCom" graduate certificate program was established in 1981 by alum John Wilkes (B.A., M.A., and Ph.D.), a scholar in English literature with a plan to teach scientists how to skillfully extract and create readable stories from the realms of scientific study. His successor, a freelance science writer and former Wilkes' student himself, Robert Irion (SciCom '88) expanded the program's resources and influence during his decade of directorship. Now, Check Hayden is leveraging her international investigative reporting credentials and seven years of experience as a SciCom instructor in social media to oversee the next generations of UC Santa Cruz's science-savvy writers.

Like the 300-plus SciCommies before them, the next graduates will fill posts at regional, national, and international media outlets to deliver science discoveries in print, radio, video, television, and formats we haven't yet imagined. Despite concerns about the current media climate, Check Hayden is optimistic about the future.

Although there's a perception that so-called fake news, with its sensationalism and click-ability, will overshadow real news, Check Hayden said: "If we're doing our jobs as communicators, we'll be able to tell our stories in ways that resonate with readers, listeners, or viewers in ways that make true news far more compelling."

We hope you find compelling reading among the articles in this edition of inquiry@UC Santa Cruz.