Inquiring minds

With the distinctive expertise of scientists-turned-journalists, the 16 writers shown here, all graduates of the UC Santa Cruz Science Communication Program, created the stories that grace these pages. Directed by editor Dave Egerter (‘88), their reporting captures the great scope, creativity, and global reach of the research being performed across UCSC’s five academic divisions.

Upgraded last year (2019) to award a master’s degree, the “SciCom” program uniquely trains former scientists to use their expertise to foster the public understanding of science, health, technology, and the environment. The urgency of this mission stepped up a notch with the arrival of Covid-19. Like all UCSC instruction, the SciCom curriculum moved online. Program instructors, led by director and veteran journalist Erika Check Hayden, taught courses via Zoom. The nine-student class of 2020 (eight less Stanford Ph.D. immunologist Jonathan Wosen, hired early out of the program by the San Diego Union-Tribune as a biotech reporter) gained real-world experience in both their classwork and remotely-conducted internships. While working flat-out to keep up with Covid-19 developments as a reporter at BuzzFeed, lecturer in policy and investigative reporting Peter Aldhous redirected his spring-quarter class to support science reporters at the San Jose Mercury News. Through that collaboration, the SciCom students helped cover the pandemic’s impact in the Bay Area.

The pandemic is also being professionally chronicled by many of the program’s 350-plus graduates in their work for local, regional, national, and international media outlets, in newspapers, radio, television, online media, peer-reviewed journals, magazines, and university public relations. Covid-19 and near-constant attacks on the credibility of science and the news media make the accurate, engaging science journalism practiced by SciCom graduates—as exemplified by their writing herein—more important than ever.

In these abruptly trying times, we hope you stay safe and enjoy reading this year’s inquiry\@UC Santa Cruz.