Breaking into science writing
Virginia Gewin had finished a master's in soil microbiology and was 3 years into a PhD on an Earth science fellowship from NASA when her project caved in. The climate‐controlled chambers she relied on for her project were abruptly shut down by a government funding cut. “It was years of work down the drain”, Gewin says. She didn't have the heart to start over, so she started to explore other options.
While pursuing her PhD, Gewin had done some writing for her campus newspaper, and a contact from her university news office suggested she apply for a 10‐week summer program in science journalism through the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Mass Media Science & Engineering Fellows Program. As a Mass Media Fellow she landed an internship at the daily newspaper The Oregonian, where she leapt at any field reporting opportunity. She backpacked into the wilderness to write about efforts to monitor volcanic activity, and accompanied researchers on a Pacific cruise to track undercurrents using fluorescent dye. Gewin says she “wrote her butt off” during that time. Hooked, she left academia and accepted a 6‐month internship at Nature magazine in Washington, DC, where she made as many contacts as she could. Now a freelance science journalist based in Portland, Oregon, she hasn't looked back.