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2018-19 Taylor/Blakeslee Fellows bring varied backgrounds to science writing

Five women with backgrounds ranging from astronomy, mathematics and biology to investigative journalism and film have been awarded prestigious Taylor/Blakeslee University Fellowships from the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing supporting graduate study in science writing.

The Fellows will each receive a $5,000 award for the 2018-19 academic year, bringing to 161 the number of science writers aided by CASW’s graduate fellowships since 1981.

Chosen from a field of 28 outstanding applicants were:

Erika Carlson (@erikakcarlson). Carlson, who will finish her master’s degree in astronomy at the University of Wisconsin–Madison in May, earned her bachelor’s degree in physics at Pomona College in 2015. “I want to write compelling, multifaceted feature stories that capture the human aspects of science, that touch my readers and stay with them in some way,” she told the fellowship judges. Interested in writing science news as well as magazine features, Carlson will enter the science communication graduate program at the University of California at Santa Cruz in the fall.

Susan D'AgostinoSusan D’Agostino (@susan_dagostino). D’Agostino was as a mathematics professor at Southern New Hampshire University and has served on the New Hampshire Governor’s STEM Education Task Force. She was motivated to pursue science writing after learning about and managing a medical condition she experienced and is particularly interested in the interplay between medicine and society. “As part of my coursework, I am eager to engage with doctors, biomedical researchers, and medical journalists at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore for a medical writing residency called Medicine in Action,” she said. D’Agostino has a doctorate in mathematics from Dartmouth College, an MFA in nonfiction from Southern New Hampshire University, a master’s in teaching mathematics from Smith College and a bachelor’s in anthropology from Bard College. She begins her medical writing residency this summer and the science writing graduate program at Johns Hopkins University in the fall.

Eva FrederickEva Frederick (@evacharlesanna) graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 2017 with bachelor’s degrees in biology and journalism. As a student she worked in a lab studying the bacteria living in the guts of honeybees and wrote for The Daily Texan, UT’s student newspaper. She also served as The Texan’s science and technology editor and managing editor. Frederick is currently teaching children about native plants at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin. “Through a career as a science journalist I want to encourage scientific literacy in people of all walks of life,” she said. “I want to promote the ability to understand and contextualize science principles and concepts, because this is invaluable to a healthy, informed society.” She plans to enroll in the graduate program in science writing at MIT. 

Susan NeilsonSusie Neilson (@susieneilson). After graduating from Northwestern in 2015, Neilson published stories in NautilusNewsweek, and The New Yorker on topics ranging from the psychological impact of wearing a prison uniform to the drug-like benefits of noise. “I aim to be a journalist who uses science to produce impactful, institution-challenging stories,” she said. “In particular I want to document the impact that unbridled growth and consumerism has on the environment and public health.” Currently pursuing a master’s in journalism at UC Berkeley, she will spend the summer completing an internship with the science investigation team at the Center for Investigative Reporting.

Emily PontecorvoEmily Pontecorvo (@emilypont). Pontecorvo is a writer and multimedia producer based in New York City. She graduated from Wesleyan University in 2011 with a degree in film and worked in the film industry for five years before deciding to pivot to journalism. As a science writer, she hopes to advance public literacy around environmental issues and climate change. “I believe that narrative is the best tool we have to teach and to learn, to challenge the most firmly held beliefs and inspire change,” she told the judges. She is currently a podcast producer at Gizmodo and begins the graduate program in science writing at MIT this fall. 

CASW's graduate fellowships are underwritten by a grant from The Brinson Foundation, a Chicago-based philanthropic organization. They honor the late Rennie Taylor and Alton Blakeslee, science writer and science editor respectively for the Associated Press. More information may be found on this page.

WCSJ2017 partners launch international program fund

May 7, 2018—The organizers of the 10th World Conference of Science Journalists are pleased to announce plans for a suite of activities to extend the impact of the October 2017 conference in San Francisco by strengthening training, networking, and knowledge-sharing among science journalists worldwide.

A new fund, the WCSJ International Program Fund, has been established by the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing in partnership with the National Association of Science Writers to support these efforts through the use of generous donations from WCSJ2017 conference sponsors. The funds were made available through judicious management of conference costs that resulted in savings of more than 10% of the conference budget. In keeping with the wishes of WCSJ2017 sponsors and the organizers, these funds will be used to support science journalism through post-conference activities organized by the partners and coordinated with the World Federation of Science Journalists.

Roughly half of these conference proceeds were returned to the WFSJ, CASW and NASW in the form of program support and to recoup costs incurred during the planning and production of WCSJ2017. Each of the three organizations invested significant staff time and other resources to produce the conference.

The remaining proceeds will be managed by the organizing partners to support important new initiatives intended to continue building connections between US and international science journalists in the years to come.

“Enormous staff and volunteer effort went into making sure travel, hospitality, logistics and programming for WCSJ2017 were covered largely by sponsorships so that we could enable the broadest possible participation, providing a record number of travel fellowships and keeping registration fees below past conferences,” said Cristine Russell, co-chair of the WCSJ2017 Organizing Committee. “Many of our sponsors did not want to support only the conference; they wanted the conference to have a lasting impact on global science journalism. To our donors we can now say ‘yes, we can do that!’ We are excited to be able to leverage our savings to give WCSJ2017 that extra impact.”

“We met our fundraising goals, and we were thrilled at the support of an array of sponsors who all embraced science journalism as extraordinarily important in the 21st century. In the end, we were able to reduce costs through NASW’s skillful management, the work of a large cadre of volunteers, the funded travelers who shared rooms and found other sources of support, and the donated facilities and support of generous hosts including UC San Francisco and UC Berkeley,” Russell said.

“We all congratulate the executive directors of NASW and CASW, Tinsley Davis and Rosalind Reid respectively, for their extraordinary management, which made the new initiatives possible,” said Ron Winslow, co-chair of the WCSJ2017 Organizing Committee. “And thanks to the generosity and commitment of our sponsors, we have an unprecedented opportunity to build on the spirit, energy and ideas generated in San Francisco. This is a huge benefit for science journalism around the globe.”

Among the activities intended to be supported by the new international fund are: translation of WCSJ2017 session videos to Spanish and French; sustained development of the regional network of Latin American and Caribbean science journalists launched at WCSJ2017; knowledge transfer to future conference hosts; a joint diversity initiative; support for efforts to locate a future conference in a developing country; future conference travel grants; and a networking platform. A steering committee of WCSJ2017 organizers and leaders of partner organizations will provide advice on the management and use of the fund.

The organizers of WCSJ2017 are grateful to WFSJ for its key role in conference fundraising and workshop programming, as well as the hosts and sponsors whose support made possible not only the conference but the follow-on activities, first among them WCSJ2017’s Diamond Sponsor, Johnson & Johnson Innovation, and host universities, UC Berkeley and UC San Francisco. The amount of funds available for programs will be known when the conference books are closed and a final report issued in coming weeks.


CASW names two distinguished Fellows

 WASHINGTON, DC--The Council for the Advancement of Science Writing (CASW) has honored two pioneering women science writers who have worked tirelessly to improve the communication of science to the public through leadership of CASW and decades-long service on its board. Barbara J. Culliton, of Washington, DC, and Joann E. Rodgers, of Owings Mills, Maryland, were named CASW Fellows on April 20 as the 58-year-old organization gathered for its annual business meeting.

Culliton and Rodgers served as back-to-back presidents of the National Association of Science Writers (NASW) and CASW. Culliton retired from the CASW board in 2014 after 38 years as a member and officer; Rodgers stepped down at the 2018 meeting after 41 years on the board, including multiple officer roles.

Culliton has been a writer, editor and teacher throughout her distinguished career, including serving at Science as correspondent at large, news editor, and news and comment editor. She also worked in international science publishing as the deputy editor of Nature, where she launched the journals Nature Genetics, Nature Structural Biology and Nature Medicine. In 1989, Culliton was elected a member of the National Academy of Medicine. She also directed the graduate writing program at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore from 1990 to 1998. Culliton is currently a scholar-in-residence at Florida State University in the College of Communication and Information. She headed NASW in 1981-82, and in 1985 became CASW’s first woman president, serving in that role for four years.

Rodgers, an award-winning science journalist, author, editor and communications consultant, served as NASW president in 1983-84, succeeding Culliton, and succeeded her also as CASW President, serving from 1989 to 1997. Rodgers directed Johns Hopkins Medicine’s science communications, media relations and public affairs division for 25 years, and later served as a faculty scholar and strategic communications adviser to the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics. Earlier, Rodgers spent nearly two decades as a reporter and columnist for the Hearst newspapers and magazines. She is the author of seven books, including Sex: A Natural History, and has been a contributor to numerous magazines. Rodgers (shown in photo with CASW President Alan Boyle; Culliton was unable to attend the presentation) is also a reviewer for, a peer-review service for health-related stories and releases.

“There can never be praise enough for these two remarkable women and their extraordinary contributions and unrelenting labors on behalf of CASW during their decades-long service as board members,” said CASW Executive Director Emeritus Ben Patrusky. “Under their brilliant leadership and sway, CASW continued to make great strides in its never-ending search for new opportunities to address the changing needs of its core constituency, the growing community of science writers and the public it serves.”

“It was a pleasure to work with both Joann and Barbara from early in my science-writing career, as mentors, colleagues and friends,” said Harvard Kennedy School fellow Cristine Russell, also a former president of NASW and CASW. “They helped clear the way for other women in American science writing, which has been more equal than many other fields of journalism.” She noted that Culliton and Rodgers served NASW at a difficult time, helping to pull the dues-based membership organization back from near-bankruptcy and put it on stronger financial footing. “We sat around Joann’s kitchen table, trying to right the ship after belt-tightening and cutting back on staff,” said Russell.

Another memorable moment was when Culliton, on behalf of NASW, and the San Francisco Chronicle’s David Perlman, then president of CASW, led a delegation of U.S. science writers that visited China in 1979 under the aegis of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

With the addition of Culliton and Rodgers, CASW's distinguished Fellows total only four, including Perlman, “the dean of American science journalism,” and the late Earl Ubell, the first president of CASW.

CASW Fellow awarded project grant to report on Middle East water issues

(April 2, 2018) Elizabeth Whitman (@elizabethwhitty), a master's student at the Columbia University School of Journalism, has won a $5,000 special reporting grant from CASW's Taylor/Blakeslee graduate fellowships program.

Whitman, one of five 2017-18 Taylor/Blakeslee Fellows, won for her proposal "A Land Without Water," which will take her to the Middle East to report on water and drought, digging into an age-old issue in a fresh way. She intends to produce magazine articles, interactives and photography. Her work, to be undertaken after she graduates this May with a master’s in science journalism, will also be supported by an award from the Overseas Press Club.

Whitman, who also holds a history degree from Columbia, has previously reported from the United Nations and written feature stories about Syrian refugees, public health, medicine, climate change and women’s rights from the Middle East. Her writing for Modern Healthcare as a health care industry reporter was recognized in 2017 with the Jesse H. Neal Award for Best Range of Work by a Single Author.

The judges found the "Land Without Water" project plan unusually well constructed and noted the strong impression Whitman has made on the Columbia faculty. She is the third Taylor/Blakeslee Fellow to win a project fellowship. The Brinson Foundation, which underwrites the university fellowships, provides the follow-up grant to enable a Fellow to undertake a career-launching enterprise project. The first grant went to Amy McDermott, then enrolled in the Science Communication Program at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and the second to Jennifer Lu at the University of Missouri.

Abren convocatoria de becas de viaje para que periodistas regionales asistan a reunión en Estados Unidos

El Consejo para el Avance de la Escritura Científica (CASW), en asociación con la Asociación Nacional de Escritores Científicos (NASW), se complace en anunciar que se ofrecerán becas de viaje regionales especiales para permitir que colegas de América Latina y el Caribe se unan a nosotros en la reunión de ScienceWriters2018 que se llevará a cabo en Washington, DC, del 12 al 16 de octubre próximos.

Estas becas de viaje, financiadas con el apoyo de contribuciones privadas de periodistas y escritores científicos de los Estados Unidos y otros países a la Décima Conferencia Mundial de Periodistas Científicos en 2017(WCSJ2017), están destinadas a fortalecer las conexiones realizadas durante dicha reunión. Esperamos que algunas sesiones en ScienceWriters2018 se centren en problemas transfronterizos y regionales en temas de ciencia y redacción de temas científicos de especial preocupación en las Américas.

Se otorgará preferencia a personas que formen parte del programa, ya sea como organizadores de la sesión o conferencistas, y a aquellos que participan activamente en el apoyo del periodismo científico en América Latina.

Las aplicaciones para las becas se abrirán más adelante esta primavera. Para más detalles, visite

English version

Regional travel fellowships available to support travel to ScienceWriters2018

The Council for the Advancement of Science Writing, in partnership with the National Association of Science Writers, is pleased to announce that special Regional Travel Fellowships will be provided to enable colleagues from Latin America and the Caribbean to join us for ScienceWriters2018 in Washington, D.C., October 12-16. 

These travel awards, funded with support from private contributions from U.S. science writers and others to the 10th World Conference of Science Journalists in 2017, are intended to strengthen the connections made during WCSJ2017. It is our hope that some sessions at ScienceWriters2018 will focus on cross-border and regional issues in science writing and science topics of special concern across the Americas.

Preference for funding will be given to those applicants who are part of the program as either session organizers or speakers and to those applicants who are actively involved in supporting science journalism in Latin America.

Applications for the fellowships will open later this spring.

Versión en español

Experience WCSJ2017 through videos and student stories

(January 11, 2018)—Although the 2017 World Conference of Science Journalists is history, the experience and content of the conference continues. CASW was pleased to join with our conference partners in ensuring that the conference is shared worldwide through video recordings, translations and student coverage

A sampling of plenary and breakout sessions and a sponsored luncheon program given were recorded. over three days, October 26-28, 2017. The videos can be viewed at CASW's YouTube channel or through the video page on the WCSJ2017 website

“As the conference approached, we thought about the many science writers who would not be able to join us in San Francisco. We hope these videos will give them a chance to experience much of the conference over the internet,” said CASW immediate past president Cristine Russell and Ron Winslow, co-chairs of the WCSJ2017 Organizing Committee. “And we hope conference attendees from around the world will share these videos and the student stories about the sessions with colleagues back home.”

Alberto Cairo's presentation at WCSJ2017The organizers also hope that colleagues around the world will contribute video subtitles so that the sessions can be experienced in languages other than the original English.

The videos are also embedded in session pages on the website, along with student coverage of the sessions.

Student journalists produced 52 reports from the conference through a special Student Travel Fellowship program organized by CASW and the National Association of Science Writers. Support to CASW from the William K. Bowes Foundation, the Heising-Simons Foundation, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science provided travel grants for 22 students (from the US and other countries shown on the graphic above, created by student Anjela Djuraskovic) and technology for the student project.

Videos online include:

Additional videos are in production.

To contribute an English transcript or a translation, navigate to the video on YouTube and find the “Add translations” link. Volunteer-uploaded translations will be published after review by the WCSJ2017 organizers. CASW board member Debbie Ponchner and other members of the WCSJ2017 Regional Committee for Latin America and the Caribbean are coordinating translations by Spanish-speaking science writers.

WCSJ2017, the 10th World Conference of Science Journalists and the first to be held in the United States, was organized by NASW and CASW in partnership with the World Federation of Science Journalists and with the participation of the University of California San Francisco, UC Berkeley and the Association of Health Care Journalists. Nearly 1,400 attendees from more than 70 nations converged on San Francisco October 26-30 for program sessions, workshops, sponsored events and field trips organized around the theme of “Bridging Science and Societies.”

Susan Desmond-Hellmann presents fifth Patrusky Lecture at WCSJ2017

Susan Desmond-Hellmann, a physician and scientist who serves as chief executive officer of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, was selected by the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing (CASW) to present the fifth Patrusky Lecture on October 27, 2017, at the 10th World Conference of Science Journalists.

Desmond-Hellmann, a pioneer in health care who has devoted her career to the eradication of disease, poverty and inequity, spoke “In Defense of Science." At a time when facts-based, data-driven approaches to problems are being rejected as elitist, she made the case for science and data, drawing on personal testimony and powerful examples from the Gates Foundation’s work around the world and her own career in oncology and public health.

Desmond-Hellmann addressed journalists and science communicators from around the world gathered in San Francisco, California, for WCSJ2017. CASW and the National Association of Science Writers (NASW) were co-organizers of the conference, which incorporated CASW’s traditional New Horizons in Science briefings on research and issues in science. The conference was produced in partnership with the World Federation of Science Journalists and two host universities, the University of California at San Francisco and UC Berkeley.

"The Gates Foundation is one of the world's biggest players in the field of global health, so it's particularly fitting that Dr. Desmond-Hellmann will be giving the Patrusky Lecture at this year's world conference – the first global event of its kind held in the U.S.," said CASW President Alan Boyle, aerospace and science editor at GeekWire in Seattle (shown at left presenting the Patrusky Lecture glass sculpture to Desmond-Hellmann). "Her perspective is also a great fit for the annual Patrusky Lecture, which focuses on big-picture views of scientific and social frontiers."

A full video recording of the lecture may be found on the Patrusky Lectures Page.

Desmond-Hellmann became CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2014, after serving as the first female chancellor of UCSF for five years. She leads the Gates Foundation’s vision for a world where every person has the opportunity to live a healthy, productive life. Drawing on diverse experience in both the public and private sectors, she creates an environment for talented and committed individuals to help more children and young people survive and thrive, combat infectious diseases that hit the poorest hardest, and empower people—particularly women and girls—to transform their lives.

Trained as an oncologist, Desmond-Hellmann spent 14 years at the biotech firm Genentech developing a number of breakthrough medicines, including two of the first gene-targeted therapies for cancer, Avastin and Herceptin. In November 2009, Forbes named her one of the world’s seven most “powerful innovators,” calling her “a hero to legions of cancer patients.” Her time at Genentech put her at the forefront of the precision medicine revolution, and in her current role she champions a similar approach to global development: precision public health—getting the right interventions, to the right populations, in the right places, to save lives.

BBC science reporter Pallab Ghosh asks a question following Desmond-Hellmann's lecture. 

Patrusky Lecturer Susan Desmond-Hellmann responds to a question while session moderator Ron Winslow looks on. (All photos by David Poller.)

She credits a move to Uganda in 1989—to work on HIV/AIDS and cancer alongside her husband, Nick—as a turning point in her career. “It was so profound to recognize… that all the learning I had done to become a doctor didn’t matter at all if I didn’t make a contribution,” she says.

Desmond-Hellmann is the recipient of numerous honors and awards. She was listed among Fortune magazine’s “top 50 most powerful women in business” for seven years and, in 2010, was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and elected to the Institute of Medicine. In addition to an M.D. from the University of Reno, Nevada, she holds a master’s degree in public health from UC Berkeley. She serves on the board of directors at Facebook Inc.


The Patrusky Lectures were launched by CASW in 2013 to honor Ben Patrusky, executive director of CASW for 25 years and director of the New Horizons in Science program for 30 years. The previous Patrusky Lectures were given by chemist George M. Whitesides of Harvard University; paleontologist Donald Johanson of the Institute of Human Origins; Yale microbiologist Jo Handelsman, associate director for science at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy; and the pioneering particle physicist and Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg of the University of Texas at Austin.



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