Seven science writers selected for 2023-24 Taylor/Blakeslee Graduate Fellowships

From left to right: Alastair Bitsóí, Sarah Hopkins, Joseph Howlett, Mennatalla Ibrahim, Alix Soliman, Andrea Tamayo, Chiara Villanueva

Six writers motivated to acquire journalism skills to cover science, health, and environment issues have been awarded prestigious Taylor/Blakeslee University Fellowships for the 2023-24 academic year from the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Thanks to the generosity of The Brinson Foundation, which underwrites the program, CASW was able to increase the amount of each fellowship from $5,000 to $6,000.

In addition, the foundation provided new funding to enable CASW to award a seventh, enhanced fellowship this year to a candidate whose interests are focused on physical science. Along with the $6,000 fellowship, Joseph Howlett will receive travel support and mentoring by a senior journalist covering physics, astronomy, and cosmology.

Selected from a competitive field of outstanding applicants were:

Alastair Bitsóí (@AlastairBitsoi; will begin the Columbia Journalism School’s M.A. program in journalism with a science concentration this fall. Bitsóí is from the Navajo Nation community of Naschitti near the New Mexico–Arizona border. He has been an award-winning news reporter for The Navajo Times and The Salt Lake Tribune and currently writes for High Country News and other media outlets.

Bitsóí formerly served as a communications director for Utah Diné Bikéyah, an Indigenous-led land conservation nonprofit. His consulting business, Near the Water Communications and Media Group, provides training in cultural sensitivity. He is co-editor of an anthology titled New World Coming: Frontline Voices on Pandemics, Uprisings, and Climate Crisis.

“Through the discipline of journalism, I reclaim the narratives for my people, especially around food and the ongoing investigation of the Federal Boarding School Initiative,” Bitsóí wrote in applying for the fellowship. “My community needs a journalist like me … [who] centers Indigenous narratives with a pinch of Western science.”

Bitsóí has a master’s degree in public health from New York University and a bachelor’s degree in political science and criminal justice from Gonzaga University. He is a member of the Arizona Press Club, Arizona Newspapers Association, Native American Journalists Association, and Utah Society of Professional Journalists.

Sara HopkinsSarah Hopkins ( lives in San Francisco, where she is currently a communications strategist with the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California. She will attend MIT’s science writing program in the fall and is particularly interested in reporting on the intersection of law and science.

“As our lives become increasingly entangled with science and technology, the law will increasingly have to intervene to answer fundamental questions about boundaries and regulations for scientific advancements (or intrusions, depending on the implications, and on the point of view),” she wrote.

Hopkins has a master’s degree in literature from the University of Oxford and a bachelor’s in liberal arts from Sarah Lawrence College.

Joseph HowlettJoseph Howlett (, recipient of the targeted fellowship in physical sciences, is a postdoctoral researcher in physics at Stanford University, part of a team designing and building a nuclear physics experiment to measure gravitational forces at small scales. He will pursue a master’s degree in science communication at the University of California Santa Cruz.

“I want to change careers from doing science to communicating it because I see stories in physics that aren’t being told, in some cases because they paint the state of science in an imperfect light, and I think I am the right person to tell them with appropriate nuance,” he wrote. “I want to be the writer who draws readers in by telling them about the holes in our knowledge rather than just the facts, because everyone is equally captivated by the unknown.”

Howlett has contributed articles to GizmodoScientific AmericanMental FlossAstrobites and Particlebites. He earned his bachelor’s degree and Ph.D. in physics at Columbia University and participated in the XENON collaboration looking for evidence of dark matter.

Mennatalla IbrahimMennatalla Ibrahim ( is an outreach and recruitment management analyst at the Food and Drug Administration in Rockville, Md. She will focus on science and health reporting at the University of Maryland’s Investigative Journalism Program.

“I grew up in a post-9/11 America as a young Muslim, Arab American woman, so I acutely know what it means to be misrepresented, underrepresented, marginalized, and antagonized in the media,” Ibrahim wrote. “I hope that I can use graduate school as a means to sharpen my skills, so I can better fulfill my lifelong pursuit of serving underprivileged populations and amplifying the marginalized voices in the media as a science or health journalist at a reputable publication.”

Ibrahim received bachelor’s degrees in public health and communications from the University of Maryland. During the summer of 2021, she participated in Science magazine’s Diverse Voices in Science Journalism internship program.

Alix SolimanAlix Soliman ( will attend the UC Santa Cruz science communication master’s program this fall. She is currently communications and outreach coordinator for the Santa Lucia Conservancy near Carmel-by-the-Sea in Northern California. Committed to “diligent, evidence-based reporting,” Soliman wants to shift to science journalism to make a difference for the global environmental crisis.

“My goal is to contribute to a growing tradition of solutions journalism,” she said. “I hope to use a graduate degree in science communication to share stories that answer questions we should all ask ourselves: What do we owe the Earth and our most vulnerable communities?”

She earned her B.A. in environmental studies with a concentration in international environmental law from Lewis & Clark College.

Andrea TamayoAndrea Tamayo (@andreaxtamayo) will also attend the UC Santa Cruz science communication master’s program. She recently completed a science writing and communications internship at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, where she wrote about biomedical research. This summer she will begin a AAAS Mass Media Science and Engineering Fellowship at The Raleigh News and Observer.

As a Spanish-speaking science journalist, Tamayo wants to promote multilingual science communication and offer a means for Spanish speakers to share their stories while creating accessible science education. In particular, she said, she hopes to improve her skills in storytelling, data visualization, and multimedia journalism “to accurately and empathetically communicate the science and stories of individuals impacted by infectious diseases.”

Tamayo holds bachelor’s degrees both in microbiology and cell science and in international studies from the University of Florida.

Chiara VillanuevaChiara Villanueva ( majored in astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz and will continue her education there in the science communication master’s program this fall. As an undergraduate researcher, Villanueva focused on the kinematics of red-giant branch stars in the Andromeda Galaxy. She currently works as a communications intern at the National Science Foundation’s NOIRLab, disseminating forefront discoveries in astronomy.

“My ultimate goal is to publicize the thrilling science of astronomers and physicists around the world,” she wrote, “and in particular, to foster a diverse environment that will inspire the next generation of scientists.”

An immigrant from the Philippines, Villanueva is a native Tagalog speaker based in San Jose and aspires to approach science through an intersectional lens.

CASW’s graduate fellowships honor the late Rennie Taylor and Alton Blakeslee, science writer and science editor respectively for The Associated Press.