Council for the Advancement of Science Writing

New Horizons

Content within the CASW New Horizons section

Handelsman presents third Patrusky Lecture at ScienceWriters2015

Microbiologist Jo Handelsman, a pioneer in metagenomics research who is currently serving in a key White House science-policy post, presented the Patrusky Lecture on October 11, 2015, at New Horizons in Science, CASW’s annual briefing on emerging research and issues in science.

Handelsman, Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor and Frederick Phineas Rose Professor of molecular, cellular and developmental biology at Yale University, is currently Associate Director for Science at the Office of Science and Technology Policy. Her White House work focuses on advancing basic research and developing targeted areas in biological research, STEM education, and diversity in science.

In her talk, "The Earth's Microbiomes: Opportunities for Research and Policy," she provided an update on these initiatives to the writers gathered at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass., for ScienceWriters2015, a conference that combines the New Horizons science program with the professional development workshops of the National Association of Science Writer(NASW).

"Hearing from Dr. Handelsman at this year's Patrusky Lecture will be a triple treat," said CASW President Alan Boyle, who is also science editor for NBC News, in announcing the choice of Handelsman for the third lecture. "We’d be lucky to find someone so knowledgeable about the frontiers of biology, or so committed to diversity in science and education, or so plugged in to the workings of the White House. To have all three of those qualities wrapped up in one speaker is a true trifecta."

“I am excited to be returning to the CASW meeting, and it is an unexpected honor to be asked to deliver the Patrusky lecture,” Handelsman said. “I want to congratulate Ben on this recognition of his work. Science writing like Ben’s represents the ideals of accuracy, integrity, and social good to which we all aspire in our scientific work.”

Handelsman was appointed to her current role by President Obama and confirmed by the Senate in June 2014. Reporting to OSTP Director John P. Holdren, she helps advise the President on science policy and Federal support for research. Before joining the White House, she had been recognized for her research on science education and her promotion of opportunities for women and minorities in science. She received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring in 2011 and also co-chaired the PCAST working group that developed “Engage to Excel,” a 2012 report making recommendations for strengthening STEM education to meet workforce needs.

During her White House service, Handelsman’s Yale laboratory is continuing its work under the direction of two of her former graduate students, carrying out studies to understand diversity in microbial communities and the role of these communities in infectious disease. Current research uses the fruit fly gut as a model for the microbiology of the human gut and also employs functional metagenomics to probe microbial communities’ genetic and biochemical diversity.

Handelsman earned her Ph.D. in molecular biology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and joined UW’s plant pathology faculty in 1985. After serving in a number of roles, including chair of the Department of Bacteriology, she moved to Yale in 2010. At both universities she has been instrumental in founding and directing programs that teach the principles and practices of evidence-based education to current and future faculty at colleges and universities nationwide. Her teaching, mentorship and research have been recognized with a number of awards. She has also served the scientific community in numerous roles as a panel member, peer reviewer and journal editor and as president of the American Society for Microbiology.

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. Handelsman has been an invited speaker at New Horizons in Science twice before, in 1994 and 2001. The first and second Patrusky Lectures were given by George M. Whitesides of Harvard University and Donald Johanson of the Institute of Human Origins, respectively. Video recordings of all Patrusky Lectures may be found on the Patrusky Lectures page.

Submit proposals for "Science and Science Writing" New Horizons sessions by March 4

Submissions of 2015 proposals are now closed. Thank you to all who submitted!

Special case-study sessions on challenges for scientists and science writers were highlights of the 2013 and 2014 New Horizons in Science briefings. CASW welcomes proposals for "Science + Science Writing" sessions for New Horizons at ScienceWriters2015. Proposals should be submitted by March 4, 2015. A joint NASW-CASW committee will review proposals and notify organizers by May 1.

Guidelines and a submission form may be found at the CASW submission site. Examples of recent S+SW sessions include "From Haiti to the Hajj," a 2013 discussion of communication issues in epidemics, and two 2014 sessions: "Navigating a Minefield," about genetically modified crops, and "Lessons in the Communication of Science from the BICEP2 story," reflecting on coverage of the BICEP2 collaboration's big March 2014 announcement (photo).

Record registration for ScienceWriters2015

For the fourth time in its history, CASW's New Horizons in Science briefing will be held in the Boston area in 2015. The 53rd annual presentation of emerging research and science issues will be hosted by the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as part of ScienceWriters2015.

REGISTER

WWW.SCIENCEWRITERS2015.ORG

Registration closed at more than 800 for the ScienceWriters2015 conference, which includes a full day of workshops organized by the National Association of Science Writers, the CASW New Horizons in Science program and field trips, tours and other activities organized by our hosts.

The return to Cambridge is historic for CASW's flagship program, which was launched with an event at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1963. In a celebration of CASW's 50th anniversary at Yale University in 2010 (video), longtime Executive Director Ben Patrusky told the story of the remarkable first event, held in cooperation with both Harvard and MIT:

"It offered an extraordinarily eclectic mix of topics, setting the tone and template for all briefings to come. It featured talks, 18 in all, on subjects ranging from molecular biology and electron microscopy to earth, space and atmospheric science, to human evolution and the role of biology in culture, to biophysics and the brain, to the growing interdependency between science and engineering—the "new engineering," as it was then called.

"... You may recognize some of the names of some of those (the eminences) who briefed: [evolutionary biologist] Ernst Mayr, [astronomer] Fred Whipple, [astrophysicist] Thomas Gold, [geophysicist and oceanographer] Athelstan Spilhaus, [biophysicist] Bert Vallee, [biochemist] Howard Shachman, [anthropologist] William Howells and, dare I say it, [physicist] Fred Singer. There were tours, too, including a memorable visit with B. F. Skinner in his lab at MIT."

(The full program  may be downloaded here.)

Patrusky, who took over the New Horizons program in 1974 and directed it for three decades, noted that the early New Horizons briefings were invitation-only affairs: 56 journalists attended the first year, after which the invitation list was limited to 40 for several years until CASW decided to issue an open invitation to science writers. Attendance leapt again after the New Horizons program was joined with the professional development workshops of the National Association of Science Writers, and some 600 writers are expected to attend ScienceWriters2015. The NASW workshops will be held at the conference hotel, the Hyatt Regency Cambridge, after which the New Horizons briefings will be presented on the MIT campus. Special "Science + Science Writing" New Horizons sessions, first introduced at the 2013 meeting, will bring scientists and science writers to the stage together.

October 2015 will mark the first time the combined meeting is held in the Boston area. Patrusky brought New Horizons back to the Boston area twice: in 1982, when Harvard University hosted the 20th annual event, and in 1998, when the 36th New Horizons in Science briefing was hosted by Boston University. The Hyatt in Cambridge also served as the conference hotel in 1998.

Student journalists enjoy a taste of science writing at New Horizons 2014

As this year's New Horizons in Science briefings opened in Columbus Oct. 19 as part of ScienceWriters2014, a group of bright young science-writers-in-the-making pulled out their pens, recorders and laptops with particular purpose.

These were the participants in the second New Horizons Newsroom, a CASW project designed to provide student science writers an unusual opportunity to work shoulder-to-shoulder on science stories with professional mentors and editors.

Charlie Petit, a veteran science writer and CASW officer, donned a green eyeshade (at newsroom kickoff, right) and corralled the greenhorns' talent and enthusiasm as the Newsroom chief. He emerged impressed.

"Hurrah for the reporters who worked the New Horizons Newsroom!" Petit said afterward. "Science journalism tends to be self-propelled and its own main reward. These reporters had no course grade at stake, we didn't pay them a nickel to write, but they cranked out fine copy for us and, er, mostly made deadline. We had some fun, and the ScienceWriters2014 meeting and its archives are the better for it."

Charlie Petit hands out Newsroom assignments at New Horizons in Science 2014

The Newsroom project was launched at ScienceWriters2013 as a way to give local journalism students a taste of professional science writing and provide coverage of New Horizons science on the CASW website, producing seven spot-news stories and two Storify curations of social media commentary. During the pilot experiment, six University of Florida students and two CASW Traveling Fellows contributed coverage of the 2013 science presentations. CASW board members and other senior science writers served as mentors and editors to help the students tackle tough science topics.

Six universities participate

This year, the Newsroom contributors grew to nine, drawn from six universities: Ohio University, host university Ohio State, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Southern Mississippi, the University of Florida and the University of Rochester. In addition to Petit, their work was supported by 14 professional science writers acting as mentors and editors. The work posted to the newsroom page (which is still growing at this writing) also expanded in variety as the reporters did additional research.

Bethany Bella of Ohio University's E. W. Scripps School of Journalism brought a video camera and tripod and tracked down New Horizons presenters for recorded interviews. "It was probably the most memorable experience in regards to my professional career, if not one of the best experiences of my entire life," she reflected afterward. "When I look back on this years from now, this weekend was the beginning of my life as a science writer."

Bethany (at far left in top photo, with fellow OU students Cassie Kelly, Kelly Fisher and Olivia Miltner) was one of several students who took advantage of the National Association of Science Writers' professional development workshops on Oct. 18 and the opportunities for networking with professional writerst. Newsroom participant Crystal Garner from the University of Southern Mississippi, who won a travel grant to support attendance at the full ScienceWriters2014 meeting, is shown in the photo below (second from left) socializing with new colleagues at the NASW-CASW awards night.

University of Florida journalism student Andrew Kays (shown in photo at left taking notes as Patrusky Lecturer Don Johanson talks with reporters after his lecture on human evolution), a veteran of the 2013 Newsroom, was supported by small travel grants from UF and CASW. CASW Executive Director Rosalind Reid said she is encouraging New Horizons host universities to "pay it forward" as UF did, by supporting students who might participate in future newsroom activities.

"Our host universities make their faculty, facilities and staff available and provide fantastic hospitality each year to ake this meeting possible," she said. The Newsroom is one way we can provide training, mentoring and career networking for student journalists; it's also a way to maximize the educational benefit for students from the host university and elsewhere."

ScienceWriters2014 awards nightNewsroom stories will be updated and archived on the newsroom page, where this year's mentors and editors are listed. Writers who contributed were:

  • Bethany Bella, Ohio University
  • Debamita Chatterjee, University of Rochester
  • Kelly Fisher, Ohio University
  • Crystal Garner, University of Southern Mississippi
  • Andrew Kays, University of Florida
  • Cassie Kelly, Ohio University
  • Kara Manke, MIT
  • Olivia Miltner, Ohio University
  • Karam Sheban, Ohio State University

Knowing the human story key to living with nature, says Johanson

In the second Patrusky Lecture at CASW's New Horizons in Science, paleoanthropologist Donald Johanson traced the sweep of knowledge about the human family tree, insisting that human survival may depend on understanding the journey that brought Homo sapiens into existence.

The lecture, called "The Human Evolutionary Journey" and given on the eve of the 40th anniversary of Johanson's discovery of the fossil hominid Lucy, traced the discoveries that have extended the human family back more than 6 million years. Among these is a recent finding of an Ardipithecus fossil with a divergent great toe in Ethiopia near the Lucy site (photo, left)—one of many finds that may shed light on the paths early hominids took to walking upright.

Many species of the genus Homo are now known to have evolved from prehuman species in Africa, Johanson noted, Don Johanson explains the unusual toe joint found in an Ardipithecus fossiland current work is filling in gaps to explain how modern humans developed their characteristic cognitive complexity, linguistic flexibility and capacity for culture and cooperation.

Johanson (@drdonjohanson, #Lucy40) spoke on Oct. 19, 2014 as part of the 52nd New Horizons in Science briefings in Columbus, Ohio. Don Johanson answers science writers' questions after his presentationCASW President Alan Boyle (above right, with Johanson) presented a crystal sculpture and certificate commemorating the lecture. The speaker was surrounded by writers with questions after the talk.

A video recording of the lecture may be viewed on the PATRUSKY LECTURES PAGE

New Horizons in Science speaker FAQ 2016

Speaker information for New Horizons in Science 2016

WHERE YOU WILL SPEAK: All sessions will take place in the Iberian Ballroom or the nearby Madero Ballroom, located on the fifth floor of the Omni La Mansión del Rio. (Use the elevator off the hotel lobby.) Each speaker is encouraged to check in with Diane McGurgan of CASW, who will be staffing a desk in the common space between the two ballrooms.

Sections: 

New Horizons student newsroom: Signup and details

Welcome!

CASW is pleased to have 9 undergraduate and graduate-student participants in the 2014 Student Newsroom representing five universities: Ohio State, Ohio University, the University of Southern Mississippi, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the University of Florida. Like the science-writing community itself, you bring diverse backgrounds and training to the challenges of science writing.

Sections: 

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