AAAS Mass Media Science and Engineering Fellows Program

Are you interested in learning the tools to communicate complex ideas to a general audience?  The AAAS Mass Media Science and Engineering Fellows Program is a competitive 10 week program that places you with media organizations around the nation to give you the tools to make science news easy for the public to understand.  Fellows are placed with media professionals at radio and television stations, newspapers, and magazines where they work with host journalists to research, write, and report today’s science news.

In the AAAS Mass Media Science and Engineering Fellows Program learn how to communicate complex ideas to a general audience.

To be eligible for this fellowship you must be an advanced undergraduate, graduate, or post-graduate level student in life, physical, health, engineering, computer, or social sciences or mathematics and related fields.

For more information and fellowship criteria visit the AAAS website.

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What Will A Trump Presidency Mean for Scientists? votes are in, and to the surprise of pundits and pollsters everywhere, Donald J. Trump has been elected the 45th president of the United States. However, many scientists are concerned about what a Trump presidency would mean for important issues like climate change and research funding. For one, Trump is cautious about allocating resources for scientific research (see this pre-election article from Science and Q&A session at for more). On the other hand, Trump has also stressed the importance of continuing research relevant for public health, such as Alzheimer’s disease. Due to his unclear stance on research funding, it is difficult to predict whether Trump will propose more budget cuts to the NIH and NSF.

More alarming, however, is Trump’s consistent denial of climate change. He has repeatedly called climate change a hoax and has strongly endorsed the US pulling out of the Paris climate agreement. On November 2nd, less than a week before the election, the Bloomberg BNA reported that Trump, at a Michigan rally, proposed to end climate spending.

“We’re going to put America first. That includes canceling billions in climate change spending for the United Nations, a number Hillary wants to increase, and instead use that money to provide for American infrastructure including clean water, clean air and safety,” said Trump.

One example of infrastructure Trump wants to expand in his first 100 days in office is the Keystone XL pipeline, which would provide a more direct transportation of oil from Canada into the US compared to the current Keystone pipeline. Although Trump has not yet met with TransCanada specifically, Trump has consistently pushed for removing environmental regulations. Perhaps in a significant conflict of interest, he also owns stock in Energy Transfer Partners, the company responsible for building the pipeline. President Obama and Hillary Clinton had opposed the pipeline because they did not believe building the pipeline would have a significant impact on the economy, creating jobs, or lowering petrol prices. In addition, environmental activists worry that this deal with TransCanada Corp. could instead increase America’s reliance on carbon fuel.

Nevertheless, Trump’s stance on many key issues in science and technology are still unclear. Ars Technica expresses concerns about his unclear stance on net neutrality and encryption (Trump’s campaign statement for cybersecurity can be found here). Trump’s senior advisors have suggested that even NASA could change focus under his direction. Based on his business background, backed by a Republican-majority Congress, it’s possible that Trump will place his efforts in science and technology as they relate to job creation and deregulation.

At this point, there’s still much that is unknown on how Trump will impact science policy. For more info, check out this Nature news article summarizing the concerns of other scientists.

Peer edited by Aminah Wali.

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Dr. Margaret Scarry Named New Director of the Research Labs of Archaeology

Congratulations to Dr. Margaret Scarry! A longstanding faculty member of the Anthropology Department at UNC-CH, Dr. Scarry was recently promoted to the Director of the Research Labs of Archaeology (RLA) and Chair of the Curriculum in Archaeology. Having received her PhD from the University of Michigan in 1986, Dr. Scarry has since garnered professional renown for her research on the cultural, social and economic practices relating to the production and consumption of food. Specifically, she explores such foodways of the late prehistoric and early historic peoples of the southeastern United States by using archaeobotanical data.

Photo courtesy of Margaret Scarry.

Dr. Scarry (center) with her colleagues Dr. Lee Newsom (left) and Dr. Gayle Fritz (right) at the Southeastern Archaeological Conference in Athens, GA.

For those who are not familiar, the UNC RLA’s primary mission is to enhance knowledge of the archaeology and history of the ancient southeastern United States, but broadly offers support for both student and faculty archaeologists in classics, religious studies, linguistics, and gender studies in addition to anthropology. The RLA curates vast archaeological collections meanwhile supporting graduate student and faculty research in the southeastern United States and abroad. Most importantly, this mission is constantly expanding to encourage archaeologists who work abroad–from Dr. Patricia McAnany’s participatory research in the Maya region of the Yucatán Peninsula to Dr. Silvia Tomášková’s research on the stone engravings of South Africa. This collaborative and interdisciplinary tenet of the RLA is also apparent in the Curriculum in Archaeology. Although housed in the RLA, it was first created through a working group of archaeologists across disciplines who felt their diverse approaches to archaeology offered a strong and unique curriculum for undergraduate study.

Scarry Pull QuoteI had the chance to sit down with Dr. Scarry recently to speak about her new roles and what’s in store for the future.When I asked Dr. Scarry about her plans for the RLA, she responded with equal parts excitement and pride. “I have a fantastic group of collegial and enthusiastic people who work with me,” she says. Just having received an external review last year, both the Curriculum and the RLA were heralded as “gems,” but are still relatively unknown on campus and in the general public. As a result, Dr. Scarry mentions, “one of the things I want to do is grow our reputation so that we are more visible.” This visibility will not only strengthen “the ties amongst archaeologists across campus” but also create a place for both graduate students and faculty members to succeed.

Dr. Scarry is also immensely proud of the RLA’s strong relationship with Native American communities, both on campus and more broadly. “We’ve tried to be a leader and a partner, to be sensitive to the political and ethical issues of the conjunction of archaeology and Native American concerns.” She thinks it is imperative to continue to foster these relationships, and is actively seeking out opportunities with other RLA faculty members to develop similar relationships with other communities worldwide.

Further, Dr. Scarry is aiming to expand the technological resources of the RLA available to student researchers. “We have a current initiative to work on 3D imaging and virtual reality and we hope to increase our computing capacity for that,” she says. Ultimately, Dr. Scarry says, “we encourage people to see who we are. I’d like for [the RLA] to be a home where people can get involved.”

As a graduate student associated with the RLA, I can agree with Dr. Scarry when she says “we value the students here. We have such a great community because our students push each other, not out of competition, but because there is a synergism, and we want to see each other succeed.” If you would like to learn more, click here.

Special thanks to Dr. Scarry for speaking with me. Peer edited by Suzannah Isgett and Alissa Brown.

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May 2015 SWAC Seminar: Mark Derewicz


Mark Derewicz

Speaker: Mark Derewicz, Science Communications Manager at UNC School of Medicine/UNC Health Care

Date: May 26th, 2015

Time: 5:30 PM

Location: Bondurant Hall, Room G030

Event Link:

Last month, SWAC hosted a very successful first seminar featuring Lauren Neighbours, PhD, RAC, from Rho, Inc., a contract research organization in Chapel Hill. This month we are switching gears from medical writing and regulatory affairs to writing about science for a non-scientific audience.

Our featured speaker will be Mark Derewicz, Science Communications Manager at the UNC School of Medicine and UNC Health Care. Mark’s main role at UNC is to write press releases and feature stories on both basic science and clinical research ongoing at the university. He also manages relations between UNC and local, state, and national media. Additionally, Mark was formerly a writer and editor for UNC Endeavors, an online magazine profiling research efforts at UNC, where he pitched several stories to NPR. Mark is especially skilled at making high-level scientific concepts accessible, an ability that is currently more valuable than ever with the advent of social media and increased interactions between scientists and the general public.

If you are interested in learning to better communicate about science with a broad audience, please come to SWAC’s Monthly Seminar on Tuesday, May 26th at 5:30 PM in Bondurant Hall (Rm. G030) and hear what Mark has to say.


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This article was co-published on the TIBBS Bioscience Blog.

Introduction and Invitation to SWAC’s Monthly Seminar Series

SWAC’s First Monthly Seminar:


Lauren Neighbours, PhD, RAC

Wednesday, April 29th at 5:30 PM

Bondurant Hall, Rm. G074


     In my fourth year of graduate school, I decided that I did not want to pursue a career in basic research. Once I began exploring different career options at networking events, job fairs, TIBBS-sponsored events, and through reaching out to people at companies in the Triangle area, I discovered regulatory medical writing. I had never heard of regulatory writing before, but the prospect of working to assist companies overcome the hurdles associated with navigating clinical trials, gaining FDA approval, and bringing a potential therapy to market such that it could help improve the health and lives of patients, sounded both challenging and rewarding. Without networking and connecting with people in the industry, I would have never considered translating the problem solving and communication skills I’ve acquired in graduate school into anything other than basic research. This newfound career passion, along with the relief I felt at identifying what it was I wanted to do with my forthcoming PhD, inspired me to delve into the world of science writing.  Science writing is a broad term that encompasses myriad career options, all of which involve interpreting, organizing, and disseminating high-level scientific data and concepts in a way that inspires trust and understanding between scientists and broad audiences.

     I would like to facilitate this career discovery process for others at UNC who are interested in writing and communication, and provide easier access to some of the resources that I initially struggled to find for myself. As Vice President and co-founder of the newly formed Science Writing and Communication Club (SWAC) at UNC, I am extremely pleased to be able to invite science writers and communicators to speak to UNC graduate students and postdocs at our monthly seminar series. Throughout the year, SWAC will host speakers with backgrounds in various science writing disciplines, including regulatory affairs, journal editing, educational science writing, marketing, etc. I am excited for people to explore these different career trajectories and have the opportunity to connect with people in the industry.

     We will be kicking off our seminar series with Lauren Neighbours, PhD, RAC on Wednesday, April 29th at 5:30 PM in Bondurant Hall, Rm. G074. Lauren earned her PhD from the UNC Department of Microbiology & Immunology where she studied the role of Toll-like receptors in arthritogenic alphaviruses, in the lab of Mark Heise. During her time in graduate school, Lauren was involved in several science writing activities, including editing for both American Journal Experts and the Journal of Clinical Investigation, in addition to writing articles for UNC Endeavors. Currently, she works as a clinical research scientist at Rho, Inc, a contract research organization (CRO) in Chapel Hill that guides companies through the clinical trials process, FDA approval, and marketing new therapies. If you are interested in learning more about working for a CRO and regulatory medical writing, please attend SWAC’s inaugural seminar! This meeting is open to both members and non-members. Additionally, if you’d like to stay updated on future SWAC seminars, please follow SWAC’s blog posts or connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn! If you have an idea for a blog article, please visit our website and contact us!

Rho, Inc:

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This article was co-published on the TIBBS Bioscience Blog.