Meet new member Alka Tripathy-Lang

Alka Tripathy-Lang, an Arizona-based freelancer and a new addition to the NASW community, shares #WhySciWri in this short Q&A.

A headshot of Alka Tripathy-Lang.

Alka Tripathy-Lang

Q: Tell us a little about yourself.

A: I'm a fledgling science writer with a focus on earthquakes, volcanoes and creative applications of geophysics and seismology. I transitioned from life as a geochronologist to science writing in early 2019.

Q: How did you get interested in science writing?

A: After completing my postdoc in 2018, academia had lost its lustre. I began contracting for a non-profit organization that needed someone to write science highlights for their website, among other tasks. Although I always dreaded writing academic journal articles, I found immense satisfaction in distilling complex research into its basic components, and communicating that to the general public. In mid-2019, I found an externship that paired me with an amazing mentor and editor who has guided me toward becoming a freelance science writer.

Q: Describe a typical day.

A: I start my day by walking my dogs to clear my head and plan. Before my two kids wake up, I also try to get through emails. After herding my elder child to online kindergarten for the morning, I entertain my younger child and work in short spurts. The most joyous part of my day is afternoon naptime, when I spend a couple of peaceful hours working. My partner emerges from his work-from-home hole in the late afternoon when the kids get up, giving me a little extra time before the evening rush to get the kids fed, showered, and to bed. I usually work another hour or two every night, and we do it all over again. This is our pandemic groundhog day. This schedule isn't the one I planned for, but with both kids at home all the time, I'm thankful for the flexibility of freelancing.

Q: What is your favorite social media account?

A: I am guilty of overindulging on Twitter. My feed comprises mostly scientists, with a heavy emphasis on geology. Twitter helps me connect with potential sources. Scientists send me tips about cool soon-to-be-published research. I don't think I could pick a favorite social media account right now, but this past week was #BlackInGeosciences week, and it's definitely my favorite hashtag at the moment!

Q: If you could write about any scientific event/breakthrough/topic (past, present or future) what would it be and why?

A: I would love to go back in time and write about Marie Curie's life and the discovery of radioactivity as it was happening. As a geochronologist in my past academic life, I mainly used the radioactive decay of uranium into its stable daughter products to tell me when a rock formed and how it got to the surface. In my imagination, I am talking with Marie Curie about her pioneering work; her life as the "first" woman to achieve so many things in STEM; her treatment as "other" because she was an immigrant; and her health struggles that we now know stemmed from working with radioactive materials.

Q: Why did you join NASW and what kinds of professional connections/opportunities are you seeking?

A: My science writing mentor, who is also a member, recommended that I join NASW. I'm excited to expand my network from mostly academic scientists to fellow freelancers and communicators who share my excitement for explaining science.

Follow Alka on Twitter @DrAlkaTrip

Image by Arcturian from Pixabay