Meet new member Elizabeth Culotta

January 14, 2019

Elizabeth Culotta, deputy news editor at Science, shares #WhySciWri in this short Q&A.

A headshot of Elizabeth Culotta

Elizabeth Culotta

Q: Tell us a little about yourself.

A: I’m a deputy news editor at Science, where for 20 years I’ve directed our anthropology and archaeology coverage; recently I’ve also led our sexual harassment investigations. I have an unusual gig: I work with writers all over the world from my home in Kent, Ohio, and I telecommute to Science’s mothership in Washington, D.C.

Q: How did you get interested in science writing?

A: As an undergrad and grad student in paleontology, I was drawn to both science and writing, but didn’t know such a thing as a career in science writing existed. Then I found the AAAS Mass Media Fellowship and interned at The Milwaukee Journal (now The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel). And that was it: I’d found a career where I had license to play with words, explore science, and ask all the stupid questions I hadn’t dared raise as a student. After the internship, the paper hired me as science reporter.

Q: What do you love most about your job?

A: First, the amazing writers I work with! They’re so talented and funny. They make my day, every day. Second, Getting a bird’s-eye-view of emerging trends in science. I’m fascinated by anthropology’s central question—what makes us human? New findings surprise me every year.

Q: What's the website you visit most often for work?

A: As an editor who coordinates all aspects of stories from several hundred miles away, the most important website is… Slack. That’s where we debate headlines, weigh in on photos, and tell jokes.

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

A: Right now, #MeTooSTEM and diversity stories. When I was a student, sexual harassment was practically part of the culture. Now the culture has changed, and people are calling out such behavior. It’s incredibly satisfying to help chart the shift.

If I’d lived in the 1800s, I would have loved to write about the first discovery of Neanderthals. Their story is still unfolding—how did their trysts with modern humans happen, and what did each group think when they first saw others, so like themselves but also so different?

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

A: I belonged many years ago and helped start a chapter here in northeast Ohio. Over time, local science writers grew scarce and I let my membership lapse. Then last year, my Science colleague Catherine Matacic asked me to be on a DCSWA panel about covering sexual harassment. I met some great young journalists and am eager to meet more, especially those from diverse backgrounds. The time seemed right to join and support the organization.

Follow Elizabeth on Twitter @elizculotta