Scores of students participate in Perlman Virtual Mentoring Program

Scores of students participate in Perlman Virtual Mentoring Program, several stories placed in national news outlets, top stories honored

This summer, NASW once again offered its David Perlman Virtual Mentoring Program for graduate and undergraduate students.

Created by the Education Committee, the program was launched in 2020 to offer virtual learning opportunities during the COVID-19 pandemic. The program is named for longtime science writer and past NASW president David Perlman.

During the program, more than 85 students were matched with NASW volunteers from a variety of science writing backgrounds for mentorship and support. Mentors and students met for a 75-minute kickoff event on June 8. About half of those students also opted to write a reported piece, with guidance from their mentors.

Many of these pieces are now collected in the Student Newsroom, a section of NASW’s website devoted to showcasing the writing of our student members. In addition to the publication opportunity provided by the Student Newsroom, the Education Committee worked with students and mentors to pitch stories to nine outlets that graciously agreed to consider student submissions for publication. Some students also successfully pitched their stories independently to various outlets.

We are pleased that, so far, several students were successful in having their pieces selected for publication by notable science writing outlets, including National Geographic, Scientific American, Popular Science, Discover, Bay Nature, Civil Eats and Eos, a news publication of the American Geophysical Union.

All stories were considered for NASW’s Summer Writing Award, which comes with a $500 prize. Stories were judged, in two rounds, by a panel of editors and writers, for clarity, style, story structure, diversity of sources, and effective use of quotes and data. This year’s winners are:

Maggie Chen "Chipping away at cell mysteries" (Mentor: Eric Bender)

Our judges write: "Thank you, Maggie Chen, for producing such an extraordinarily fine piece on a real "hard science" topic!...I like that a person named Rho is testing a rho kinase inhibitor. Very impressive work all around. A stunning piece." and "Great job! Really tremendous analogies throughout (ex: "using the chip to steer the cells around a Petri dish like one might drive a car") and good use of visual writing (ex: "full of quirky structures floating in a thick jelly")."

Jack Tamisiea "Invasive crayfish are dying in the Midwest. Could a fungus be the cause?" (Mentor: Michael Price)

Our judges write: "Jack's piece had a great hook and remained intriguing throughout. The sources included a good range of studies and interviews from various institutions." and "This is one of the best reads I have encountered in my many times serving as a mentor! Incredibly well written and organized, terrific transitions and excellent use of visual writing."

Rena Kingery "Sneaky Deep-Sea Camera Captures Footage of Elusive Giant Squid" (Mentor: Julia Rosen)

Our judges write: "Rena did an excellent job here." and "Nice lede graf, good close. Sources from around the world — impressive. Excellent work."

Thank you to the volunteers who served on the judging committees:

Courtney Adams, LifeOmic-Lifeology; Merrik Bush, UC Berkeley; Rachel Butch, Johns Hopkins Medicine; Shel Evergreen, Freelance; Meredith Fore, Chicago Quantum Exchange; Betsy Ladyzhets, Freelance; Beth Miller, Washington University in St. Louis; Lisa Munoz, SciComm Services, Inc.; Michael Newman, Johns Hopkins Medicine; Annie Parker, Texas Sea Grant; Elliot Richman, Freelance; Kate Schimel, Colorado Public Radio; Vandana Suresh, Texas A&M; Chanapa Tantibanchachai, U.S. Food & Drug Administration; Natasha Vizcarra, Freelance; Luisa Torres, LifeOmic-LIFE Apps; Tony Van Witsen, Michigan State University.

Thank you to our NASW members who took the time to serve as mentors and editors. We are grateful to you for sharing your enthusiasm and knowledge to support up-and-coming science writers. Read what students and mentors had to say about the program.

Finally, thank you to the volunteers of the Education committee: Czerne Reid (co-chair), Ashley Yeager (co-chair), Courtney Adams, Rachel Butch, , Jenny Cutraro, Shel Evergreen, Jeff Grabmeier, Laurel Hamers, Rachael Lallensack, Kimberly "Berly" McCoy, and Sarah Webb.


October 5, 2021

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