NASW officers, executive board and staff

Are you interested in participating in the governance of NASW? This fall, the membership will be electing one new board member to fill a mid-term vacancy. Look for details on how to get involved later in August. In the meantime, interested candidates can acquire some background on board member responsibilities here.


Laura Helmuth, president

Washington Post

NASW is a strong and welcoming organization that has been helping science writers improve our craft since 1934. As president, I hope to help NASW adapt to new trends in publishing and employment, address ethical issues in our fields, help early- or transitioning-career and freelance writers flourish in their work, and provide all members with a sense of community. We’re looking forward to hosting the World Conference of Science Journalists in 2017. If you’d like to volunteer or find out more, visit the website. As vice president and a member of the Programs Committee, I helped organize the workshop sessions of the past few ScienceWriters meetings. I have pushed for better representation of women and minorities in the science writing community, been an advocate for freelancers, and tried to demystify and improve the editor-freelancer relationship. I am the health, science and environment editor for the Washington Post. I was previously director of digital news at National Geographic in Washington, D.C., and before that the science and health editor for Slate magazine, the science editor at Smithsonian magazine, and an editor and writer for Science magazine’s news department. I have a Ph.D. in cognitive neuroscience from the University of California, Berkeley, and attended the University of California, Santa Cruz, science communication program. I have served on the board of the D.C. Science Writers Association and The Open Notebook and currently serve on the boards of Spectrum and High Country News.

First elected to the board in 2012

Siri Carpenter, vice president


I’m a freelance writer and editor based in Madison, Wisc. I’ve been a member of NASW since 1998. I served on the Freelance Committee from 2008-2012 and was its co-chair for several years, and in 2015-16 I was on the ad hoc committee charged with studying the implications of changing NASW’s rules for officer eligibility. I have organized numerous ScienceWriters workshops. I have founded or co-founded several small “tribes” of journalists designed to serve as sources of professional encouragement and advice. I have a Ph.D. in social psychology from Yale University and got my start in science writing through a AAAS Mass Media Fellowship at the Richmond Times-Dispatch, and then an internship at Science News. I’ve freelanced for many magazines and newspapers since 2002, and was features editor at Discover. I now mainly do contract editing and am a features editor at bioGraphic and a contributing editor at Science News for Students. I’m also editor-in-chief at the nonprofit publication The Open Notebook, which publishes articles, interviews, and other resources to help science journalists sharpen their skills. As a member of the NASW board, I hope to continue efforts to improve the organization's diversity, support strong critical analysis in science writing, and help foster small communities of science writers.

First elected to the board in 2016

Jill Adams, secretary


I truly believe that one of the great benefits of NASW is sharing stories and strategies for success with other professional science writers. During my first term on the board, I tried to be a voice for science writers who want to take charge of their careers. Whether freelancers or staffers, all of us benefit from having information and resources at the ready via NASW-supported efforts. I’ve contributed to The Science Writers’ Handbook and The Open Notebook, and helped launch the contracts database The Fine Print. I will continue to support creative regional meetings organized by NASW members, often funded by Idea Grants. I’m in favor of efforts to promote international outreach efforts and, at home, to increase the welcoming nature of our community to science writers of all colors, creeds, and genders. A long-term freelancer, I write about health, medicine, and the environment for the Washington Post, Audubon, Nature, Ensia, and Entrepreneur. I’ve been a member of NASW since 2004 and have organized annual meeting workshops and served on the freelance, awards, and programs committees. I would welcome the chance to contribute even more to the future of this organization as a member of the executive board.

First elected to the board in 2012

Alexandra Witze, treasurer

Nature, Science News

Alexandra Witze is a contributing correspondent for Nature and Science News magazines, based in Boulder, Colo. Her awards include top journalism prizes from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Geophysical Union, the American Institute of Physics, and NASW. With her husband Jeff Kanipe, she is the author of Island on Fire, a book about the extraordinary 18th-century eruption of the Icelandic volcano Laki. She is on the board of directors for The Open Notebook. Between 2005 and 2010 she served as features editor, news editor, and Washington bureau chief for Nature. Alex has also worked as a general science reporter at the Dallas Morning News in Texas and as an editor at the first Earth magazine, in Wisconsin. She has a bachelor’s degree in geology from MIT and a graduate certificate in science communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz.

First elected to the board in 2016

Board members-at-large

Nsikan Akpan

PBS NewsHour

A vote for me is a vote for diversity. Science was my ticket to overcoming a low-income, first-generation upbringing in the culturally insensitive minefields north of Atlanta. I view science writing as a means to inspire the same brand of STEM curiosity that helped my younger self. However, my diversity encompasses more than my heritage. My background includes a Ph.D. in pathobiology, blogging, public relations, the University of California, Santa Cruz, science communication program, internships at Science News and NPR, freelancing, and science writing lectures for college audiences. Now, as a science producer, I mix print and video storytelling for distribution across "new media" platforms. I would love the opportunity to assist the diversity and membership committees through outreach on these platforms. One concept: An interview video series with science writers akin to NewsHour's "Brief But Spectacular" series. These videos could expand brand recognition and reach those unacquainted with the science writer lifestyle. Diversity is a place where anyone can comfortably express their views, and I want to foster those spaces for NASW.

First elected to the board in 2016

Brooke Borel


Brooke Borel is an independent science journalist and author. She’s a contributing editor at Popular Science and has also written for BuzzFeed News, the Guardian, the Atlantic, PBS’s Nova Next, Quartz, Aeon, Quanta, Undark, and Slate, among others. She also occasionally drops in at the Last Word On Nothing and Science Friday. Borel teaches writing workshops at New York University and the Brooklyn Brainery. In 2016, she was the Cissy Patterson fellow at the Alicia Patterson Foundation, where she wrote about pesticides and agriculture. Her books are Infested: How the Bed Bug Infiltrated Our Bedrooms and Took Over the World, published by the University of Chicago Press with additional support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and The Chicago Guide to Fact-Checking.

First elected to the board in 2016

Kathryn Jepsen


Kathryn Jepsen is the editor-in-chief of Symmetry, an online magazine about particle physics published by two U.S. national laboratories. She is based at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in the San Francisco Bay area. Like many NASW members, Kathryn followed an unexpected career path. She graduated with a master’s in journalism from Northwestern University thinking that she would wind up at a journalistic publication. But a professor from her science-writing specialization recommended she apply for an internship at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. She got the internship, which turned into a full-time job, which so far has turned into about a decade of writing about particle physics while based at different laboratories, including CERN research center in Europe. Kathryn decided to get more involved in NASW after witnessing the organization’s willingness and ability to respond to sexual harassment in the field. As head of the NASW Internet Committee, Kathryn spearheaded the effort to redesign the NASW website. She has also served on the NASW Finance and Audit Committee. Her priority is fostering an inclusive and safe science writing community that is a force for good in the world around it.

First elected to the board in 2017

Seth Mnookin


Seth Mnookin is Associate Director of MIT’s Graduate Program in Science Writing. His most recent book, The Panic Virus: The True Story Behind the Vaccine-Autism Controversy, won the NASW “Science in Society” Award in 2012 and was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times book prize. He is also the author of the 2006 New York Times bestseller Feeding the Monster: How Money, Smarts, and Nerve Took a Team to the Top and 2004's Hard News: The Scandals at The New York Times and Their Meaning for American Media, which was a Washington Post Best Book of the Year. Since 2005, he has been a contributing editor at Vanity Fair, and his work has appeared in numerous publications, including Smithsonian, New York, Wired, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, Spin, Slate, and His essay about the cost of measles infections was included in the The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2014, and he recently wrote about a family's discovery that their child was the first known case of a new genetic disorder for the New Yorker.

First elected to the board in 2014

Kendall Powell


I joined the NASW Board to continue my service to improving the professional lives of our members, and especially of freelance members. Based near Denver, Colo., I’ve been an NASW member and freelancer for the past 13 years writing for publications such as Nature, the Washington Post, and Discover, among others. I’ve served on the Freelance Committee since 2007 and as co-chair for the last three years. I’ve helped develop resources such as the Words’ Worth database, the Compensation Survey, the Fair Pay Tip Sheet and overseen a reorganization of the All About Freelancing webpage. I’ve worked with PIOs and staff journalists on many projects and I have a passion for connecting people, especially when it benefits our entire writing community. In 2013, I was a project manager and contributor to The Science Writers’ Handbook. I’m a huge advocate for both the freedom that comes with freelancing and the idea that freelancing should never mean “for free.”

First elected to the board in 2016

Hillary Rosner


Hillary Rosner is a freelance journalist specializing in the environment. Her work has been published recently in National Geographic, Wired, Scientific American, the New York Times, and High Country News. She is also a contributing editor at the website bioGraphic. Hillary was a 2011 Knight Science Journalism Fellow at MIT and a 2012 Alicia Patterson Fellow. Her work has won many awards, including two AAAS-Kavli Science Journalism awards. Hillary holds an M.S. in environmental studies from the University of Colorado and an M.F.A. in fiction writing from New York University. During her career she has worked at the New York Post, New York magazine, and the Village Voice, as well as helped launch several multimedia startups. She lives in Colorado.

First elected to the board in 2012

Jill Sakai

University of Wisconsin-Madison

As communications director of the University of Wisconsin–Madison Office of Sustainability, Jill Sakai writes, strategizes, edits, manages (both people and expectations), and occasionally digs through the trash. After training in research as a Howard Hughes Medical Institute predoctoral scholar, she broke free from the lab bench with a AAAS Mass Media Fellowship at the Richmond Times-Dispatch. She transitioned quickly from scientist to science writer and enjoyed walking at her doctoral commencement ceremony next to her key source for one of her first stories. She went on to spend seven years in UW-Madison’s University Communications office covering anthropology to zoology. She also works as a freelance medical writer specializing in oncology. She has a B.S. in biological sciences from the University of Rochester and a Ph.D. in neuroscience from UW-Madison, where she studied fish eyes and watched nerves grow. Jill is a member of the NASW program committee and co-chair of the PIO committee.

First elected to the board in 2014

Matt Shipman

North Carolina State University

I'm the research communications lead at North Carolina State University and was previously an environmental policy reporter in the Washington, D.C. area. I am the author of The Handbook for Science Public Information Officers and a contributor to Science Blogging: The Essential Guide. I also write the Science Communication Breakdown blog and am a reviewer for I think it's important for NASW to acknowledge the clear differences between journalism and working as a public information officer, as well as the shared skills each job requires and common areas of interest for all science writers. Open and respectful discussions between all NASW members will be a key component in ensuring that the organization continues to provide training and resources to help science writers in all fields thrive in a continually evolving media marketplace.

First elected to the board in 2016

John Travis


It's been five years since my wife and I returned from a long work stint in the United Kingdom, so I felt it was high time to again give back to NASW, which I've belonged to since I went through the Boston University science journalism program in the early 90s. Early on, I co-ran the NASW internship fair for a period, and helped set up NASW-Teach — in part because I learned how little I knew about teaching journalism when asked to do that at the University of Arizona for a semester. I also am a past president of the D.C. Science Writers Association. After a decade of writing mainly about biology (despite studying physics), I jumped into editing more than a decade ago and am currently managing news editor at Science (Science and Science News have been my staff homes). I think my time in Europe can bring some needed international perspective to NASW, which may be helpful as we organize the upcoming World Conference of Science Journalists (WCSJ2017), in San Francisco.

First elected to the board in 2016

Emily Willingham


Emily Willingham's work has appeared online at the New York Times, Slate, Wired, Forbes, Discover, and others and in print in Backpacker, Texas Parks and Wildlife magazine, and other local and regional publications. Her book, The Informed Parent, with co-author Tara Haelle, was published in April 2016 by Perigee Books/Penguin. She is a Forbes contributor, freelance writer, and university professor. Her writing career began in the 1980s when she landed an internship at Texas Monthly magazine while completing a bachelor's degree in English. Since then, writing and journalism have been constants through a multitude of changes and experiences, including working in public information, earning a Ph.D. in biological sciences and spending some time on the academic tenure track, serving as a science editor, and teaching everything from physics, chemistry, and biology to scientific writing at the college level. As a member of the NASW board, chair of the Fairness Committee and co-chair of the membership committee, Emily focuses on growing the diversity of NASW's membership and creating frameworks to ensure workplace fairness for science writers.

First elected to the board in 2014

Philip Yam

Simons Foundation

Currently, I am the editor-in-chief of the Simons Foundation website, but I spent most of my career at Scientific American, where I held positions that included news editor and online managing editor. I authored a 2003 book on prions and contributed to the 2005 NASW Field Guide for Science Writers. As my career matured, I became more involved with helping others in their careers. In 2013, I became president of the New York chapter of the Asian American Journalists Association, which aims to diversify newsrooms and develop members' professional skills. My work with AAJA also led me to join NASW's diversity committee. As an NASW board member, I would continue to work in that area and tap my AAJA experience, which has now involved working with other affinity groups. I believe my experience in the past few years especially can help NASW serve its members and its mission.

First elected to the board in 2016

Other key NASW people

Tinsley Davis, executive director
Organizer, NASW ScienceWriters annual meeting
P.O. Box 7905
Berkeley, CA 94707
Phone: (510) 647-9500

Lynne Friedmann, editor
P.O. Box 1725
Solana Beach, CA 92075
Phone: (858) 793-3537
Fax: (858) 345-3925

Russell Clemings, cybrarian
A'ndrea Elyse Messer, assistant cybrarian
National Association of Science Writers

The cybrarian is NASW's Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) agent.