Jenny Laaser, a doctoral candidate in physical chemistry from Palo Alto, California, studies how chemical reactions happen at various interfaces. But this summer, she’s traded her spot at the lab station for a desk in the newsroom at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
For summer 2013, the American Association for the Advancement of Science named Laaser a mass media fellow, giving her the opportunity to intern as a science reporter. In this role, she chases down interesting local science stories and translates technical scientific jargon into approachable and interesting articles.
Laaser’s interest in science writing stems from her curiosity about how scientists communicate their work to people who do not have science backgrounds.
“The way we tend to talk about science with other scientists is full of jargon, full of very complex sentence structures, and those are things that are really hard to throw at people who don’t already know what you’re talking about,” Laaser said.
She sees her experience at the Journal Sentinel as a way to improve her own ability to communicate science to others, as well as a chance to gain knowledge about science communication that she can share with her colleagues.
“I’m hoping that what I learn through my internship with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel this summer I’ll be able to bring back to my academic life and maybe help other students and scientists,” Laaser said.
She noted that scientists are increasingly being asked to do their own science communication, specifically through informal outreach. Laaser said she enjoys outreach and sees her reporting experience as getting another perspective on the types of science communication that scientists are asked to do.
“I truly love teaching,” Laaser said. “I really love talking about research and writing about research and telling people about research.”
After spending the summer learning about science communication, Laaser will return to the Chemistry Building to defend her thesis at the end of August. She plans to complete a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Minnesota.