2019 AAAS MMSEF Host Sites, This Post is for You.

I am honored to have been selected as a finalist for the 2019 AAAS Mass Media Science and Engineering Fellowship. I have no doubt that you at the host sites have an extremely talented pool of finalists from which to choose, so why should you choose me?

Because you will never find anyone that works harder than I do.

I may not be the most experienced science writer of the finalists or even the most talented applicant, and 99.9% of the time, I won’t be the smartest person in the newsroom. And that’s okay.

Because hard work outworks talent, when talent doesn’t work.

Most of my life, starting in high school, has been a prolonged exercise in hard work, dedication and determination, and I invite you to read more about that here, if you’re interested. I was undoubtedly an ambitious teenager, but my teenage self can’t hold a candle to the woman – and worker – that I am now.

Everyday I wake up, get myself ready, and make sure my beautiful daughter Emma leaves for school on time. I’m sure many of you know what a blessing and battle the morning routine with children can be.

No more than five minutes after Emma leaves, then it’s my turn to head for school. Except for me, school is in a different state. I commute almost three hours a day between Illinois and Wisconsin, where I attend the University of Wisconsin-Madison and work for Weiping Tang in the School of Pharmacy.

Weiping calls me “the glue that keeps his research group of 26 diverse people together” – I prefer to think of myself as the “Steph of all trades, master of none”.

Not only do I complete my own research, but I also am responsible for multiple other group-related tasks which include: preparation of manuscripts and grant proposals, promotion of a lab safety culture as the deputy chemical hygiene officer, maintenance of our automated chemical purification platform (which I established in 2017), equipment and chemical procurement, new student recruitment, and coordination of group outreach, community engagement, and mentoring. Each of these roles contribute to my development of a well-round scientist, but more importantly, they promote the success of the group. When it’s time to go home for the night, I find a professional development podcast or TED talk and head south.

The work doesn’t end when I get home though. In fact, it starts all over again. Checking Emma’s homework, dinner preparations and household chores all call my name. When Emma’s all tucked in for the night, it is back to my own work – preparing for the next day’s research, working on my development as a science writer, promoting my work on social media, learning about the latest research, and reading about current events in science and science policy. This nightly ritual is one of my favorite parts of the day because it’s when I’m working toward my goals and positioning myself for success after graduate school.

Am I on the go almost 24/7? Yes. Do I love the life I’m living and the work I’m doing? Unequivocally yes. I came back to graduate school because I knew how much untapped potential I had. I’m finally at a time in my life where I’m firing on all cylinders.

Let these cylinders work for you in 2019 – it’ll be one of the best decisions you’ve ever made. I look forward to joining you and your team as a AAAS Mass Media Science & Engineering Fellow this summer. Until then, take care.

Best wishes,



SciComm, Science Policy & Storytelling

Have you ever visited a foreign country and not spoken the native language of the people?

How many times did you find yourself repeating the same phrase or question, but raising your voice in a desperate attempt to be understood?

How often do scientists travel to Washington, D.C. to speak “science” to policymakers and inadvertently do the same thing?

This strategy is ineffective and unsuccessful. Our inability as scientists to clearly communicate our expertise to lawmakers and lay audiences undermines our ability to influence science policy and generate enthusiasm and support for basic science funding.

Fellow scientists – we do not have to do anything extraordinary to better communicate with policymakers. We simply need to become better storytellers.

Do you have any advice for communicating with lawmakers? If so, I would love to hear it. Feel free to communicate with me through this website or on Twitter @SBsciencespeak.


How Cold Weather & Coats Led Me to Science Communication

Although my mom doesn’t realize it, she destined me for a career in science communication.

Every year when the first signs of cold weather would appear, my mom would say, “Put your jacket on. You’re going to catch a cold.”

Her scientifically inaccurate statements – meant to elicit a desired action from me – didn’t end here.

I can vividly remember my mom saying, “If you want curly hair, eat your bread crust,” or “Don’t swallow your gum, or it’ll stay in your stomach for seven years.”

By age twelve, I knew enough about germs, genes and the digestive system that I often corrected her when she made these inaccurate statements. Since then, I have grown from a cheeky adolescent to a passionate science communicator and advocate.

It’s amazing how often I hear scientific inaccuracies muttered in day-to-day conversation. Instead of telling our children that cold temperatures lead to sickness, let’s be honest with them and explain what germs are. This might not entice them to wear their jacket, but at least you’re teaching them something valuable they can use in the future. Who knows, maybe your child with be a part of the next generation of science communicators.

My mom and I enjoying a rare girls’ night out – sans jackets.
Awards & Honors

Five UW-Madison Researchers Chosen for ACS National Awards

The American Chemical Society (ACS) honored five University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers with national awards.

Catherine Middlecamp, Tehshik Yoon, Robert McMahon, Ive Hermans, and Manos Mavrikakis will be recognized or give awards addresses at the ACS national meetings this year.

Click here for more information about the UW faculty members and why they were selected for these prestigious awards.

Awards & Honors

One-Trick Pony No More

Today marked an exciting day in my development as a scientist. I received my NIH CBI offer letter.

The UW-Madison Chemistry Biology Interface (CBI) Training Program, funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), is one of largest and oldest in the country. The program was initiated to provide outstanding graduate students with an opportunity to broaden and deepen their knowledge of research opportunities and advances at the chemistry-biology interface.

Through the CBI program, I will have access to courses in chemical biology, partake in monthly meetings of all trainees and their trainers to hear and present research, opportunities for regular feedback and one-on-one guidance in communication skills development, access to tools for professional development, formal training in ethics, and the opportunity complete an internship to explore career opportunities outside of academia.

Research at the interface of chemistry and biology has a long and distinguished history at UW–Madison. This research extends from the discovery of vitamins essential to human health, to the first chemical synthesis of a gene, to the discovery of therapeutics currently in clinical use. Plaques, buildings, and programs abound on our campus to commemorate these landmark discoveries. These objects and honorifics cannot do justice, however, to the impact these discoveries have had on everyday life.

Recent advances in the fields of chemistry and biology have made the need for interdisciplinary approaches even more important. Genomes can now be readily sequenced, but new strategies are needed to interpret and capitalize on the explosion of information from genomic and proteomic studies. The complexity of multifaceted diseases like cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s is now being revealed, setting the stage for design of innovative chemical probes and therapeutics to illuminate and treat these diseases. The staggering growth of antibiotic resistance demands new approaches to anti-infectives and microbial control. Characterization of the human microbiome is providing many new avenues for understanding the role of host–microbe interactions in health and disease. Addressing these complex problems requires scholars who are trained in both physical and biological sciences, who can ask the critical questions and then address them via innovative interdisciplinary approaches. Participation in the UW–Madison CBI training program will help me to recognize and tackle these important problems.