Growing up my heroes were mostly scientists and writers – or people who were both: Charles Darwin and Charles Dickens; Jane Austen and Jane Goodall; Galileo, Stephen Jay Gould, Virginia Woolf and Gary Paulsen.
In my adolescence I imagined my future self studying animals in the wild and probably discovering new species. My future self would also write novels. And take pictures for National Geographic. You know, all in a day’s work.
At Tufts University I started taking classes in biology, psychology, English lit and creative writing. When I wasn’t analyzing 20th Century modernist novels, I was designing groundbreaking experiments in social psychology. One time, for example, I tied a sign that read “Don’t Pull!” to a tree and hid nearby. Pen and notebook in hand, I counted how many people approached the sign, how many ignored it and how many actually pulled it. I can’t remember what the hypothesis was or what anyone learned from the research. I do remember that someone threw their shoe at the sign and that the experiment ended when one boy pulled so hard that down came the sign, tree branch and all.
Eventually I concluded that I wasn’t very good at designing experiments and that I probably wouldn’t get any impressive grants to study the behavior of lemurs on Madagascar. But I didn’t want to give up science altogether. Fortunately I stumbled onto an appealing alternative. The summer after my junior year I interned with Psychology Today magazine in New York, where I wrote about mad scientists, yoga, social networks and the common cold. I realized that instead of conducting science and writing on the side, I could try writing about science. My senior year at Tufts I continued to explore science communication: I fact-checked scripts for NOVA and helped film a scene in which Steven Pinker played basketball with Neil deGrasse Tyson.
After graduating from Tufts, I went to New York University to earn a Masters in Science, Health and Environmental Reporting. Along the way I wrote articles for Scientific American, Scientific American MIND, Popular Mechanics and Environmental Health News. Shortly before graduating from NYU, New Scientist hired me as a reporter in their Waltham, Massachusetts office, so I moved to Cambridge, MA. 10 months later, Scientific American offered me a job as an associate editor focusing on neuroscience, so I moved back to New York. And that’s pretty much my story so far.