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Knight Science Journalism Program at MIT announces 2018-19 class of fellows

Ten top journalists from four countries will spend nine months at MIT, designing their own course of study.
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The Knight Science Journalism Program at MIT (KSJ), an internationally renowned mid-career fellowship program, announced today that 10 elite science journalists from four countries will make up its Class of 2018-19.

Each year the KSJ program, which celebrates its 35th anniversary this year, brings journalists to Cambridge for a 10-month fellowship that allows them to explore science, technology, and the craft of journalism in depth, to concentrate on a specialty in science, and to learn at some of the top research universities in the world.

The 10 fellows, selected from more than 120 applicants, are an award-winning and diverse group, ranging from veteran science reporters for The Los Angeles Times and the Associated Press to the Cairo-based chief editor of Nature Middle East to a Russian-born PhD in economics who found a new career as an investigative data journalist.

“We are thrilled to again bring a remarkable group of science journalists to MIT,” says Deborah Blum, KSJ director, herself a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist and the author of six popular science books. “We know they’ll find this a unique, fascinating, and influential learning experience — and we look forward learning from them as well.”

KSJ@MIT, supported by a generous endowment from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, is recognized around the world as the premier mid-career fellowship program for science writers, editors, and multimedia journalists, and as publisher of the award-winning digital magazine Undark. Since its founding in 1983, it has hosted more than 300 fellows representing media outlets from The New York Times to Le Monde, from CNN to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, and more.

With support from the program, fellows pursue an academic year of independent study, augmented by twice-weekly science-focused seminars taught by some of the world’s leading scientists and storytellers, as well as a variety of rotating, skills-focused master classes and workshops. The goal: fostering professional growth among the world’s small but essential community of journalists covering science and technology, and encouraging them to pursue that mission, first and foremost, in the public interest.

The 2018-19 KSJ fellows are:

Pakinam Amer, chief editor of Nature Middle East, published by Nature Research and part of Springer Nature, one of the world’s leading global research publishers. Previously, she worked as a journalist for media including the Associated Press, the German Press Agency, Egypt Today, and Business Today. Before becoming a science journalist, she specialized in current affairs and conflict reporting in Egypt and the Arab world. She produces and hosts Nature Middle East's podcast, the Arab region's first science podcast in English.

Magnus Bjerg, a digital projects manager at TV 2 in Denmark, the biggest Danish news broadcaster. He is part of the station’s editorial development team, which won five digital awards in 2017, including honors from the Society for News Design Scandinavia and the Association of Danish Media (best digital story of the year), and is president of the Danish Online News Association. Previously he was a digital reporter at, Denmark’s most viewed news site.

Talia Bronshtein, investigative data journalist and former interactives editor at STAT, the Boston-based health news site. After earning a doctorate in economics, she was a Fulbright scholar at Brandeis University, a professor of economics in her native country of Russia, and a consultant on Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Her visualization of 200 years of immigration to the U.S. was featured in “Best American Infographics 2016,” and her investigation of reporting violations in clinical trials won an AAAS Kavli Science Journalism Gold Award.

Jason Dearen, correspondent and member of the global environment team for The Associated Press. His accountability journalism has spurred regulatory action and policy change at both state and federal levels. His coverage of flooded toxic waste sites during Hurricane Harvey exposed inaction by the EPA, resulting in $115 million in clean-up efforts in Houston. He has received numerous honors, including from Investigative Reporters and Editors and the Society of Environmental Journalists. He attended the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism.

Lisa DeBode, a freelance journalist who writes in English and Dutch for The Atlantic, NPR, and The Guardian, among others. A former reporter at Al Jazeera America in New York and a field producer at CNN in Brussels, she is the author of “Europa: An Illustrated Introduction to Europe for Migrants and Refugees,” and a 2017 fellow at the International Women’s Media Foundation. In 2016, her reporting sparked a law that provides free pads and tampons to New York City shelters, public schools, and prisons.

Tim De Chant, senior digital editor at NOVA, where he is founding editor of the digital magazine NOVA Next, and a lecturer in MIT’s Graduate Program in Science Writing. He has written for Wired, The Chicago Tribune, and Ars Technica, among other publications. Before turning to science journalism, he received a PhD in landscape ecology from the University of California at Berkeley, and a BA in environmental studies, English, and biology from St. Olaf College.

Jeff DelViscio, director of multimedia and creative at STAT, where he oversees video, photography, animation, interactives, audio, and social media. He previously spent nearly nine years at The New York Times. He holds dual master's degrees from Columbia in journalism and in earth and environmental sciences. He has worked aboard oceanographic research vessels and tracked money and politics in science from Washington. When Jeff was 3, science saved his life after a run-in with a lawnmower; he’s been trying to give back to science ever since.

Elana Gordon, reporter and audio producer at WHYY public radio in Philadelphia and a founding member of its health and science show, “The Pulse.” She previously worked at KCUR in Kansas City. She has covered everything from drugs and medical bills to the mystery surrounding a 19th-century horse thief. Her stories have been featured on NPR, Kaiser Health News, “99% Invisible,” The Washington Post, and PRI’s “The World.” In 2017, her documentary about the discovery of Legionnaires' disease received a regional Edward R. Murrow Award.

Rachel E. Gross, online science editor at Smithsonian magazine, where she helps readers make sense of new scientific discoveries and spotlights unsung women in the history of science. Before that she was a science reporter for Slate, where she won the 2016 Religion News Association’s Best Online News Story Award for her profile of an evangelical creationist who embraced evolution. She has covered religion and science for Moment, America’s leading independent Jewish magazine, and traveled to Auschwitz on a FASPE fellowship to study journalism ethics.

Amina Khan, science writer at The Los Angeles Times. Over nearly nine years at the paper, she has covered Mars landings, explored underground gold mines, and witnessed a brain surgery. A graduate of the University of California at Berkeley, she’s the author of “Adapt,” a book about the future of biologically inspired design, and was a staff writer for the Netflix show “Bill Nye Saves the World.”

During the nine-month academic year, starting in August, KSJ fellows design their own course of study, exploring the wide range of offerings at MIT, Harvard University, and other institutions in Cambridge and greater Boston.  The program is designed to offer a rich and varied mix of coursework, attendance at departmental colloquia, research trips, lab visits, interviews, reading, and writing.

Fellows are required to produce a research project, which can form the basis of a future story, the foundation of a book proposal, or a detailed report on an area of science. All fellows give a formal presentation on their projects at the conclusion of the fellowship year. (The 2017-18 fellows are pursuing topics as varied as artificial intelligence in journalism, the science of painkillers, plant de-extinction, and the legacy of the McCarthy era among scientists at MIT and Harvard.) 

KSJ was launched in 1983 under the guidance of its founding director, Victor McElheny, with the firm commitment of MIT to play a key role in enriching public understanding of science. It is part of MIT’s acclaimed Program in Science, Technology, and Society in the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences. It is endowed by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, with support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Mellon Foundation, and the Kavli Foundation.

Since it began, the KSJ program has hosted some 350 fellows, many of whom continue to cover science for a wide array of platforms, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Time, Scientific American, Science, and many broadcast and online outlets. In 2016 the program launched a digital science magazine, Undark, and is exploring other innovative ways to interact with and support the global science journalism community.

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