FEd December 1997 Newsletter - First Two APS Mass Media Fellows Complete Their Terms

December 1997



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First Two APS Mass Media Fellows Complete Their Terms

The first two APS mass media fellows have completed their fellowship tenures, one with a newspaper and one with a radio station. Jeffrey Chuang, a physics graduate student at MIT, spent 10 weeks this summer at the Dallas Morning News, while David Kestenbaum, a staff scientist at Femilab, spent 10 weeks at radio station WOSU in Columbus. Both of them report their experiences as interesting and profitable.

The APS Mass Media Fellowship Program was initiated by the Forum on Education, particularly through the efforts of Natalia Meshkov and James Wynne. Rather than create an entirely new program, it was decided to work with the AAAS Mass Media Science & Engineering Fellow Program, an established, successful program with administrative infrastructure and contacts with the media. In its 21-year existence, this program has placed approximately 350 fellows with news magazines, newspapers, and TV networks. The FEd Executive Committee proposed to the APS Council that a similar program be set up to enable physicists to spend up to three months working in the mass media. By all accounts, the program has been successfully launched.

Jeffrey Chuang, who received his BA in chemistry and physics from Harvard, is currently a PhD candidate at MIT, working in quantum computation theory. During his term at the Dallas Morning News he wrote more than 20 articles, including a film review and a story about a strange rotation of the Earth, which was published in the front section of the newspaper. From his editor, he says, he learned how to explain complex ideas and how to keep the reader interested. Also important to him was the new perspective he gained on science and the importance of mixing specialization with breadth in science. "It will be much easier for me to read and appreciate scientific journals when I get back," he commented. His experience didn't change his career goals, however. "I still want to be a professor at a liberal arts college, and I'll write on the side when I have time. That's what I thought I wanted to do before the summer, and this has confirmed it."

"I had the time of my life this summer," says David Kestenbaum. "I have been in love with public radio since I was a kid, but before this summer I hadn't the faintest idea how to put a radio piece together." Kestenbaum, who received his BS degree from Yale and his PhD from Harvard, is a staff physicist at Fermilab. He has written articles for the Cern Courier and Fermi News, as well as freelance articles for the Chicago Reader. His second day on the job at radio station WOSU, he proposed a story idea on Manatees (the Columbus zoo was vying to house the first one outside of Florida). He went to the zoo, talked to animal rights activists and biologists, and the third day he was on the air with a three-minute piece. His fellowship firmed up his desire to pursue a career in scientific journalism, and he would like to work for NPR.