ASPB/AAAS Mass Media Fellowship Alumnus spotlight – Nikki Forrester

Interested in science communication? Look no further. The AAAS Mass Media Science & Engineering Fellowship carries out the mission to increase public understanding of science and technology. Over the past decades, more than 700 scientists have gone through the 10-week summer program and explored the realm of science journalism. ASPB is a proud sponsor of the fellowship and would love to foster our community members to become engaging science communicators. We interviewed our recent ASPB/AAAS fellows to hear about their experiences in the program as well as how the program pivoted their careers and perspectives.

The deadline for the 2021 application is on January 1, 2021 at 11:59 EST. Student and postdoc (or within one year of completion) are encouraged to apply.

 

Nikki Forrester (2019)

The fellowship was introduced to Nikki by one of her good friends who was a 2016 fellow, Carolyn Beans. Nikki spent 10 weeks working as a science journalist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the largest daily newspaper in the St. Louis metropolitan area. “My goal was to tell science stories that were relevant to everyone in St. Louis,” said Nikki. The thriving scientific community in St. Louis produces no shortage of stories; Nikki covered research on golf grasses, cat allergies, Apollo moon samples, and opiate-producing microbes as well as writing about businesses going green,Bolivian river dolphins, and urban gardens. One of her favorite stories was about the Tyson Research Center, a 2000-acre landscape that housed interdisciplinary research and educational programs, and how it brought together scientists, artists, architects, and the broader pubic. “Through working on these stories, I traveled all around the city to conduct interviews and see science in action. I met people I probably never would have encountered otherwise. Nearly every scientist I talked to in St. Louis described how their research helped address environmental and social injustices in the city. Because of this, I couldn’t just write stories about the science – I had to tell stories of people, challenges, wonder, and discovery, all of which occurred in a particular place with its own realities and needs,” described Nikki.

The fellowship kicked off Nikki’s career as a freelance science journalist covering a wide spectrum of international and local topics. She writes about scientific career for Nature; her recent stories include featured academic scientists who started their own brewing and fermentation businesses and how research group leaders can support diversity in STEM. In addition, she works for the nonprofit organization Science Feedback to fact-check media coverage about climate change and ecology. Last but not least, she and her fiancé publish an independent local outdoor adventure magazine in West Virginia called Highland Outdoors, which covers recreations, landscapes, etc. “I absolutely love working with contributors and chatting with readers about their visions for the future of outdoor recreation in West Virginia. It inspires us to continue growing not only the magazine, but also the community of passionate adventurers in the state,” said Nikki. She added, “The Mass Media fellowship opened a world of possibilities for me in the world of science journalism. The skills I gained working in the newsroom and community of science writers I met through the program continue to shape the work I do and my perspective on science communication. If you’re interested in science communication, apply!”

 

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