Science Notes          ***          Summer 1998


Science Notes from Santa Cruz is available only on the World Wide Web. All the articles were written and illustrated by students in the graduate program in science communication, class of 1998. Please negotiate reproduction rights directly with the writer and illustrator of any story you may wish to reproduce. You may email the Program for grads' email addresses:

T H E   W R I T E R S

Christie Aschwanden

"Shaking History"

The daughter of a U.S. Air Force jet fighter pilot, Christie raced bicycles professionally while studying biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and later working as a research assistant in a biotechnology laboratory in the same city. She applied her athlete's tenacity to her reporting and won a coveted part-time internship during spring quarter with Science magazine's Web news service, "ScienceNOW." She and her husband survived the rainiest winter on record in the Santa Cruz mountains, living in a small cabin with intermittent electrical power and other discomforts. Although she insists that she enjoyed her time in Santa Cruz, she's relieved to be home again, interning at the Boulder NPR affiliate FM radio station and freelancing to the AAAS's "Science NOW" and "Health," a Time-Warner magazine.

Mary Beckman

"Undersea Flurries"

Mary came to us by way of UC Irvine (B.S., biological sciences), University of Colorado, Boulder (Ph.D., molecular, cellular and developmental biology), and Stanford University, where she had followed her dissertation director, Karla Kirkegaard, while wrapping up her dissertation. Mary was one of a handful of students in the program's 17-year history to undertake, along with her classes, a part-time internship at San Francisco's Exploratorium (an hour and a half drive from Santa Cruz). During the same academic term she built a Web server from parts, at a cost of less than $1000 (at this writing, an off-the-shelf machine with similar capabilities costs at least five times that). Mary's internship takes her to the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory for six months.

Brandon Brown

"Breaking the Ice"

Brandon Brown was the only physicist in the class of 1998. He graduated from Rice University, in Houston, and completed a Ph.D. at Oregon State, in Corvallis, which he attended because that university allowed him to pursue physics and creative writing simultaneously. While in the program he interned two quarters at Archipelago Productions (a division of Harcourt Brace), a multimedia production company in Monterey that specializes in university-level science courseware. When he finished his coursework for the program he turned down a permanent, full-time job at Archipelago to accept a leave-replacement faculty position in physics at the University of San Francisco. Two of Brandon's pieces of writing burst into print before he graduated -- a short story, which appeared in the literary journal Mississippi Mud #39; and a profile, which appeared in Princeton University's alumni magazine. The latter piece, which focuses on a female marine scientist who left UC Santa Cruz to accept a position at Princeton, is represented here in a longer version.

Lila Guterman

"A Warming Argument"

Lila studied chemistry at Harvard, then studied more chemistry -- a different kind, she says -- at CalTech. After passing her Ph.D. orals at the latter institution, she decided research wasn't for her, but that writing about it was. While in the program she contributed not only crystalline prose but also especially sumptuous dishes to potlucks. She somehow found time to entertain the townsfolk (not to mention her classmates) by singing classical choral music in the Santa Cruz Chorale. She and Pulitzer Prize-winner Scott Thurm (then of the San Jose Mercury News and now of the Wall Street Journal), one of teachers in the program, discovered to their mutual surprise and delight that Scott had taken one of Lila's father's courses in mathematics at Tufts University. Lila's internship (six months) is at New Scientist, in London.

Michael Hagmann

"The Distiller of Dreams"

Michael was the program's only foreign national. A German who did his compulsory military service in the German Army's elite alpine troops ("a 15-month ski holiday," he says), Michael split his undergraduate work in biochemistry between the University of Bayreuth (Germany) and the Federal Institute of Technology (Switzerland). He stayed in Switzerland and completed his Ph.D. in molecular biology at the University of Zurich. Upon arriving in California, and looking forward to his first snow-free winter, he bought a snappy Fiat roadster -- just before El Nino began dumping its 90-plus inches of rain on Santa Cruz. Nevertheless, he became a star reporter for the Salinas Californian, interning there both winter and spring quarters. His internship is at Discover magazine, in Manhattan.

Laura Helmuth

"Magic, Mirrors and Murres"

For a Ph.D. in biological psychology (UC Berkeley), Laura showed an astonishing amount of knowldege of the flora of the central California coast while on a class outing in Big Sur. An inveterate traveler, she contributed pieces on Slovakia and the Czech Republic to "The Berkeley Guide to Eastern Europe" while a graduate student. She risked life and limb to report her murre story, then laughed about it afterward. She learned the ropes of daily reporting working two days a week for two consecutive quarters at the Salinas Californian. Now she's serving her six-month internship as a science communicator at the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory. At the same time, she's working by email with Shannon Brownlee, a senior editor at U.S. News and World Report, doing research for a book.

Karin Jegalian

"Sex and the Single X"

Born in Soviet Armenia, and still retaining a trace of an exotic accent, 25-year-old Karin may be the youngest Ph.D. in biology ever to emerge from M.I.T. While in the program she made a splash in the Santa Cruz Sentinel as a news reporter and feature writer "on the retired professor beat." At the same time, she was simultaneously writing an assigned major feature article for Scientific American and a research report for Nature -- both pieces on her Ph.D. research at M.I.T. in the lab of David Page. The Science Notes version of this story appears here. She was trenchantly described in a humor piece in a biomedical Web publication ("Frustrated in Philly," by Brian Vastag) whipping all comers for the prestigious internship in the science section of the Dallas Morning News.

Mitchell Leslie

"Whupped With an Ugly Stick"

Mitch came to Santa Cruz with a B.A. and M.A. in zoology from Austin, Texas. He's a lizard guy, and Texas offers lots of specimens. He dropped out of graduate school after the M.A. and took a job editing science textbooks for Texas high school students. Explaining how the experience heightened and refined his sense of the absurd, he cites a Texas law that allows any citizen of Texas to comment, for the record, on any textbook proposed for adoption in the state schools. Even the most extreme citizen comments must be taken into account, he says, in the preparation of texts. The experience left him with an extremely dry wit, which, along with his unusually eclectic trove of knowledge, earned him the rapt attention of his classmates whenever he spoke. His internship is at the Stanford Medical Center News Office.

Evelyn Strauss

"Getting It Right"

Evi earned her Ph.D. in biochemistry at UC San Francisco, then did postdoctoral research at Stanford (in Stanley Falkow's lab) while writing for the Stanford Medical Center News Office on the side. She completed a four-month internship at Science News magazine, in Washington, D.C., before entering the program. Once enrolled at UCSC, she broke all program records for publishing in national magazines before graduating, appearing several times in Science's "News and Comment" and "Research News" departments and twice in Scientific American's summer quarterly issue on women's health. Having done enough interning, and with Science pestering her to do more stories, she began freelancing full time immediately upon finishing her classwork for the program. An irrepressible singer of Broadway show tunes, she occasionally joined with classmate Lila in memorable duets.

T H E   I L L U S T R A T O R S

Cynthia Armstrong

"Magic, Mirrors and Murres"

Brittany Degner

"Getting It Right"

Lori Eccher

"Undersea Flurries"

Heidi Noland

"Breaking the Ice"

Michelle Schwengel

" A Warming Argument"

Christi Sobel

"The Distiller of Dreams"

Carolyn Staehle

"Whupped With an Ugly Stick"

Jeremy Stoller

"Sex and the Single X"

  Unless noted otherwise, Web design and NASA image research by Cassie Ferguson ('96)
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