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NASW workshop
CASW New Horizons in Science
Lunch with a scientist

  • NH
    Erez Lieberman Aiden

    Assistant professor, Baylor College of Medicine Department of Genetics and Rice University Department of Computational and Applied Mathematics

    Erez Lieberman Aiden directs the recently established Center for Genome Architecture at Baylor. His wide-ranging work has involved both invention and theoretical science. While a graduate student at Harvard and MIT, he and colleagues burst onto the cover of Nature with the first clear demonstration that natural selection applies to the evolution of languages. With Martin Nowak, he is credited with the disovery of evolutionary graph theory, now widely used to understand the effects of structure on evolution.

    Lieberman Aiden's contributions have won wide recognition. He won the Lemelson-MIT Student Prize for his work on the iShoe, a shoe to assist elderly people with balance problems, and in 2009 was named one of MIT Technology Review’s top 35 innovators under 35. He won the Hertz Thesis Prize and the American Physical Society’s outstanding thesis prize in biological physics for 2010 and was elected a Junior Fellow of the Harvard Society of Fellows upon receiving his PhD the same year. Science featured his articles laying out the folding principles of the genome and the analysis of culture using books digitized by Google. Awarded the NIH New Innovator Award in 2011, today he continues to work in culturomics while applying mathematical and computational approaches to the three-dimensional architectural of the human genome.


  • WK
    Nate Allen

    Head Moderator of Reddit's /r/Science and Principal Scientist, Sigma-Aldrich Company

    Nate Allen is the Head Moderator and Organizer of the Science AMA Series on Reddit.com (not an employee of Reddit). He and his team of scientist-volunteers endeavor to make sure that all posts to reddit science cite peer-reviewed papers in scientific journals, and that all discourse on science news remains civil and on-topic. He helps universities, journals, and scientific societies plan and run successful science AMAs.

    Dr. Allen is a Principal Scientist in New Product Development at Sigma-Aldrich in Milwaukee, WI.

  • WK
    Dana Amihere

    Interactive editor, the Dallas Morning News

    Dana Amihere is an interactive editor for the Dallas Morning News, contributing to the paper's online storytelling and data visualization efforts. Previously, she worked as a web developer for Pew Research Center and as an interactive designer on the Baltimore Sun’s data desk.


  • NH
    Tim Anderson

    Scientist, Texas Biomedical Research Institute

    Tim Anderson has been studying parasites for three decades. Today his lab investigates the genetic basis and evolution of biomedically important traits in two groups of parasites together responsible for more than 800,000 deaths per year — Plasmodium, the malaria parasite, and the blood fluke Schistosoma. They are using genomic analysis of field-collected parasites and genetic crosses to identify drug resistance genes. The combined approach provides a way to understand drug resistance, host specificity, parasite virulence, and multiple other important biomedical traits. An Oxford graduate, Anderson earned his PhD at the University of Rochester and did postdoctoral work in Oxford and Milan. He has previously studied mice on Scottish islands, butterfly-ant symbioses in Australia, Wolbachia endosymbionts in filarial nematodes, and roundworm transmission in Guatemalan villages.


  • WK
    Christie Aschwanden

    Senior Science Writer, 538

    Christie Aschwanden is the lead science writer at FiveThirtyEight. Her work also appears in the Washington Post, the New York Times, Discover, Smithsonian, Mother Jones, Popular Science, and O, the Oprah Magazine. Aschwanden has received journalism fellowships from the Santa Fe Institute, the Carter Center, and the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting. She was a National Magazine Award finalist in 2011, and her work has been honored by the Society of Professional Journalists, National Institute for Health Care Management, NASW and the American Society of Journalists and Authors. She tweets @CragCrest.


  • WK
    Sarena Bahad

    Founder, @WomenInTech Snapchat Channel

    Sarena Bahad is a global business and community development professional. With experience working in top markets: San Francisco, Miami, London and New York, Sarena brings unique big-picture strategy to her work with local recruiting and BD teams.

    She is the founder of the thriving @WomenInTech Snapchat channel which highlights a different inspiring woman from around the map every weekday. @WomenInTech is a place where women can learn, discover, connect, story-tell and get inspired on Snapchat, which is the most compelling social media engagement platform of our time. She is deeply passionate about closing the diversity gap in the tech industry.

    Feel free to connect with her directly on Twitter or Snapchat.

  • WK
    Aleszu Bajak

    Senior Writer, Undark

    Aleszu Bajak is a senior writer at Undark, a magazine exploring the intersection of science and society based at the Knight Science Journalism Program at MIT. Bajak himself was a MIT Knight Science Journalism Fellow in 2013, where he examined the interface between journalists, designers and developers. He also teaches journalism at Northeastern University and Brandeis University.

    Bajak is also the founder and editor of Storybench.org, an under-the-hood guide to digital storytelling, and is the creator of LatinAmericanScience.org, a resource for science news and opinion out of Latin America. In 2010, he launched Ciencia Cierta, a Spanish language blog for the public radio show, Science Friday.

    Bajak has reported across the Americas and been published in the Washington Post, the Boston Globe Magazine, Esquire, Nature, Science, New Scientist, Beer Advocate, and Guernica, among other outlets. The son of a Peruvian artist and an American foreign correspondent, Bajak grew up in New Jersey, Germany, and Colombia and has lived in Chile, Peru, and Argentina.

    Aleszu Bajak can be reached via Twitter at @aleszubajak. Follow Undark at @undarkmag.


  • WK
    Laura Beil

    Freelance health and science journalist

    Laura Beil has more than 20 years of experience in health and science writing. In 2014, she received the top medical journalism award from the American Society of Journalists and Authors. She began her career in newspapers, and was the longtime medical reporter for the Dallas Morning News. In 2006, she left the world of daily journalism to write mostly for magazines. She is a contributor at Men’s Health, and a correspondent for Science News magazine. While she specializes in matters of health and science, she has also written about gun-toting liberals for D magazine, and was the writer-reporter of the “Thugs” episode for the NPR series This American Life. She grew up in the piney woods of East Texas, but now lives outside Dallas.


  • WK
    Jennifer E. "Piper" Below

    Assistant professor, Human Genetics Center, The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston

    Jennifer E. “Piper” Below is an assistant professor in the Human Genetics Center at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston in the School of Public Health. She work to understand the genetic basis of human diseases, from complex traits (in which multiple environmental and genetic factors play a role in susceptibility) like type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer's disease, to rare Mendelian disorders such as distal arthrogryposis, ataxia, or opsismodysplasia (which can be caused by a mutation in just a single gene).

    Specifically, she spends time thinking about novel mathematical or statistical approaches to finding genes that contribute to risk, particularly approaches that work in related people (families). She recently published a method called PRIMUS (yes, like the band...) that can read in raw genetic data for related people and from that information alone, draw the genealogy that fits the data. This is useful for correcting errors in family data and detecting family structures that we did not know were in our data.

    In 2015, Dr. Below participated in a reddit science AMA, where she fielded hundreds of questions about her research. Now she’s a reddit moderator, helping other scientists through the process. Once, reddit even helped her find her dog.

  • WK
    Mallory Black


    Mallory Black, an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation, is a freelance writer based out of San Diego, California. Her stories on Native American communities in the areas of culture, health and the environment have been published by the Native Health News Alliance, Native Peoples Magazine and by the American Heart Association’s Voices for Healthy Kids Initiative.

    Mallory earned a master’s degree in journalism from the Medill School at Northwestern University and a bachelor’s degree in communication and minor in peace and justice studies from Utah Valley University. Now based in California, Mallory also serves as the Communications Specialist for the San Diego State University Division of Student Affairs. As a member of the Native American Journalists Association and the Society of Professional Journalists, Mallory is also a former National Press Foundation fellow.



  • WK
    Melissa Blouin

    Director of news and publications, UF Health

    As director of news and publications for UF Health, Melissa works with her team and others to continually increase the visibility of the institution by understanding and adapting to the changing media landscape over time. She has more than 20 years of experience leading teams of journalists, media relations professionals, science writers and other communicators. She regularly counsels UF Health leaders about how to communicate on sensitive issues of importance to the institution and to others.


  • NH
    Deborah Blum

    Director, Knight Science Journalism Program at MIT

    Deborah Blum is a Pulitzer Prize-winning science journalist, columnist, and author of five books, including The Poisoner’s Handbook (2010) and Love at Goon Park (2002). She is a former president of NASW, was a member of the governing board of the World Federation of Science Writers, serves on the CASW board, and chairs the Program Committee for the 2017 World Conference of Science Journalists. Blum is co-editor of the book A Field Guide for Science Writers. In 2015 she was selected as the fourth director of the Knight Science Journalism Program at MIT. She is founder and publisher of KSJ’s magazine, Undark.



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