Award-winning journalist offers master class on science storytelling

Mutating viruses, nuclear fusion, quantum computing –scientific intricacies seem to make headlines daily, yet successfully communicating them to a general audience can be difficult. On March 15, award-winning science journalist Natalie Wolchover, Zubrow Distinguished Visiting Journalist in the College of Arts and Sciences, will offer a master class on “Bringing Science to Life Through Storytelling.”

She’ll explain how she turns discoveries in physics and mathematics into compelling, accurate narratives that engage lay readers and scientists alike. She’ll also share some general principles of good science writing, using examples published at Quanta Magazine, where she is currently a senior writer and editor. 

The in-person event is open to the Cornell community and will take place March 15 at 5 p.m. in the Lewis Auditorium in Goldwin Smith Hall.

“Ask a person on the street what ‘physics’ is, and they might break a sweat. Yet, through good storytelling, it’s possible to inform that person about advances and controversies at the bleeding edge of the field,” Wolchover said. “I hope the class will provide a helpful insight or two to anyone who does the important work of communicating complex information to the world.”

“Natalie Wolchover is known for diving deep into challenging subjects in her path-breaking stories, and for doing so with remarkable flair,” said Ray Jayawardhana, the Harold Tanner Dean of Arts and Sciences, an award-winning science writer himself. “I am delighted that, thanks to the Distinguished Visiting Journalist Program, we get to learn firsthand from an expert like her.”

Wolchover covers the physical sciences at Quanta Magazine and also has bylines in Nature,, Popular Science and other publications. She has a bachelor’s in physics from Tufts University, studied graduate-level physics at the University of California, Berkeley, and co-authored several academic papers in nonlinear optics.

Her writing has been featured in the Best American Science and Nature Writing and the Best Writing on Mathematics; her awards include the 2016 Evert Clark/Seth Payne Award and the American Institute of Physics’ 2017 Science Communication Award for Articles.

“I’m very excited about Natalie Wolchover’s appointment as a Zubrow Distinguished Visiting Journalist Fellow,” said Jan Rock Zubrow ’77. “As a non-scientist with a deep interest in science and tech, I really appreciate it when a writer can demystify a complex scientific discovery or principle and make it understandable.”

The A&S Distinguished Visiting Journalist Program recognizes excellence in journalism and fosters meaningful engagement between academia and the media. The program gives students and faculty opportunities to meet with and learn from eminent journalists and gives fellows opportunities to explore emerging discoveries and frontline scholarship at Cornell.

The program is funded through a significant endowment from Jan Rock Zubrow ’77 and Barry Zubrow that established the Jan and Barry Zubrow Distinguished Visiting Journalism Fellows Fund. The program has received additional philanthropic support from Jay Branegan ’72, Rose Gutfeld Edwards ’78 and the Dr. Guinevere Griest ’44 Fund for Public Engagement in A&S.

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