I’m a NYC- and California-based journalist and editor focused on medicine and science. I write for a range of digital and tangible publications, most recently Popular Science, Scientific American, Stat, Nautilus, Backchannel, Wired, Aeon, and Genome.
I’m most interested in what happens when scientific ideas and discoveries hit the real world. I believe the zone where science, money, power and politics connect is the right place for journalism.
Along these lines, I’ve recently written about the companies that offer to pay you for your DNA; how other people make money off your medical records and why it’s still so hard for you to get them, and how new drugs for cystic fibrosis save people’s lives—for $259,000 a year.
In past lives, I was a special projects editor at Discover, where I directed single-topic issues such as THE BRAIN and EXTREME PLANET. Before that I was senior editor at Psychology Today, covered the first genomics bubble as a reporter at GenomeWeb, and badgered the Giuliani administration as an editor at a scrappy little investigative newsmagazine in New York City. For more than ten years I was also a flower-grower, sidewalk-sweeper, compost-shoveler and board member at one of the oldest and prettiest community gardens on the lower East Side of NYC. (Current emeritus position: User Experience Digital Ninja At Large).
Now, I mostly write features for digital magazines (see stories). As project editor, I organized and stage-directed the 2018 Grist 50, the environmental news site's flagship list of the smartest, awesomest, most inspiring up-and-comers in sustainability. Features I edited for the autism news website Spectrum won multiple awards for excellence from the Association of Health Care Journalists and the National Institute for Health Care Management. I also sometimes edit for Spectrum, Grist and other publications (see more on editing page).
I also volunteer in the Lindsay Wildlife Museum hospital, where I feed baby birds, wrangle raptors, and scrape stuff off of cages. When I’m not doing those things, I'm somewhere outside, running around or growing flowers like these.
Neo.Life, September 2017 The price of DNA sequencing is falling. The value of the data is increasing. The result: Some new companies will pay you—or give you something good—for access to your data. Can the DNA-for-dollars business model work?
Scientific American, June 2017 For years, the man kept coming back to the hospital with blinding headaches, his face partly paralyzed. Finally, a new DNA-based test caught the culprit: A worm in his brain.
Nautilus, November 2016 For a long time, biologists didn’t want to talk about parthenogenesis: Having babies without having sex. It seemed to break all the rules of evolution. Now, a few adventurous researchers are finding that this bizarre form of sex is quite effective.
Backchannel, February 2016 Why is it so difficult to get your own health data—and how do so many other people make money off of it? Meet the data dissidents: a young man with cancer who dissected his own brain tumor, then built a web site to host all his data. A mother who unearthed her baby’s mystery illness in his medical files. A security expert who can't trust the code that runs her own pacemaker.
Scientific American, September 2017 Sequencing the short scraps of DNA floating around in your blood could become a stethoscope for the future, detecting mystery infections, tiny tumors, maybe even strokes and autoimmune disease.
Backchannel, December 2016 Some of the greatest minds in cancer research now say the same thing: It's time to stop fighting the war on cancer, and stop the disease before it starts.
Bay Nature, Fall 2016 These sneaky little carnivores were wiped out in the San Francisco Bay decades ago. Without any help or protection, they've quietly come back. Will they stay?
Quartz, March 2016 New genomics-based non-invasive pregnancy tests promise peace of mind. But as the tests add more and more extremely rare conditions, their accuracy plummets. Expecting mothers are left baffled and worried about the confusing results they get.
Popular Science, September 2017 While origins-of-life researchers still fight about how life got started, they now agree upon when: Very very early. The implication: Life is quick and easy—and it just might be everywhere.
Stat News, December 2016 People who volunteer for medical research provide buckets of data, but they can’t access it themselves. An unlikely mix of grassroots activists and big pharma pioneers is changing that equation.
Audubon, March-April 2016
Urban ecologist John Marzluff is one of the world’s foremost experts on the minds—and brains—of crows. How can these birds remember individual people for so many years? Why do they hold funerals? And what’s with the Cheetos, anyhow?
Mother Jones, Sept-Oct 2015 Scott Fahrenkrug and his startup Recombinetics are using gene editing to make farm animals’ lives better. He believes biotech can create healthier piglets, more contented cows, and cheerier chickens. Will anti-GMO activists crush his hopes?