journalist + Editor

Kat McGowan



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 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 a startup company that plans to use gene editing to improve animal welfare; how other people make money off your medical records and why it’s still so hard for you to get access to them; how new drugs for cystic fibrosis transform people’s lives—at the price of $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 genomics bubble as a reporter at GenomeWeb, and badgered the Giuliani administration as an editor at a scrappy little award-winning investigative newsmagazine in New York City. For more than ten years I was also a flower-grower, sidewalk-sweeper, turtle-feeder and compost-shoveler at one of the oldest (and prettiest) community gardens on the lower East Side of NYC.

Now, I mostly write features for digital magazines (see stories). I’m a consulting editor for features at the autism news website Spectrum. I sometimes edit for publications such as Scientific American Mind and Nautilus (see more on editing page).

And I volunteer in the hospital of the Lindsay Wildlife Museum, feeding baby jays, medicating injured barn owls, and scraping stuff off of cages. When I’m not doing those things, I’m usually outside (see photo).



A Radically Simple Idea Will Let Us Catch Cancer Before It’s Cancer

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.

Can training help people unlearn a lifetime of racial bias?

Nautilus, November 2016 Unconscious racism is real, common and influential. Corporations and police departments spend big bucks to teach their employees to unlearn their bias—with little proof these classes work.

Our Medical Data Must Become Free

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.

More research volunteers.png

More research volunteers are getting their medical test results. Should we cheer — or worry?

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.


welcome back, otters

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?

Prenatal testing is about to make being pregnant a lot more stressful

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.

When Pseudosex Is Better Than the Real Thing

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. A few adventurous researchers are learning that this bizarre form of begetting sheds light on the history of sex itself.

Meet the Bird Brainiacs: American Crow

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?

This Scientist Might End Animal Cruelty—Unless GMO Hardliners Stop Him

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?



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