Following the highly successful launch of its one-of-a-kind York Science Communicator in Residence program last year, the Faculty of Science opened a second call for applications, and has selected three impressive science communicators for 2018-19: Molly Segal, B.D. Colen and Dan Falk.
“Once again, the program attracted high-calibre candidates from all over the world, reaffirming widespread interest and demand for opportunities that promote excellence in science communications and journalism,” says Ray Jayawardhana, dean of science at York University. “We are delighted to continue the program for a second year with three outstanding residents with a diverse range of talents in radio, photography and writing.”
The residents will be immersed with researchers, students and staff at York’s Faculty of Science, where they will have the opportunity to dig for rich, undiscovered science stories and pursue creative projects. Researchers at the Faculty of Science will have opportunities to learn from the residents about how to elevate their own communication skills. The residents will also collaborate with the newly appointed Carswell Chair for the Public Understanding of Astronomy to expose York students to best practices and new trends in science communications.
“Being curious is at the heart of what I do, so to get the chance to surround myself with people who are fundamentally curious about the world is a treat,” says Segal, an independent journalist based in the Canadian Rockies. “It’s an honour to learn more about the research happening at York’s Faculty of Science in such an in-depth way. As a journalist producing science stories for radio and podcasts, I see a link between my work and the communication skills scientists can build to bridge their work to the public.”
Segal produces documentaries and feature stories for radio and podcasts. Her work airs on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s national radio programs – including “Ideas,” “Tapestry,” “The World This Weekend” and “The Doc Project” – as well as WHYY/NPR’s “The Pulse” and WBUR/NPR’s “Here & Now.” Her audio work is also featured on podcasts, including MIT’s “Undark” science podcast and KCRW’s “Here Be Monsters.” Segal has also worked for CBC Radio and TV, reporting and producing from across Canada. Some of her recent radio work has taken her into Alberta’s remote mountains by helicopter in search of grizzlies and to ancient hot springs reporting on endangered snails. Never afraid to have an adventure, her radio toolkit includes bear spray and binoculars, along with her microphone and recorder.
“Improving public understanding of, and respect for, the sciences and scientists is literally essential for humankind’s continued survival,” says Colen. “I look forward to working with York’s researchers and students to help them find ways to communicate with an increasingly skeptical public.”
Between his years as a reporter, editor and columnist for the Washington Post and Newsday, and his years in academic and corporate public affairs, Colen, a Pulitzer Prize recipient, has 40 years of experience in science and medical communications. Colen, who taught science feature writing, news writing and documentary photography for 19 years at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), covered subjects ranging from the early years of the HIV-AIDS epidemic to bioethical issues surrounding death and dying and the care of premature infants. In his public affairs career, he was at various points the media affairs director for Harvard Medical School, communications director of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and for 11 years he was the director of communications for the Harvard Stem Cell Institute and Harvard University’s senior communications officer for university science. Now a permanent resident of Canada, living in London, Colen is the author of 10 published books, all on medically related subjects, including Born At Risk, O.R. The True Story of 24 hours in a Hospital Operating Room, Mr. King, You’re Having A Heart Attack (with Larry King) and Hard Choices: Mixed Blessings of Modern Medical Technology.
And with all of that, Colen says his first and greatest love has always been photography, which he began professionally by photographing the historic March On Washington For Jobs and Freedom for a weekly newspaper five days after he turned 17.
“I’m thrilled to have the chance to spend an extended period getting to know York’s Faculty of Science,” says Falk. “The need for high-quality, responsible science journalism is greater than ever. During my residency, I’ll be speaking with faculty members from a range of scientific disciplines, searching for compelling stories while broadening my knowledge-base; as well, I’m keen on sharing what I’ve learned about the process of bringing science to the public.”
Falk is an award-winning science journalist based in Toronto. His writing credits include Scientific American, New Scientist, Astronomy, The Walrus, Nautilus, Aeon, Quanta, Slate and NBCnews.com. He’s written three popular science books, most recently The Science of Shakespeare. Falk has appeared regularly on several CBC Radio programs and has contributed more than a dozen documentaries to CBC’s “Ideas.” He also co-hosts “BookLab,” a podcast that reviews popular science books. In 2011-12, he was a Knight Science Journalism Fellow at MIT.