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Love Your Science? Communicate It.

Posted on Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Christine Wilcox has always had an unbounded curiosity. At five years old, a teacher asked her what she liked to do for fun. Wilcox told her teacher, “I like to open the mouths of dead geckos to look at their tongues.”

“That is quintessentially me—I have always been a biologist,” she says.

Wilcox is an ARCS Scholar Alum who earned her PhD in Cell and Molecular Biology at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. By then, she was already blogging about science, and her curiosity had no end. Now, Wilcox is a professional, award-winning science writer and editor.

During her PhD years, she says writing was an outlet for her. “I could just ask questions of other researchers, like, tell me about this whale. I'm not studying whales. But tell me about this whale that you found. That's how I managed my curiosity,” she explains.

Wilcox has written for The Washington Post, National Geographic, The Wall Street Journal, and Discover, to name a few. She is currently the newsletter editor for Science. Her book Venomous was published in 2016 and named one of the best science books that year by Smithsonian Magazine. She was also a contributing editor for Science Blogging: The Official Guide that year.

She says every scientist, including those still in training, should share their research and passion, no matter the audience. There are benefits of science communication. “If you're not putting your science out there, how is anyone supposed to find it? Wilcox explains. She encourages fellow scientists to share their work with the general public, colleagues who might be doing similar experiments, or potential collaborators. 

There are many media options for sharing, but she mentions that “there is no rulebook or one way to share."

“Start with what you are good at,” Wilcox advises. “You can then do things like write a The Conversation piece about your paper when it comes out.”

Wilcox says ARCS Scholar Awards are helpful during graduate school. “The life of a graduate student is not enviable.” The ARCS Scholar award, she explains, “for me, it was essential. It was what I needed, the kind of funding to pursue these curiosities that I had. And I was grateful for it.”

She is currently the Science newsletter editor of ScienceAdviser, a publication that provides readers with a daily distillation of the latest science news. As part of her science work and in keeping with our Women Making History theme for March, we’re linking her article “Women faculty feel ‘pushed’ from academia by poor workplace climate”.

“I still love geckos,” she says. “I love animals. I'm one of those people that you have to tell not to touch the animals. Because I will.”