Tag Archives: science writing

Get Involved with the BSR!


Dear BSR Community,

If you haven’t had a chance yet, take a look at our fall issue online  or pick up a physical copy from any yellow distribution box on campus.  The magazine came together beautifully, and we’re already gearing up for the spring publishing cycle! If you’re interested in getting involved with the BSR, please see two opportunities to contribute below.


Alexis Fedorchak
Editor in chief


Science vs. 11-year-olds, round 2

For the second straight year, Stony Brook University’s Center for Communicating Science is hosting a competition called the Flame Challenge. The goal is for scientists to answer a question about nature in a way that is interesting and informative to an 11-year-old. In fact, 11-year-old schoolchildren are the judges (although professional scientists screen submissions for technical accuracy). The name of the challenge comes from last year’s inaugural question: What is a flame? This year, the question digs even deeper: What is time?

I have to admit, it sounds really hard. Unlike last year’s question, this year’s question has an added degree of difficulty because it probes the cutting edge of physicists’ understanding of the universe. The winner of last year’s Flame Challenge was a seven-and-a-half minute animation in which atoms are depicted by Legos and chemical reactions by boxing fights. The video is punctuated by a short, tuneful rock song that summarizes the physics and terminology that describe a flame. I thought the video was great once it got past its not-so-eloquent description of atoms (“Everything is made with tiny things called atoms, and these things are the building blocks that make up everything“). Dare I admit that I might have even learned a thing or two about pyrolysis and chemiluminscence? Still, I’m a sucker for infographics, so my vote would have gone to this finalist.

“Extra! Extra! Read all about it!”: Science writing for press releases

Just like a bad first date, a good first sentence is best kept short. Dr. Evelyn Strauss, science writer and editor, shared her writing secrets as a guest speaker for Professor Mimi Koehl’s graduate seminar, “Communicating Science to the Public.” With experience in writing for magazines and journals such as Science, Scientific American, and Current Biology (just to name a few), Dr. Strauss expertly divulged the challenges of science writing and techniques that we, as scientists, can harness while taming our own science-writing beasts. May your readers make it to the second date, id est the second paragraph.

Dr. Strauss revealed what personal characteristics paved her path as a science writer: for instance, she enjoys learning about topics beyond her field of expertise. Her uncanny ability to write about science in layman’s terms makes it to understand. Although she conducted freelance work without formal writing training, Dr. Strauss was led by curiosity to investigate what writing “secrets” were being disclosed in the science writing courses at UC Santa Cruz. With her experiences in the classroom and in the real world, Dr. Strauss skillfully addressed the field of science writing while visiting Berkeley.

As an exercise, the participants wrote a “press-release” paragraph to bring to the seminar. We were faced with the impending doom of hearing our first sentence read out loud, twice. Mine was particularly long, so doubling the time necessary to read it reinforced the importance of a short and simple first sentence for engaging readers.

Click through for more tips from Dr. Strauss.

Congratulations to our staff! BSR wins Best Magazine

Last night was a big night for the Berkeley Science Review. We were named Best Magazine at the ASUC Publications banquet for 2011-2012!

In case you think the competition wasn’t fierce, here’s a list of all the ASUC sponsored publications. ASUC is the student government here at UC Berkeley, and each year they host a ceremony honoring the best publications from around campus. The BSR is no stranger to these awards, having been recognized almost each year since we began publishing in 2001. It was an honor to be there last night and see the BSR recognized as part of the body of high quality work being produced by Berkeley students. The student presenting our award commented on how easy it is for people of any background to pick up an issue of the BSR and enjoy it. Accessibility is one of our major goals in communicating the amazing science happening at UC Berkeley, and it’s nice to know that those efforts are paying off.

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Call For Pitches: Write an article for Issue 26!

Seasoned and aspiring science writers and bloggers alike: we want to read your stories! Submit pitches for the Spring 2014 Issue by Monday, December 9th.  

Guidelines for submitting a pitch can be found  here.  We welcome all original ideas, but just in case you’re at a loss, our editorial staff maintains a  list of story ideas. Pick an existing idea, or use your own!

Send pitches or any questions to  sciencereview@gmail.com.

Call For Staff!

Want to polish your science communication chops? Get involved with this  award-winning  publication and join our pun-tastic staff!

We’re sad to see some members move on (we wish them the best!), but it means there are a number of opportunities for YOU to help run the magazine!

Open staff positions:

  • Editors
  • Layout Designers
  • Art Director
  • Web  Director(s)

Visit our website for more info & email  sciencereview@gmail.com  to apply.