I am a science writer and public information officer at my graduate alma mater – the University of Washington – where I report on research news in biology, physics, astronomy, chemistry, mathematics and statistics.

It all started with a twister:

One day when I was about four years old, my family hid in a crawlspace while a tornado passed nearby. As winds roared against the house, my pappaw – Arkansan for “grandfather” – lectured his angst-ridden grandson. Tornadoes were nothing to fear, he said. They were not the weather equivalent of a monster under the bed or other superstitious phenomenon. They're something we can learn about and – as the alert sirens testified – cope with when they threaten our safety.

Though I didn't realize it at the time, pappaw's lesson planted an idea in my mind. As I grew up, when something frightened me, I would be scared for awhile. Sometimes I would be scared for a long time. But eventually, I would remind myself that we can explore the natural world and use the fruits of scientific inquiry to carve our fears into manageable bits. Science tamed my childhood apprehensions – from the twisters of my southern and Midwestern upbringing to the ferocious-looking dinosaurs in my science books.

In time, these dissected fears spawned legitimate interests – cell biology, evolution and geology. I probed genes in labs and picked at fossils in deserts. I became a scientist. In a nod back to my pappaw's ill-timed crawlspace lecture, I also developed an interest in communicating science to other people.

One day in 2013, I learned that a fatal combination of intellectual malaise, political polarization and budget cuts were bringing my 11 years in laboratory research to a close. Instead of fleeing for the nearest storm shelter, I decided it was time to fuse my fear-rooted passion for science with the storytelling skills I learned from my forebears. I found a beautiful place to improve my skills, and in time a job that will let me tell stories

Labs I have worked in: