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WHOI Waypoints: Sounds of Science

Armed with her dissertation and diploma, MIT/WHOI Joint Program student Carolyn Gramling spent this fall doing what most freshly minted scientists do: working in the field. But her tools weren’t the chemical analyzers and radioactive tracers of her days in Woods Hole. Instead, she used microphones and minidisk recorders.

Gramling hit the airwaves in September as a radio journalist, fulfilling a fellowship in science journalism at a National Public Radio station in Columbus, Ohio (WOSU-AM). During the 10-week program, she reported, wrote, and delivered radio broadcasts on a wide range of science topics as a “Mass Media Fellow.” Gramling’s fellowship was sponsored by the American Geophysical Union.

As a science reporter, she developed stories ranging from the investigation of the space shuttle Columbia accident to wetland restoration to groundwater discharge—the topic of the thesis she defended last spring. Prior to the fellowship, Gramling was a contributing writer for the online publications Geotimes and The Wire, and in August 2002, she won a writing contest for her account of living through Hurricane Andrew.

She learned of the media fellowship while researching ways to marry her interests in science and writing. “There’s all this jargon that scientists can understand, but it quickly leaves others behind,” she said. “I think science communicators can be ambassadors for science.”

Gramling is the first MIT/WHOI graduate to receive a Mass Media Fellowship, said Judy Kass, director of the 30-year-old fellowship program administered by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. According to Kass, Gramling was one of just 18 fellows chosen from 170 applicants.

Originally published: November 1, 2003