FOJBI Friday: Meet Irene Park, Geneticist And Science Reporter

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The "Friends of Joe's Big Idea" is a community of people we think you should meet. FOJBI Friday introduces some of these cool communicators of science, in their own words. This week: Irene Park.

Background

I am a doctoral student at the University of Michigan in human genetics. That came as no surprise to friends and family, since I've always been curious about how small things (eg., genes) can affect the big picture (eg., people). Human genetics is essentially a study about how the variations in people's DNA lead to the diversity we can see with our eyes. I'm studying what causes such DNA variations in people, especially the harmful variations that lead to diseases.

On improving science literacy

Although science and technology affects many, many aspects of our lives (smartphones, just for starters!) scientific literacy in the United States is alarmingly low. The language barrier between the general public and scientists contributes to this illiteracy; science communicators serve as translators of scientific jargon for laymen. Communication is a two-way street and requires effort from both scientists and the general public — researchers should not blindly blame the public for not understanding or appreciating science without making the effort to reach out.

On increasing diversity among science writers

I'm a news reporter for my school's student newspaper, The Michigan Daily. I usually cover stories about science, technology, and medicine, but I have covered stories a few times about campus life, business, and politics — just to get out of my comfort zone. I am also the acting Editor-in-Chief for a student organization at the university called MiSciWriters, which focuses on science writing. MiSciWriters publishes blog posts written and edited by graduate students every Tuesday, with topics ranging from the scientific method to fluid mechanics. For both organizations, I'm working to recruit more scientists from diverse expertise and backgrounds to increase the membership diversity.

Future Plans

After getting my doctoral degree, I plan to pursue science writing full time. I am talking to as many people as I can to find out more about the different occupations that rely these skills. Whichever job I land, I hope to not just write about science but also participate in various science outreach programs — to communicate the reasons why everyone should appreciate science more. Science isn't just cool. It affects each and all of us in our everyday lives!

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