An Environmental Factor story about the CRISPR gene editing technology won first place in an annual contest sponsored by the National Association of Government Communicators.
“CRISPR and the genome editing revolution,” by Robin Arnette, Ph.D., was named winner of the Web Article category in the annual Blue Pencil and Gold Screen Award competition at the group’s annual meeting June 14.
Arnette’s story, published in the October 2016 issue, tackled the subject of a talk given by Rodolphe Barrangou, Ph.D., from North Carolina State University. The vast potential of the complex new genome editing technology, known as the CRISPR-Cas9 system, is quickly changing the landscape of biomedical research.
“The article clearly describes gene editing and its potential effects on food, agriculture, medicine, scientific research, and biotechnology,” the award text read. And, it might have added, the story did so in under 600 words.
“It’s not easy to explain complex scientific advances in words that everyone can understand,” said NIEHS Communications Director Christine Bruske Flowers. “Robin has a special talent. She helps our readers understand — and value — the research we support here at NIEHS. That’s really important work.”
The award also named Flowers and editor-in-chief Kelly Lenox.
Wealth of scientific topics
Arnette came to NIEHS as a science writer and editor in 2006. Before starting her science writing career, she served as a postdoctoral researcher under Aziz Sancar, M.D., Ph.D., at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Chapel Hill. Sancar shared the 2015 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work on DNA repair.
Although biochemistry is a particular interest of hers, Arnette pointed out that covering NIEHS research means that she writes about neurobiology, immune dysfunction, biostatistics, cell signaling, epidemiology, toxicology, and a wealth of other subjects. “The variety of scientific topics means there’s always a new challenge,” she said. “The NIEHS communications office is uniquely positioned to report on a wide spectrum of science.”
Asked if she had any advice for those interested in a career in science writing, Arnette made several suggestions. “Reading articles from online and print science magazines is a good start,” she advised. “Participating in science writing workshops and conducting informal interviews with science writers will also yield a wealth of information.”
“If you want formal training, a number of universities have degree programs you can try,” Arnette continued. “However, if you can volunteer to write about science for a blog, local newspaper, or other outlet, that will give you a chance to see how you like it.”