“What’s your major?”
When Taylor White was entering college four years ago it seemed like an impossible question to answer. Should she build on a lifelong love of writing by majoring in journalism, explore a new interest in science sparked by her high school biology class, or perhaps follow her mother’s advice and pursue a steady career in the medical field?
White decided to come to Suffolk and use her analytical skills—which would serve her well in any of those disciplines—to conduct a methodical four-year investigation to find the right fit. The result of her college “experiment” is a career option she didn’t know existed: science writing.
White, Class of 2019, started as a journalism major with a biology minor, then flipped her declared major and minor as working with Suffolk professors intensified her interest in science.
She seized opportunities to learn outside campus with help from the McNair Scholars Program, working with horse shoe crab tissue as a lab technician near her Cape Cod hometown, studying bacteria in fruit flies and diabetic retinopathy in two Boston labs, and researching breast cancer at the University of Notre Dame through a fellowship funded by the National Science Foundation.
White joined the Suffolk Journal student newspaper, then started a science column during her junior year. She interviewed student researchers about projects like preparing astronauts for radiation on Mars and studying antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
“Working on those articles was my ‘ah-ha’ moment,” says White. “I saw the passion those students had for their research, and I realized my own passion wasn’t lab work. What I loved was learning about new discoveries and telling those stories.”
You can take the scientist out of the lab...
Realizing the “grind” of lab work wasn’t for her didn’t mean White’s experiment was over. To test her new hypothesis—that science writing might be her future—she needed to gather more information. Would writing about science provide the thrill of discovery she craved? Was it a viable career path that would satisfy the inquiries of her practical mother?
She continued writing for the Suffolk Journal, developed her own blog, and contributed STEM pieces to the Suffolk University Office of Public Affairs. On her podcast “The Suffolk Science Scoop” White and co-host Shelby Stubbs, Class of 2019, discuss hot topics in science while debunking myths.
After completing an editorial internship at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, White landed a news and analysis internship with the PBS science program Nova. She enjoys the bustle of a news environment and the opportunity to connect with scientists from around the globe.
“This is the Chinese Year of the Pig, so the first story I pitched was about the PED virus that affects pigs. I read papers then emailed the authors for interviews,” says White.
She uses her background in basic science to find and research stories, then applies her talent for communication to present complex concepts in a way that a broader audience can understand and appreciate. White wants everyone “to be inspired and feel like they’re part of the scientific community.”
This winter White was awarded an undergraduate travel fellowship by the National Association of Science Writers to attend the 2019 American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting in Washington, DC. Meeting other aspiring science writers, working with editors on a challenging piece, and networking with career professionals from prestigious national and international publications just felt right. It was confirmation that her exhaustive, and exhausting, search had been a success.
White will graduate in May with a BS in biology and minor in print journalism and enter New York University’s 16-month Science, Health, and Environmental Reporting Program this fall. After that her “dream job would be to travel for National Geographic, finding new species, promoting conservation, and documenting discoveries in a hands-on way.”
First, White has one more project to complete closer to home.
“I’m still hoping to finish up my Suffolk Journal series of interviews with all the Suffolk science professors. I will always appreciate the way they shared their time, interests, and findings with me. I would not have been able to make the decision to apply to science journalism schools without the encouragement and support from Suffolk professors, including Eric Dewar, Melanie Berkmen, Denyce Wicht, Shoshana Madmoni-Gerber, and mentors from my writing internships. They really played an instrumental role in furthering my interest in science journalism and pushed me to grow as a writer and science communicator.”