The Science Journalist, Emily Conover

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Spotlight on Hidden Physicists

The Science Journalist, Emily Conover


Physics Reporter, Science News

Emily Conover holds an issue of Science News magazine. Photo courtesy of Emily Conover.“When I finally realized—more than a decade later—that I could combine the two interests into one career, I plunged into the field of science journalism.”

When I decided that I didn’t want to pursue a career in physics research, I went back to my roots. I had always enjoyed writing—starting with the detailed stories I wrote as a child. I first fell in love with physics thanks to popular science articles and books, and in high school I got hooked on the subject.

When I finally realized—more than a decade later—that I could combine the two interests into one career, I plunged into the field of science journalism. Now I report on the latest developments in physics research for the magazine Science News.

While earning my PhD in physics at the University of Chicago, I eventually reached a point where research in the lab wasn’t fully satisfying me. I was studying neutrinos, a subject which I found fascinating. But the work I was doing helped answer only one question relevant to one subfield of physics. I was missing the bigger picture. Writing about physics allows me to keep abreast of the latest developments in all fields of physics research.

After completing my PhD and a few science writing internships, I ended up at the magazine Science News, aimed at the general public, particularly that segment of the population that relishes taking a deeper dive into research than can be found in newspapers. Founded in 1921, the magazine is published by the nonprofit Society for Science and the Public. I am the physics reporter on staff, and the other reporters for the magazine each cover different scientific beats.

My days are spent writing, scouring journals and press releases for important scientific developments, reading papers, and calling scientists on the phone to ask them questions about their research. I am lucky to work in a place where my editors respect my judgment and allow me to search out what I think are the most newsworthy topics.

For me, one plus to science writing is the rhythm: journalism demands short, regular deadlines. Rather than wrestling with projects that drag out endlessly and never feel quite finished, I complete most articles within a few days, and move on to the next thing. I get a sense of satisfaction each time I publish a story. Especially rewarding is when readers write in to ask questions or tell me they enjoyed learning about the subject.

Despite leaving academia, I still feel that I’m contributing to the process of science. Journalists are independent sources of information—we aren’t beholden to the scientists we interview. If a scientist’s colleagues take a critical view of their research, I won’t shy away from indicating that in the story. I try to lay out the debate so that readers can understand for themselves where scientific understanding lies.

Disentangling legitimate science from hype isn’t an easy task for someone without a scientific background, so I aim to guide my readers through that quagmire. That’s a service that I take pride in every day.

To catch up on your physics news, check out Conover’s Science News page at

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