Senior Wins Major Fellowship Award

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Senior Rachel Feltman is one of eight winners of a Student Travel Fellowship awarded by the National Association of Science Writers (NASW). Recipients will attend the annual meeting of the Association for the Advancement of Sciences (AAAS), the world’s largest general science society. Feltman will travel to Canada for the February 17-19 gathering of science luminaries.

“It's such a great opportunity to have our articles edited and posted on the NASW site,” said Feltman. “I'll also use it in my portfolio of science writing for my Senior Thesis”

An aspiring science writer with a concentration in environmental studies, Feltman learned about the contest through her student membership in the National Association of Science Writers. To enter the contest she had to write a story about a scientific researcher. Feltman knew she would have to find an interesting topic to stand out against applicants from much larger institutions with well-funded research programs, but she was having trouble coming up with a subject.

It all came together when Feltman heard Professor Mike Bergman speak at Honors Convocation on a Friday night in October. He mentioned his research on the earth’s inner core, and Feltman was fascinated. She knew Bergman was the scientific researcher she wanted to profile. The following Monday she asked for an interview and within a matter of days she met with Mike, wrote the story, and entered the contest.

“We're a small college with a limited number of research projects. When I heard Mike speak about his research on the earth’s inner core,” Feltman explained. “I knew that's what I would write about.”

A month later the award letter from the NASW Education Committee arrived. “We have chosen you from among a large pool of talented applicants to attend the AAAS meeting in Vancouver, B.C.,” wrote co-chairs Jeff Grabmeier and Robert Irion.

Thesis advisor Jamie Hutchinson, who helped during the revision process for the piece, couldn't be prouder. “We don't have any science writing courses. Rachel figured this all out by herself. She shaped her course of study to learn science writing and she found the contest on her own,” he explained. “The selection process was quite competitive, so it's a real feather in Rachel's cap and in the college's.”

The article grew out of a project Feltman has been working on with Hutchinson to develop a science writing tutorial for other aspiring science writers.

The AAAS annual meeting draws leading scientists from across all disciplines. Hundreds of American and international science writers from magazines, newspapers, radio, TV and web, cover the event, giving Feltman an opportunity to meet and network with experts in her chosen field. As part of the fellowship, recipients will be paired with veteran science writers for mentoring and conversation.

Each recipient is also expected to cover a scientific session and prepare a report for the NASW web site. “It's such a great opportunity to have our articles edited and posted on the NASW site,” said Feltman. “I'll also use it in my portfolio of science writing for my Senior Thesis.”

NASW will also hold an internship fair at the AAAS meeting for young science journalists.

Feltman, who received her AA at Bard College at Simon's Rock, briefly transferred to Boston University to study science and journalism. Six weeks into her first semester at BU, she decided Simon's Rock was where she wanted and needed to be. So Feltman returned to Great Barrington to study Environmental Studies and Writing. She is hard at work on her Senior Thesis, a series of articles exploring a variety of science topics and approaches to covering them.

Feltman plans to get a Master of Science and Journalism.

Read her winning article here.