Our Mentors

JYI's Science Writing Mentors (SWMs) are all science writing professionals who are experts in the field of science communications. They have generously provided their guidance to the News and Features Department, working with Journalists and Editors to shape and polish the pieces that we publish. All the pieces published after Sept. 1st, 2014 have been looked at by an SWM, and they are an essential part of the high standard that we hold for all of our pieces. We thank them for their work, and you can read more about them below. 




Susan initially graduated with a law degree, but after a career in criminal law, decided to return to the science--her first love. In 1998 she graduated with an M.S. in biological science from California State University Sacramento, and in 2005 she graduated with a Ph.D. in genetics from the University of California, Davis. After working as a research scientist for over six years, she graduated in 2014 with an M.A. from the University of Arizona School of Journalism. Since then she has been freelancing for the Green Valley News and Sun. She also blogs for SciLogs (a Nature Publishing Group blog network) and is working on several long-form writing projects. She lives in the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains with her husband. The common thread throughout her professional experience is writing. With her experience and background, becoming a science writer was a logical step. She's learning how to write with a new voice. It’s an exciting time and she's enjoying every minute of it!




Jennifer "Jef" Akst got her master's degree from Indiana University in April 2009 studying the mating behavior of seahorses. After four years of diving off the Gulf Coast of Tampa and performing behavioral experiments at the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga, she left research to pursue a career in science writing. She has been with The Scientist magazine for five years, where she now serves as Senior Editor, editing the magazine’s feature, biobusiness, and careers stories, as well as writing for all sections of the publication and website.




Brian Clark Howard is an award-winning multimedia journalist, author, editor, producer, photographer and social media consultant. He is based in Washington, D.C. Brian is currently a writer, editor and producer for National Geographic’s award-winning website. Before that he worked for MailOnline.com, The Daily Green, and E/The Environmental Magazine. He has co-written six books and has contributed to numerous publications.




Andrew earned a bachelor's in Earth science from the University of New Hampshire intending to be a science writer, but his talent for editing led him on a different career path, starting at the U.S. Geological Survey. The rise of the Web gave him the chance to write about geology for About.com, where he built a large body of educational articles and photo galleries over 17 years. Today he lives in Oakland near the Hayward fault and divides his time among editing geoscience journal articles, freelance writing on geology, attending science meetings, and trips to the field.



Margaret Harris is a journalist at Physics World magazine. As an undergraduate studying physics at Duke University, she kept herself supplied with pizza, beer and laundry money by working part-time in the university's press office, and was also a science journalist and features editor at JYI. She then moved to the UK to do a PhD in physics at Durham University, where her research involved building a new experiment to study ultracold mixtures of rubidium and caesium atoms. After completing her PhD in 2008, she joined the editorial team of Physics World – an international monthly magazine published by the Institute of Physics – as its reviews and careers editor. Since then she has covered several international scientific conferences for the magazine and played a leading role in developing its programme of audio podcasts.