Here are some articles I've written for publications such as NewYorker.comNature, NYTimes.com, New Scientist, Conservation, U.S. News & World Report, Science NewsPNAS Front Matter, and Salon.com.

Selected Articles

How to design a marijuana-license lottery (NewYorker.com)
When Washington State legalized pot, the massive influx of retail applications was a problem that only mathematics could solve

Crowdsourcing for Shakespeare (NewYorker.com)
A new citizen science project aims to transcribe thousands of pages of 16th- and 17th-century manuscripts

The rock that fell to Earth (Nature)
When an asteroid was spotted heading towards our planet, researchers rushed to document a cosmic impact from start to finish for the first time (pdf)
Won the American Geophysical Union's 2010 Walter Sullivan Award for Excellence in Science Journalism
Interview with The Open Notebook: Roberta Kwok tracks an asteroid as it hurtles toward Earth

DNA's master craftsmen (Nature)
Behind the walls of the J. Craig Venter Institute, Ham Smith and Clyde Hutchison quietly worked to bring a synthetic cell to life (pdf)

The last meadows (Aeon)
One tree at a time, forests are edging out the world's mountain meadows
Discussed in The Open Notebook: Nailing the nut graf

After the crash (The Last Word on Nothing)
How a traffic researcher aided an investigation into three grad students' deaths

The shocking electric eel! (Science News for Students)
This creature’s powerful jolts not only act like a radar system but also can trick its prey into revealing their location
Won a 2016 silver AAAS Kavli Science Journalism Award in the children's science news category

Ecology and Environment

AI empowers conservation biology (Nature, 2019)
Faced with mountains of image and audio data, researchers are turning to artificial intelligence to answer pressing ecological questions (pdf)

Sea level rise is unlocking decades-old pollution (Hakai, 2018)
Salt water creeping upland could release legacy fertilizer into the Chesapeake Bay

Accidental urban oases (PNAS, 2018)
As some cities struggle with population declines, vacant lots are proliferating. Can these derelict spaces contribute to conservation?

Ecology’s remote-sensing revolution (Nature, 2018)
Satellite data, and the tools that ecologists use to analyse them, are more accessible and plentiful than ever

The 'Smart Nest Box' provides a peek Into the secret lives of birds (Audubon, 2017)
The high-tech nesting boxes catch feathered families on camera for science, education, and pure entertainment

Hidden in the past (Nature, 2017)
Old photos, logbooks and papers are a gold mine for fields such as ecology and climatology

How listening to the ocean can help reveal environmental damage (Ensia, 2017)
Scientists are using audio recordings to understand and reduce negative effects on underwater ecosystems

Runaway fish (Science News, 2016)
Escapes from marine farms raise concerns about wildlife

Salvage job (Science News, 2013)
With fertilizer prices skyrocketing, scientists scramble to recover phosphorus from waste

Is a warmer world a sicker world? (Conservation, 2009)
As scientists piece together how climate impacts disease, strange patterns are emerging

Cellulosic ethanol runs into roadblocks (Nature, 2009)
The financial crisis is slowing efforts to commercialize next-generation ethanol (pdf)

Physical Sciences

How life and luck changed Earth's minerals (Quanta, 2015; reprinted on Wired.com)
Is geology predictable, or is the mineral composition of Earth due to chance events?

A rocky collision course (US News & World Report's Mysteries of Space issue, 2012)
Too many dangerous asteroids are veering close to home (PDF available on request)

The rock that fell to Earth (Nature, 2009)
When an asteroid was spotted heading towards our planet, researchers rushed to document a cosmic impact from start to finish for the first time (pdf)

Molecular and Cell Biology

DNA's new alphabet (Nature, 2012)
DNA has been around for billions of years — but that doesn't mean scientists can't make it better (pdf)

The shape of life (New Scientist, 2012; subscription required)
One of the greatest mysteries in biology is how plants and animals take on their astonishing array of forms

Driller killers (New Scientist, 2012; subscription required)
Bacteria battle each other with highly sophisticated weapons — now we're turning this arsenal against them

The new cell anatomy (Nature, 2011)
A menagerie of intriguing cell structures, some long-neglected and others newly discovered, is keeping biologists glued to their microscopes (pdf)

DNA's master craftsmen (Nature, 2010)
Behind the walls of the J. Craig Venter Institute, Ham Smith and Clyde Hutchison quietly worked to bring a synthetic cell to life (pdf)

Five hard truths for synthetic biology (Nature, 2010)
Can engineering approaches tame the complexity of living systems? (pdf)

Science and Art

Can climate change games boost public understanding? (PNAS, 2019)

Raw data videos offer a glimpse into laboratory research (PNAS, 2018)

Exploring the science of cooking (Science News, 2012)

Insect illustrator (Science News, 2012)

Science tarot (The-Scientist.com, 2010)
A whimsical deck of cards shuffles the worlds of logic and mythology


How to move your child to a separate room (New York Times Parenting, 2019)


On the move (Nature, 2019)
Early-career researchers often bear the burden of paying relocation expenses (pdf)

AI: A field in flux (Nature, 2019)
Can artificial intelligence researchers find a balance between academia and industry? (pdf)

Listen up (Nature, 2019)
Science podcasts are on the rise — and researchers are producing many of them (pdf)

Around the world (Nature, 2018)
Scientists who work as travel guides enjoy inspiring their guests (pdf)

Globetrot for science (Nature, 2018)
How to navigate cultural variances in a lab outside your native country (pdf)

Science on the screen (Nature, 2018)
Film-making offers scientists the chance to transform research into stunning visuals (pdf)

How to pick an electronic laboratory notebook (Nature, 2018)
Choosing wisely from a burgeoning array of digital tools can help researchers to record experiments with ease (pdf)

Science in the gig economy (Nature, 2017)
Will the future of research rely on independent workers who perform short-term jobs? Labour researchers and freelance scientists share their views (pdf)
Interview with Science Friday: When science takes the freelance route

Game on (Nature, 2017)
Scientists are designing board, card and digital games to convey scientific concepts (pdf)

Dynamic duos (Nature, 2015)
Partnering with a writer on a book can bring literary panache to scientific stories (pdf)

Webcraft 101 (Nature, 2014)
An eye-pleasing website can boost the appeal of a laboratory, and creating one has never been easier (pdf)

Out of the hood (Nature, 2013)
Biologists frustrated with wet-lab work can find rewards in a move to computational research (pdf)

Altmetrics make their mark (Nature, 2013)
Alternative measures can yield useful data on achievement — but must be used cautiously (pdf)

A conference in your pocket (Nature, 2013)
Meeting attendees can use apps to network and ease logistical hassles (pdf)

Two minutes to impress (Nature, 2013)
With ruthless revision, researchers can compose a punchy elevator speech to sell their science to a neighbour, potential employer or politician (pdf)

Going digital (Nature, 2012)
Creating electronic textbooks requires ingenuity, teamwork and multimedia savvy (pdf)

Phoning in data (Nature, 2009)
Far from being just an accessory, mobile phones are starting to be used to collect data in an increasing number of disciplines (pdf)


Transgender researchers want to make an impact (Science News for Students, 2019)
Trans and non-binary people are becoming more visible in science and engineering

When parenting goes cuckoo (Science News for Students, 2019)
Brood parasites trick another bird, fish or other animal into taking care of their young

Amoebas are crafty, shape-shifting engineers (Science News for Students, 2019)
They can change form, build shells, punch holes in prey — even farm their own food

The mixed-up world of hybrid animals (Science News for Students, 2018)
Mating between two species can produce offspring with new colors, shapes and behaviors

Science on a shoestring (Science News for Students, 2018)
Researchers in lower-income countries face many hurdles

As trees come down, some hidden homes are disappearing (Science News for Students, 2017)
A wildlife housing shortage is developing around the world among animals that depend on tree hollows

Calling scientists of all colors (Science News for Students, 2017)
More black, Hispanic, and Native American scientists and engineers are needed to solve important problems

Secrets of slime (Science News for Students, 2015)
Mucus may seem gross, but it’s a lifesaver for humans and other animals

Ants on guard (Science News for Students, 2013)
Fierce insect bodyguards protect plants from harm

Delving into dung (Science News for Students, 2013)
Scientists uncover fascinating secrets through the study of animal feces

This shrimp packs a punch (Science News for Students, 2013)
Researchers learn a lot from mantis shrimp, colorful marine creatures that possess deadly weapons and complex vision

Caecilians: The other amphibian (Science News for Students, 2012)
Legless creatures live secretive, strange existences underground and underwater

Studying what you love (Science News for Students, 2012)
Researchers study the same animals that fascinated them as kids

Weed wars (Science News for Students, 2011)
Farmers fight unwanted plants among crops

Little beetle, big horns (Science News for Students, 2007)
Sniffing out the evolution of dung beetle horns

Book Reviews

Humor helps make simple science fun (San Francisco Chronicle, 2007)
Natalie Angier goes on a whirligig tour of science


I assisted production of the following episodes of the podcast Are We Alone? (now called Big Picture Science):

In the second half of this tribute to the pocket-protector set, I interview my dad about whether the concept of 'nerd' exists in China.

Science and Art: Worlds Apart?
Meet a robot painter, learn why art evolved, and hear how French writer Marcel Proust may have anticipated modern neuroscience.

Formula One: The Drake Equation
Scientists explain the numbers behind Frank Drake's famous equation predicting the likelihood of intelligent alien civilizations.

Senses Census
A tour of taste, sight, hearing, and smell, plus a robot's sense of touch and the super-senses we might possess in the future.

Skeptical Sunday: Fortune Cooking
In this show on critical thinking, scientists scan brains for evidence of ESP, and a magician gives mind readers a $1 million challenge.

Aging: Stop Right There!
How long could we live? Hear about aviator Charles Lindbergh's quest to achieve immortality. Plus: the discovery of a 400-year-old clam.


Image credit: Roberta Kwok