Science writers will share expertise as UF Science Journalists in Residence

Published: September 17 2014


GAINESVILLE, Fla. --- Two leading science journalists will each spend a week on the University of Florida campus this year as part of the university’s new Science Journalist in Residence Program.

Jennie Erin Smith, author of “Stolen World: A Tale of Reptiles, Smugglers, and Skulduggery,” will visit the university in early November as UF’s first Science Journalist in Residence, speaking to students in the College of Journalism and Communications, giving a public lecture and interacting with faculty researchers.

David Epstein, author of “The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance,” will serve as the second journalist in residence in late January.

“The goal of the program is to give students and faculty the opportunity to deepen their knowledge of science journalism through interacting with some of its most captivating practitioners,” said Diane McFarlin, dean of the College of Journalism and Communications.

Smith specializes in science and natural history writing and has a longtime interest in zoos, museums, animals and conservation. A former environmental reporter at the Daytona Beach News-Journal, she currently writes for The Wall Street Journal, The New Yorker and other publications.

“I am honored to become UF's first science journalist in residence,” Smith said. “Science journalism can mean a lot of things, but all good science writers demonstrate curiosity, impartiality, attention to detail and the ability to simplify complex ideas without distorting them. I look forward to a great exchange of thoughts and experiences, with students and faculty alike, during my week at UF.”

Smith spent years investigating the exotic animal trade for “Stolen World,” which The New Yorker called an “accomplished, often uproarious account of the international reptile trade,” and Salon called “a flabbergasting chronicle of atrocious behavior, foolhardy schemes and dangerous animals, that reads like a real-life Elmore Leonard novel.”

“The Sports Gene” was a New York Times bestseller for Epstein, who has written for Sports Illustrated, Discover, Scientific American, Slate, The Washington Post, National Geographic and many other publications. His TED Talk on the subject has been viewed more than 1.7 million times.

“The fact that the program is specifically looking to promote discussion about science journalism is really meaningful to me,” said Epstein. “I think opening a discourse with journalism students about the power and peril of communicating science will be invigorating both for me and for them.”

UF Provost Joe Glover said that as part of its preeminence initiative, the university wants to create more opportunities for students and faculty to interact with the top leaders in their fields.

“We’re pursuing this goal through the new faculty we’re hiring, but we are also committed to bringing in more leading academics and professionals as guests – esteemed visitors who will both share their wisdom and get some exposure to our dynamic and exceptional university,” Glover said. “The new Science Journalist in Residence program is a great example of that approach, and I look forward to hosting our first two science journalists this year.”


Contact: Quenta P. Vettel, 352-846-3013,
Writer: Joseph Kays