Jef Akst

Jef Akst

Jef (an unusual nickname for Jennifer) 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. As The Scientist's managing editor, Jef edits features and oversees the production of the TS Digest and quarterly print magazine. In 2022, her feature on uterus transplantation earned first place in the trade category of the Awards for Excellence in Health Care Journalism. She is a member of the National Association of Science Writers.

Articles by Jef Akst
Spraying spray bottle
Nasal Vaccines Are Commercially High Risk, Perhaps High Reward
Jef Akst | Jun 13, 2022 | 5+ min read
Dozens of intranasally delivered vaccines targeting SARS-CoV-2 are in development. Could they pave the way for widespread nasal vaccination in the future?
Illustration of pink strands of RNA on a blue background
Synthetic RNA Can Build Peptides, Hinting at Life’s Beginnings
Jef Akst | May 12, 2022 | 2 min read
Researchers engineered strands of RNA that can link amino acids together, suggesting a way that RNA and proteins may have emerged together to create the earliest forms of life.
Illustration of light blue speckled DNA helix on a dark background
Study Nearly Doubles Known Cancer-Linked Mutational Signatures
Jef Akst | Apr 22, 2022 | 2 min read
Analyzing the whole genome sequences of more than 18,000 tumors, researchers catalog nearly 60 new patterns of mutations that could inform cancer treatment.
Close up photo of a wing
Unearthing the Evolutionary Origins of Insect Wings
Jef Akst | Apr 4, 2022 | 5+ min read
A handful of new studies moves the needle toward a consensus on the long-disputed question of whether insect wings evolved from legs or from the body wall, but the devil is in the details.
Updated July 27
Magnifying glass in front of a stack of files of papers
PLOS ONE Pulls Five Papers Tied to Alzheimer’s Drug Controversy
Jef Akst | Mar 31, 2022 | 2 min read
The retracted studies were coauthored by a scientist who worked on an Alzheimer’s therapy in development by Cassava Sciences, a company reportedly under investigation for providing falsified data to the FDA.
Tumor microbiome composite
Could Cancer’s Microbiome Help Diagnose and Treat the Disease?
Jef Akst | Mar 14, 2022 | 5+ min read
A growing appreciation of the bacterial assemblages that live within tumors has researchers striving to understand and capitalize on their role.
Illustration showing microbial signatures of cancer in the body
Infographic: Putting Cancer’s Unique Microbiomes to Use
Jef Akst | Mar 14, 2022 | 1 min read
From diagnosis to tracking treatment responses, bacteria and other microbes in the blood, gut, and tumors of cancer patients may provide helpful hints for improving their care.
A gavel sits on top of a stack of clipboards and papers on an open laptop with the screen showing graphs
Munich Court Ruling Sides with Elsevier, ACS over ResearchGate
Jef Akst | Mar 7, 2022 | 2 min read
The academic networking service ResearchGate was infringing on copyrights held by scientific publishers when it hosted manuscripts from their journals, the European court said, but the website will not have to pay damages.
Vector illustration of a courthouse with test tubes as pillars
CRISPR Patent Ruling Favors Broad Institute
Jef Akst | Mar 1, 2022 | 3 min read
The US Patent and Trademark Office has once again decided that the institute has priority over the University of California and collaborators regarding intellectual property rights for CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing in eukaryotes. But the fight over the technique isn’t over.
Artist's rendition of a yellow CAR T cell near a red cancer cell surrounded by red blood cells.
Ten Years On, CAR T Cell Recipient Is Still Cancer-Free
Jef Akst | Feb 3, 2022 | 2 min read
First, the genetically engineered cells became CD8+ killer T cells that wiped out his leukemia. Then they transformed into a stable population of CD4+ helper T cells that continue to circulate in his body.