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 edited features and oversaw 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
Pink- and purple-stained cells clustered into glands
Phenotypic Variation in Cancer Cells Often Not Due to Mutations
Jef Akst | Oct 26, 2022 | 3 min read
Most differences in gene expression among cells within a tumor are likely due to environment or noise, a study suggests. 
Swarm of honey bees around green foliage
Some Honey Bee Swarms Generate Electrical Charges Stronger Than Storms
Jef Akst | Oct 24, 2022 | 2 min read
Small charges carried by individual insects can add up, a study finds, with larger swarms generating substantial electrical fields.
illustration of a laptop with small people filling out an assessment
Q&A: Why eLife Is Doing Away with Rejections
Jef Akst | Oct 21, 2022 | 4 min read
The journal’s executive director speaks with The Scientist about what it hopes to accomplish with its unusual new publishing model.
Illustration of people dying from the Black Death
Genes that Aided Black Death Survival Linked to Autoimmunity
Jef Akst | Oct 20, 2022 | 2 min read
A new study points to repercussions of the Medieval pandemic for the health of modern humans.
Spraying spray bottle
Nasal Vaccines Are Commercially High Risk, Perhaps High Reward
Jef Akst | Jun 13, 2022 | 10+ 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 | 6 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 | 10+ min read
A growing appreciation of the bacterial assemblages that live within tumors has researchers striving to understand and capitalize on their role.