Being both a scientist by training and a journalist by practice gives one a unique perspective on the challenges of conveying science news to the public. Scientists can help writers and editors do their jobs without reducing every discovery to a potential cure for birth defects or cancer by learning to explain what they do, and how and why they do it, with both eloquence and excitement.

A love of basic research drove me to both science and journalism. However, I left science shortly after earning my Ph.D. in genetics because I didn't think the world could ever have use for flies that had legs growing out of their heads. Ironically, my impatience with basic research led to a career in explaining it.

Illustration: John Overmyer
In graduate school at Indiana University from 1976 to 1980, I was at the end of an era, using classical techniques rather than molecular...

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