Welcome to Four New Early-Career Fellows


Pedro Márquez-Zacarías, María Paula Rubiano A., Abdullahi Tsanni, and Carolyn Wilke Jennifer Rattray/Mateo Guerrero/Vera Mbamalu/S. Wilke


We’re thrilled to introduce our newest early-career fellows, Pedro Márquez-Zacarías, María Paula Rubiano A., Abdullahi Tsanni, and Carolyn Wilke. Supported by a generous grant from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, Pedro, María Paula, Abdullahi, and Carolyn will each spend eight months working with individual mentors and the TON editorial team to report and write articles on the craft of science journalism for The Open Notebook.

Over the past seven years, our fellows have written more than 70 stories for TON, which have been read by tens of thousands of people in almost every country in the world; you can read stories by previous fellows here. This year, we received a record number of applications—more than double our previous high. The applicant pool was also exceptionally strong. We’re enormously grateful that in light of those circumstances, the Burroughs Wellcome Fund has significantly expanded the scope of its financial support for the program this year, allowing us to choose four fellows rather than our customary two. The science writing community will get to know Pedro, María Paula, Abdullahi, and Carolyn in the coming months, but for now, here’s a little bit about each of them:

María Paula Rubiano A. is a Colombian freelance science journalist with bylines in Audubon, Atlas Obscura, Popular Science, and more. She started her career in El Espectador newspaper, where her reporting took her on helicopters, boats, and canoes looking for stories about Colombia’s mega-diverse ecosystems. In December 2020 she graduated with a master’s degree from New York University’s Science, Health and Environmental Reporting program, where she wrote about everything from black holes to Native American seeds. Follow her on Twitter at @pau_erre to get her bilingual tweets about science, environmental justice, and her love of reguetón. She will begin her fellowship in January.

Abdullahi Tsanni is a science writer based in Abuja, Nigeria. He has reported on science, health, agriculture, and biotechnology issues in Nigeria for publications including Nature, AllAfrica, Cornell Alliance for Science, Nigeria Health Watch, and African Newspage, among others. Abdullahi has interviewed top scientists across sub-Saharan Africa, detailing stories about their research, workspace, and scientific enterprise on the continent. His story on how rancorous debates about genetically modified organisms affect public sentiments in Nigeria won the 2019 Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology in Africa Science Media Award in the print/online category. He works as a volunteer with Science Communication Hub Nigeria and African Science Literacy Network, helping with communications and providing input on media partnerships. He has a degree in biochemistry and is a prospective master’s student in science communication at Imperial College London. Follow him on Twitter @abdultsanni. He will begin his fellowship in January.

Carolyn Wilke is a Chicago-based freelance journalist. Her reporting spans areas from archaeology to chemistry and the environment. Carolyn’s work appears in outlets such as Science News, Science News for Students, Eos, Scientific American, and more. She’s also one of the hosts of the podcast Science for the People. Carolyn got her start in writing while earning a PhD in environmental engineering from Northwestern University. One of her favorite stories she’s reported remains a piece about an arthritic giraffe at the Sacramento Zoo that she wrote as a AAAS Mass Media Fellow. When not writing and reporting, Carolyn delights in analog activities that include sewing, hiking, and re-creating her mother’s Indian cooking. Follow her on Twitter @CarolynMWilke. She will begin her fellowship in May.

Pedro Márquez-Zacarías is a PhD candidate in quantitative biosciences at Georgia Tech, in Atlanta, Georgia. Pedro founded the bilingual Biomusings blog to communicate complex ideas from all areas of biology to a wider audience. He looks forward to bringing his quantitative skills to the craft of science writing during his fellowship in 2021. Native of Paracho, Mexico, an Indigenous region known for guitars and music, Pedro enjoys playing guitar. You can find his science here, his music here, and follow him on Twitter @PedroM_Z. He will begin his fellowship in July.


Fellowship Mentors

We’re also delighted to welcome four new mentors to our fellowship community. Mentors meet weekly with fellows for the duration of their fellowship, providing advice and guidance as the fellows plan, report and write their fellowship stories and offering other career-development support and comradeship.

Chrissie Giles
Chrissie Giles Courtesy of Chrissie Giles

Chrissie Giles will be Abdullahi’s mentor. Chrissie has been a writer and editor for more than 17 years. She is Global Health Editor at The Bureau of Investigative Journalism in the U.K. Before that, she worked for Wellcome, one of the world’s largest health foundations, where she was editor of the award-winning longform publication Mosaic. As a writer, she has covered a wide range of subjects, from how doctors discuss death and dying with patients, to why British people her age were the “Peak Booze” generation. She has been writer-in-residence at a hospice. She studied biochemistry at university and completed a master’s in science communication at Imperial College, London. Follow her on Twitter @christinagiles.




Sarah Zhang
Sarah Zhang Courtesy of Sarah Zhang

Sarah Zhang will be Pedro’s mentor. Sarah is a staff writer at The Atlantic in Washington, DC, where she has covered health and science since 2016. Previously, she was a staff writer at Wired. Her work has also appeared in the New York TimesNature, and other publications, and been honored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science and Asian American Journalists Association. Follow her on Twitter @sarahzhang.



Roberta Kwok
Roberta Kwok MarkBennington

Roberta Kwok will be Carolyn’s mentor. Roberta is a freelance science writer who has contributed to publications such as Nature, NewYorker.com, NYTimes.com, Hakai Magazine, Science News, and The Southern Review. Her journalism has won awards from the American Geophysical Union and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and her flash essay “Click” was anthologized in The Best Small Fictions 2019. She is currently working on a collection of reported essays as a Project Fellow at MIT’s Knight Science Journalism Program. Follow her on Twitter @robertakwok.





Brooke Jarvis
Brooke Jarvis Colette Cosner

Brooke Jarvis will be María Paula’s mentor. Brooke is a contributing writer to the The New York Times Magazine and a regular contributor to The New Yorker, Wired, and others. Her work won the Livingston Award for National Reporting and has been anthologized in The Best American Science and Nature Writing, The Best American Travel Writing, and New Stories We Tell: True Tales by America’s New Generation of Great Women Journalists. She lives in Seattle. Follow her on Twitter @brookejarvis.





We’re thrilled to be working with this talented group of journalists and delighted to welcome them all to the TON team!

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