ComSciCon-Triangle 2016 Speakers

Keynote Address

Joe Palca 2010Joe Palca

Science Correspondant for NPR

Joe Palca is a science correspondent for NPR. Since joining NPR in 1992, Palca has covered a range of science topics — everything from biomedical research to astronomy. He is currently focused on the eponymous series, "Joe's Big Idea." Stories in the series explore the minds and motivations of scientists and inventors. Palca began his journalism career in television in 1982, working as a health producer for the CBS affiliate in Washington, DC. In 1986, he left television for a seven-year stint as a print journalist, first as the Washington news editor for Nature, and then as a senior correspondent forScience Magazine.

In October 2009, Palca took a six-month leave from NPR to become science writer in residence at the Huntington Library and The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Palca has won numerous awards, including the National Academies Communications Award, the Science-in-Society Award of the National Association of Science Writers, the American Chemical Society James T. Grady-James H. Stack Award for Interpreting Chemistry for the Public, the American Association for the Advancement of Science Journalism Prize, and the Victor Cohn Prize for Excellence in Medical Writing. 

With Flora Lichtman, Palca is the co-author of Annoying: The Science of What Bugs Us (Wiley, 2011). He comes to journalism from a science background, having received a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of California at Santa Cruz where he worked on human sleep physiology.

Panel 1: Communicating science throughout your career

Dr. Holly Menninger

Director of Public Science, College of Sciences, North Carolina State University

An entomologist by training, Dr. Holly Menninger is a science communicator by passion and practice. She has worked at the intersection of science and society – in policy, natural resource management, and public engagement in science. In 2014, she was named the first director of public science for the College of Sciences at NC State where she currently oversees a series of initiatives designed to build science literacy beyond campus. From 2011 - 2014, she coordinated Your Wild Life, an outreach and science communication program that engages the public in the study of the biodiversity in their daily lives.  She’s authored a number of peer-reviewed scientific publications, policy articles, and popular science stories, and her work has been frequently featured in the popular news media. Menninger earned her bachelor’s degree in biology from Denison University and her Ph.D. in behavior, ecology, evolution and systematics from the University of Maryland.

Corey Davis

Applied Climatologist, State Climate Office of North Carolina, North Carolina State University

Corey is a North Carolina State University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in meteorology and a master’s in atmospheric science.  Since joining the State Climate Office in 2008, Corey has built web-based decision support tools to help address weather and climate sensitivities and risks, particularly in the forestry sector.

With training as both a scientist and a journalist, Corey has a strong interest in scientific communication that led him to help create the State Climate Office’s Climate Blog in 2012.  Corey remains the primary writer for the blog, which shares scientific and educational content with an audience including other atmospheric scientists, the media, and the general public.

Dr. Kara Manke

Science Writer, Duke University

Kara Manke completed a Ph. D. in Physical Chemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in June 2015 and is currently a Science Writer in Duke University's News & Communications office. As a graduate student, she used high-frequency sound waves to study the properties of complex materials under the advisement of Keith Nelson. In 2014 she was awarded a AAAS Mass Media Fellowship to write for the science desk at National Public Radio, and her science writing has also appeared in The Scientist, Frontiers in Energy Research, and the CASW New Horizons Newsroom. She is originally from the Twin Cities, where she received her B. A. in Chemistry from Macalester College.

Mark Derewiczmark_derewicz_7092.jpg

Communications Manager, UNC Health Care / UNC School of Medicine

As communications manager for UNC Health Care / UNC School of Medicine, Mark Derewicz oversees media relations and content creation for the school’s clinical research and basic science enterprises, as well as its education mission. He is also a freelance feature writer for the Carolina Alumni Review. Previously, he served as the science writer and editor for the UNC School of Medicine. From 2005 to 2013, mark was the senior writer for Endeavors, an award-winning magazine dedicated to research at UNC. Prior to that, he was an assistant editor for Baseball America magazine in Durham, NC. He graduated from La Salle University in 1993 with a degree in education.

Panel 2: Writing/editing fundamentals

Abby Olena olena.png

Duke Science & Society post-doc and former AAAS Mass Media Fellow

Abby Olena is a postdoctoral fellow in Science & Society at Duke University, where she focuses on getting scientists the skills they need to connect with journalists, lawmakers, and the public. Before coming to Duke, she spent time as an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Mass Media Fellow at the Chicago Tribune and as a science writer for The Scientist. She received her PhD in Biological Sciences from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, where she studied retinal development in zebrafish. Abby lives in Carrboro with her husband, a neuroscientist, practices yoga daily, and volunteers with her dog as a therapy team

Karl Leif BatesStudio portraits of Karl Bates

Director of Research Communications, Duke University

Karl writes, produces and edits research news from all units of Duke University in the Office of News and Communications. His work includes media relations, multimedia production, magazine stories, and online news. He has been a science and medical journalist for 25 years, first as a newspaper reporter, now as a public information officer for a university that spends more than $1 billion on research each year.

Karl has won the AAAS science journalism award and three CASE Circle of Excellence grand gold awards. He serves on advisory boards for the EurekAlert! news service, the Science and Medical Journalism Program at the University of North Carolina, and the Science Communicators of North Carolina. He is a member of the National Association of Science Writers.

Panel 3: Building Your Online Brand

Matt Shipman

Public Communications Specialist at North Carolina State University Communications

Matt Shipman is the research communications lead at NC State University. He previously worked as a reporter and editor in Washington, D.C., covering the nexus of science, politics and policy. Shipman is the author of The Handbook for Science Public Information Officers (2015, University of Chicago Press) and a contributing author to Science Blogging: The Essential Guide (2016, Yale University Press). He writes the Communication Breakdown blog for Nature and Spektrum’s SciLogs site and has written about science communication for both Nature and Scientific American blogs. He is also a reviewer for In his free time, Shipman runs a nonprofit called the First Step Project and tries to keep track of the humans who live in his house. You can follow him on Twitter: @ShipLives.

Craig McClain 

Assistant Director of Science at National Evolutionary Synthesis Center and Editor, Deep Sea News

Craig McClain is the Deputy Director for the Triangle Center for Evolutionary Medicine at Duke University. He has conducted deep-sea research for 20 years and published over 50 papers in the area. He has participated in and led dozens of oceanographic expeditions taken him to the Antarctic and the most remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic. Craig’s research focuses on how energy and metabolism drives the biology of marine invertebrates from individuals to ecosystems. In addition to his scientific research, Craig also advocates for the need for scientists to connect with the public and is the founder and chief editor of the acclaimed Deep-Sea News (, a popular ocean-themed blog that has won numerous awards. His writing has been featured in Cosmos, Science Illustrated, American Scientist, Wired, and Mental Floss. His forthcoming book, Science of the South (, connects cultural icons of South such as pecan pie with the science behind them.

Eleanor Spicer Rice 

Senior Science Editor at Verdant Word

Eleanor Spicer Rice, also known as Roar from the sciart blog Buzz Hoot Roar, is the senior science editor for Verdant Word. Eleanor earned her Ph.D. in entomology from NC State University, where she studied the intricate and fascinating interactions between ant species. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in zoology from NC State University and a Master’s degree in entomology from the University of Georgia. In addition to sharing her award-winning research at conferences across the U.S., Eleanor lends her analytical background to a variety of science communications projects, including regularly contributing to Our State Magazine and authoring four books about ants and a book about common spiders (published fall 2016 by the University of Chicago Press).

Jamie Vernonunnamed.jpg

Director of science communications & publications at Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society and editor-in-chief of American Scientist magazine

Jamie Vernon is director of science communications and publications at Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society and editor-in-chief of American Scientist magazine. An award-winning science educator, he began communicating science as a public speaker and independent blogger. He went on to become a regular contributor to The Intersection, a Discover magazine blog about science and policy created by New York Times best seller Chris Mooney. He subsequently worked at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) as an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Science & Technology Policy Fellow and an Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) Fellow. His primary role at DOE was to improve the measurement and communication of the economic impacts of the Department’s $2.7 billion annual investment in clean and efficient energy technologies. From 2012-2013, he was co-chair of digital media for a climate communications working group within the White House’s U.S. Global Change Research Program.

He is a change agent, a synthesizer of ideas, and a convener of brilliant minds, which is demonstrated by his success in launching numerous science-based organizations, such as ScienceOnline DC, Science in the Pub, and Potential Energy DC, a technology accelerator for the energy industry. He has been instrumental in organizing major science conferences, including ScienceOnline Climate, DC Energy and Data Summit, and Sigma Xi’s 2015 International Conference. He continues to bring together science's biggest and brightest stars. Previously, Jamie spent more than a decade conducting molecular biology discovery research as a student and scientist working on HIV vaccines and developing genetic engineering technologies.

Panel 4: Getting to know the science communication outlets in North Carolina

Kathryn Pietrosimone

Regulatory Associate, UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center

Dr. Pietrosimone received a PhD in molecular and cell biology from the University of Connecticut in 2014.  At UConn, Dr. Pietrosimone studied the effects of the bacterial metallothionein, PmtA, on the virulence of Pseudomonas aeruginosa. In her tenure at UConn, she also enjoyed watching then UConn men’s and women’s basketball teams win a total of 6 national championships (2 Men’s, 4 Women’s). During her doctoral work, she pursued every opportunity to give scientific presentations to audiences ranging from high school students to pharmaceutical companies, and developed a passion for scientific communication.

As a postdoctoral researcher at the University of North Carolina, Dr. Pietrosimone joined the Science Writing and Communication club (SWAC) and began writing posts for various science blogs. While at UNC, she quickly began pursuing writing-based science careers and now works as a regulatory associate for Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, focusing on regulatory writing for clinical cancer trials.

Joshua Hall

Creator and co-host at Hello PhD,  Team Leader at Science, Training and Diversity Group,  Director of Science Outreach and UNC PREP, Office of Graduate Education at UNC School of Medicine

Josh is passionate about making science inclusive for everyone who wants to pursue it.  He works toward this goal as Team Leader of the Science, Training and Diversity group in the UNC School of Medicine Office of Graduate Education. In addition, since 2010, he has served as Director of UNC PREP, a PhD preparatory program for under-represented students and as Director of NC DNA Day, an annual event that sends over 150 scientists into high school classrooms across the state. In 2015, he launched Hello PhD, a weekly podcast for science trainees and anyone else who calls the research world “home”.  Josh strives to encourage and empower students at all stages to pursue and succeed in science and research careers.

Mary-Russell Roberson

Science Writer

Mary-Russell Roberson writes articles, curricula, and exhibit labels about all kinds of science, from astronomy to zoology. She is the co-author of Exploring the Geology of the Carolinas: A Field Guide to Favorite Places from Chimney Rock to Charleston (UNC Press, 2007). More recently, she’s written for Living Bird magazine, the News and Observer, KQED’s Quest website, Duke University, North Carolina State Parks, and the Museum of Life and Science in Durham. She’s also worked on earth and environmental science curricula for ages ranging from fourth grade to college. She earned a BA in geology from Carleton College, and a graduate certificate in science communication from the University of California at Santa Cruz. In her free time, she enjoys reading and discussing books; training for sprint triathlons; and wandering around outside looking at plants, birds, and bugs.

Kate Maddalena

Assistant Professor, English (Technical Communication and Science Writing)

Kate Maddalena teaches professional writing and technical communication at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. Dr. Maddalena’s interests include media theory, science and technology studies (STS), and technical communication. She teaches science writing for both public and "internal" (professional) audiences.