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International Epidemiologist Awarded ASA/AAAS Mass Media Fellowship

1 June 2020 1,386 views No Comment
Regina Nuzzo, Senior Advisor for Statistics Communication and Media Innovation

    ASA/AAAS Mass Media Fellow Jess Craig

    Jess Craig

    Jess Craig—a recent graduate of The George Washington University’s public health graduate program and an epidemiologist who has worked in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East—has been selected as the ASA’s 2020 AAAS Mass Media Science and Engineering Fellow. She will spend 10 weeks this summer training as a science journalist with NPR in its Washington, DC, offices.

    Craig comes to the fellowship with a demonstrable passion for statistics and its applications. She chose a concentration of biostatistics and epidemiology for her master’s in public health, in which she used her thesis to explore mathematical modeling for antibiotic use and antimicrobial disease burden in lower-income countries. For her work with the CDC’s Global Health Security Agenda and its Center for Global Health, Craig used SAS, R, and Python to develop data visualizations. Most recently, she oversaw research and operations across Africa and the Middle East for The Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics, and Policy—an international nonprofit.

    With dual bachelor’s degrees in microbiology and nonfiction English writing from the University of Pittsburgh, Craig is also unusually well prepared for a stint with NPR’s award-winning science journalism team. As an undergraduate, she wrote a weekly column for the university newspaper and worked in numerous roles for The Pitt Pulse—the University of Pittsburgh Medical School’s creative science magazine—including features writer and editor-in-chief.

    Communicating with various audiences has been a consistent theme in Craig’s career. After her undergraduate education, she worked as a journalist covering oncology and infectious disease news for a publication for medical health professionals. Even after she made the transition to working as a microbiologist in genetics and infectious disease laboratories, she continued to work as a freelance journalist on the side, writing for Newsweek, The New Humanitarian, and The Daily Beast, among others. In her international public health work, she has written reports and press releases for technical and nontechnical audiences and helped educate policymakers, government officials, and members of the community around sensitive topics such as vaccination and bioterrorism. Currently, she’s part of a multi-national, multi-industry effort to teach scientists and clinicians how to better communicate the threat of drug resistance to nontechnical audiences.

    At NPR, Craig hopes to deepen her science journalism skills and put her statistics skills to direct use through data journalism projects. She already sees how her background in biostatistics and epidemiology will help translate to the fellowship. “Field epidemiology and science journalism draw from the same well of fundamental skills, interests, activities, and personal character traits,” she wrote in her fellowship application. “Epidemiologists and journalists obsess over documentation and tracing a line of data points to a larger truth. At heart, both are driven by curiosity and truth and are shaped by observation and documentation, the fundamentals of the scientific process.”

    Craig will join NPR from Nairobi, Kenya, where she has lived following stretches in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Bangladesh, and India. Proficient in French, Spanish, Swahili, and American Sign Language in addition to English, Craig volunteers as a biology and math teacher in her spare time, empowering young girls and women in urban slums and refugee camps in Kenya and Ethiopia.

    The ASA joined the AAAS Mass Media Fellowship sponsorship programs in 2017 to expand its efforts to promote statistical capacity in reporting and provide statisticians with more media experience. A call for 2021 fellows will be issued this fall.

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