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For Immediate Release

May 4, 2009

Communication studies student wins national Merck Science Journalism award

John Pollock, Kristen KiernickiEWING, NJ … Communication studies major Kristen Kiernicki '09, was one of 13 students nationwide invited to attend a Rutgers Journalism Resources Institute conference April 8-11, 2009, as a national Merck Scholar. Sponsored by the Merck Company Foundation, the Merck Science Journalism Scholars program brings graduate and undergraduate students, most of who are majoring in science journalism, to Rutgers for an intensive program on the craft of writing news about science and the environment. Students each received a $1,000 scholarship for attending and a plaque commemorating their participation in the program. Each student also wrote a 500-word essay about his or her experiences in studying science journalism.

Kristen was selected in part because her senior-authored paper on nationwide newspaper coverage of adult obesity was the only undergraduate paper accepted for presentation by the Science Communication Interest Group at the annual conference of the Association for Education in Journalism & Mass Communication held in Chicago in August, 2008. The paper was written for a communication research methods course taught by her advisor, John C. Pollock, professor and chair of the communication studies department and advisor of the health communication interdisciplinary concentration.

After arriving at the University Inn at Rutgers on the evening of Wednesday, April 8, for dinner and a talk by Malcolm Ritter of the Associated Press, the participants traveled the next day, Thursday, April 9, to New York City to tour the newsrooms of The Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and Bloomberg News. At each stop, students engaged in discussions with science writers or editors assigned by their respective news organization.

That evening students returned to New Brunswick for a seminar of distinguished journalists discussing the subject of science journalism in a world where newspapers are in trouble and the economy is affecting all news organizations. Seminar speakers included TCNJ journalism professor Donna Shaw. The next day, Friday, April 10, participants traveled to Merck’s Rahway facility where they heard presentations from both scientific researchers and communication professionals. That evening, students and advisors assembled for an awards dinner at the Rutgers Club in New Brunswick, where they heard a keynote address from Wayne Biddle, a Pulitzer Prize winner and author of the well-known Field Guide to Germs.

The 2009 Merck Science Journalism Scholar program, in its 16th year of operation, was organized by Rutgers professor Ron Miskoff.

“This is an excellent way for students to learn in-the-field information about a likely career for them,” said John Pavlik, director of the Journalism Resources Institute (JRI) at Rutgers. JRI sponsors the program and provides education to journalists and journalism students.

The students attended from several universities, including, in addition to Rutgers and TCNJ: University of California-Santa Cruz, La Salle University, University of Maryland; New York University, Boston University, Lehigh University, University of Missouri, University of California-Berkeley, Carleton University (Toronto), University of North Carolina, and Howard University.