As a rule-following, eldest child of Chinese immigrants working in math and computer science, I never quite imagined not doing a STEM doctorate. I chose immunology — a marvelous and complex system. But several years into the Harvard PhD, during a dry spell with no data and many hours in a basement mouse room, I did some soul searching. I found a husband and a new career direction: science journalism.
Days after defending my thesis in 2003, we packed up our Civic hatchback and drove across the country. I completed the UC Santa Cruz science communication program, did an internship at the San Jose Mercury News, became a mother, and spent six bleary-eyed years wrangling young children while writing for Alzforum (website for researchers studying neurodegenerative diseases). In 2014, itching to write for broader audiences, I switched to freelancing. It took two months to sell my first story: a 200-word piece about dark chocolate that earned 75 bucks. I’ve since branched out, crafting stories about everything from bugs to B cells, children’s cancer to COVID — as well as profiles, primers, Q&As and the occasional conference report.
In particular, I'm drawn to deep dives that challenge assumptions, probe controversial treatments and explore how ideas fall in and out of mainstream. I'm intrigued by the mind-body connection and surprising intersections of law and medicine. Sometimes I get swept into investigations that displease all sides and raise even more questions — but that's OK.
In pieces for Scientific American, Nature, Medscape, Undark, Quanta, Science News, NPR and elsewhere, I strive to highlight overlooked voices and to balance nuance with clarity.
Now, to address the burning question: "How do you say your last name?" It's Dutch, pronounced like this. Here in the United States, though, my husband and his family utter something that rhymes with "Brandeis." Even this simple question has no simple answer.