Josh Witten, 32, is a freelance science writer and former researcher at the Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, England.
Questions and answers have been edited.
Q: Why did you first start blogging?
I was doing my Ph.D. at Washington University in St. Louis, and my bench bay partner was Michael White, who was the other co-founder of The Finch and Pea. I think he kind of got tired of hearing me ramble. He suggested that I start writing the things I was talking to him about instead. After a few go-arounds of that, I started writing. As I started doing it, I found I was spending more time writing and was enjoying it more than a lot of tasks I had in the lab.
Q: Science in pop culture tends to turn up a lot in your posts. Are you ever surprised by where ideas turn up?
If you want to, you can really can find science in everything because it’s about how the world works. Even these creations of fantasy are created by people who operate within the world. The amazing thing is that it doesn’t get old. It doesn’t feel like you’re doing the same thing over and over again, just applying it to something different. It’s being able to find things that are really compelling and interesting and make you spend more time than you should writing about it or investigating it.
Q: How has your work on the blog impact your work as a scientist?
It’s not necessarily impacting the approach to my work. The blogging and the research are internally motivated by my interests and world view. They’re coming from the same place, even though they’re different expressions of that. But I think one of the things that’s been impacted is the people who, professionally, have reached out to me because of the blogging. As a Ph.D. student, the sense you were given was that doing things like this – that weren’t directly related to your research – was a bad thing. I have found there have been a lot of people professionally who like the writing, like the approach. It’s given people a different view of what I can do as a professional in terms of presenting science to a different type of audience.