The Knight Science Journalism Program and STAT, the award-winning Boston-based biomedical magazine, have announced Ambar Castillo and Brittany Trang as the 2022-2023 recipients of the Sharon Begley Science Reporting Fellowship. Named in honor of Sharon Begley, an award-winning science writer for STAT, who died in January 2021 at 64 from complications of lung cancer, the one-year fellowship was established last year with the goal of diversifying the ranks of science and health journalists and fostering better coverage of science that is relevant to all people.
Before winning the fellowship, Ambar Castillo was a Poynter-Koch Media and Journalism Fellow at the Washington City Paper. She earned her B.A. in Latin American Studies at Boston University and an M.A. in Spanish-language journalism at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism, where she concentrated on health/science reporting. A Fulbright research scholar, she researched complex human relationships in India, worked with StoryCorps, and reported for hyperlocal newspapers in the Bronx. Castillo has also worked with international communities in the health, education, and theater spheres from Brooklyn to Boston.
Brittany Trang, a scientist and writer, most recently was an American Association for the Advancement of Science Mass Media Fellow at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and a freelance writer. Her work has appeared in Chemical & Engineering News, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and Chemistry World. Trang has an undergraduate degree in chemistry and English from Ohio State University and before starting the fellowship, expects to complete her chemistry Ph.D. at Northwestern University, where she has developed PFAS remediation methods.
“Both Ms. Castillo and Ms. Trang bring a wealth of experience and expertise to the STAT newsroom,” said Gideon Gil, a managing editor at STAT. “We are incredibly excited to have such amazing talent join our team. We look forward to helping them grow as health and science journalists as they continue Sharon’s extraordinary legacy.”
At MIT, Castillo and Trang will join the five mid-career journalists who will make up the 2022-23 Knight Science Journalism Fellowship class: Mary-Rose Abraham, an independent multimedia journalist based in Bangalore, India; Laura Bliss, a reporter and editor for CityLab, a division of Bloomberg News; Wojtek Brzeziński, a freelance science journalist based in Warsaw; Sebastien Malo, a climate and environment reporter in New York for Reuters; and Kelly Servick, a staff reporter and editor at Science Magazine. The five fellows were originally selected to come to MIT during the 2020-21 academic year, but their appointments were deferred due to the pandemic. Other fellows selected for the 2020-21 class have opted to defer their appointments until the 2023-24 academic year.
The Knight Science Journalism Program at MIT, founded in 1983, is the world’s premier fellowship program for science journalists; more than 300 reporters, from media outlets ranging from the BBC to the Los Angeles Times, have studied at MIT and Harvard while participating in this prestigious program. In addition, KSJ publishes the award-winning magazine, Undark, offers training in fact-checking and science editing (including a free, downloadable handbook for science editors available in three languages) and hosts the Victor K. McElheny Award in Science Journalism for small and regional media outlets.
About the Sharon Begley Fellowship
The Sharon Begley Fellowship prepares early-career U.S. journalists from racial and ethnic groups underrepresented in the profession for a successful career in science journalism. It combines a paid reporting position at STAT with an educational component provided through the Knight Science Journalism program. The Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative provided funding for the first two years of the program and KSJ provides health insurance and other MIT resources to the fellows. After completing her fellowship, the inaugural Sharon Begley Fellow, Isabella Cueto, was hired by STAT to report on chronic diseases.
Begley, STAT’s senior science writer, was considered one of the nation’s finest science journalists and was known for her enthusiasm for mentoring and teaching the next generation. She was especially eager to help other women advance in a profession that, when she began as a researcher at Newsweek in 1977, was unwelcoming. She later worked at The Wall Street Journal and Reuters, before joining STAT at its founding in 2015. Her legacy includes her powerful advocacy for people of color, exemplified by a series she wrote in 2016 and 2017 about the neglect by scientists, government funders, drugmakers, and hospitals of patients with sickle cell disease, who in the U.S. are predominantly Black. This fellowship pays tribute to her outstanding career while paving the way for the next generation of science journalists.