Pretty fly (for a science magazine)

Last month, we launched the first installment of our “Defying stereotypes” series by printing three articles under the banner of “Punks who publish.” The articles profiled the lead singers of The Offspring, Descendents and Bad Religion, all of whom are punk rockers and scientists. The package was the brainchild of our public outreach coordinator, Geoff Hunt, a punk rock aficionado. He co-wrote it with our science writer, Rajendrani Mukhopadhyay, who is a singer but who knew little about the genre at first.

Each has written a personal essay about the reporting and co-writing experience. Their essays offer a behind-the-scenes look at the highs and lows of the endeavor. Even after serving as their mediator, cheerleader and veto-empowered holder of the red pen, I have to admit that their essays taught me quite a bit about them as writers, as science advocates and as music fans.

For me, the “Punks who publish” coverage served as a 20-year time warp. When The Offspring’s album “Smash” began climbing the charts in 1994, I was finishing up my sophomore year of high school and torturing my mother with my grunge fashion choices. I spent many afternoons blasting the radio to drown out the innumerable injustices that only teenagers can perceive. Based upon the reader responses, I wasn’t alone on that flashback.

One reader commented on our profile of Milo Aukerman of Descendents:  “Huge influence in my life. (Now 40.) Descendents demonstrated for me the importance of critical thought, healthy (but not aggressive) skepticism of positional authority, pride in individualism…I still listen to them LOUD.” Another recalled lugging around a boombox while skateboarding. Yet another said songs by one of the bands were on the soundtrack for her wedding. No shortage of nostalgia there!

More importantly, though, the articles achieved what we had hoped: They reached readers who ordinarily wouldn’t read a specialized science magazine like ours. In fact, our Web traffic was unprecedented last month, which, I think, is a clear measure of impact.

We hope to keep up that momentum with the next installment of our “Defying stereotypes” series, found in this issue. That feature is about a brainy baseball player, Craig Breslow. He is a pitcher for the Boston Red Sox, and he trained during his undergraduate years at Yale University in the lab of distinguished scientist Joan Steitz

Angela HoppAngela Hopp (ahopp@asbmb.org) is editor of ASBMB Today.