We chatted with Bri Barbu, a scientist turned accomplished science writer. She is currently a production editor for Chemical and Engineering News, a magazine covering everything chemistry and chemistry-adjacent. As a Mass Media Fellow of the America Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in 2021, she wrote for Discover Magazine. Bri covers topics including chemistry, physics, and health. Keep reading to learn more about Bri’s motivations to become a science journalist and gain her advice for aspiring science freelancers!
Bri Barbu: I signed up for a class in science journalism and fell in love with it basically instantly…Tweet
Fancy Comma: Where are you based? What do you do as a SciCommer?
Bri Barbu: I’m in Washington, DC now – I moved here from Michigan in November 2021. I’m on the production team at Chemical and Engineering News, a weekly magazine covering, you guessed it, everything chemistry and chemistry-adjacent. Which turns out to be a broad swath of science topics because chemistry is in everything.
FC: What is the scope of SciComm in Washington, DC?
Bri: DC is a major hub for SciComm and science journalism. Being the nation’s capital makes the city a hub for scientific professional societies, news outlets, and museums that employ science communicators.
FC: How did you get into SciComm? Which area of SciComm is your favorite?
Bri: I was in a PhD program until early 2020. I was miserable and planning to quit. I signed up for a class in science journalism and fell in love with it basically instantly, and pretty much out of sheer stubbornness decided that’s what I wanted to do with my life despite having hardly any prior experience. I’m just glad I turned out to have a knack for writing. Eventually I landed an internship at Fermilab and an AAAS Mass Media Fellowship and then a full-time job at a science magazine.
FC: What are your tips/advice/suggestions for those interested in doing SciComm, in terms of landing clients?
Bri: I hate networking and I hate self-promoting, but unfortunately those are the two pillars of building a name for yourself in SciComm, especially if you’re a freelancer. You have to get your work in front of people so they know what you can do, they know what you’re open for, and will refer you to jobs or clients that fit your skillset. That’s also why it’s good to have a personal website to showcase your work. By the way, for more of my advice on thriving as a science writer, check out my article with Brittany Trang at Cell.
About Bri Barbu
Bri (Brianna) Barbu is a science communicator and science journalist. She writes about many disciplines including chemistry, physics, and health. Bri received her BS in Chemistry from Hope College and her MS in Chemistry from the University of Michigan. Currently, Bri serves as the Assistant Editor for Chemical and Engineering News, an all-things-chemistry magazine. In 2021, she worked at Discover Magazine as a Mass Media Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). She has also previously interned as a science writer with Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab), where she wrote about subatomic particles and working with indigenous communities to conduct science fieldwork.