In 2007, I learned a magic trick. With a defective virus and a handful of genes, I transformed scrawny, exhausted skin cells into flourishing cell clusters. Tinkering with the nutrient broth could morph them into spiky neurons, beating heart muscles, or any tissue in our bodies.


My lab had uncovered a new source for stem cells. This being science, not magic, we eagerly revealed our secret to the world. For the briefest of moments, everyone—including my family—was genuinely interested in what I did.


To explain the steps and missteps that led to the Big Wow, I worked a different magic. I transformed an abstract discovery into a narrative that helped my audience understand the science and connect with the scientists behind it. That’s a trick I want to master as a science writer.

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Kim Smuga-Otto

Freelance Science Journalist









127 Shelter Lagoon Dr.

Santa Cruz, CA 95060

  • "Seafood calendar promotes sustainable, seasonal eating in India" Mongabay, Oct 13, 2017

  • "Meet your Neighbors from the White Shark Café" Santa Cruz Style Magazine, Summer 2017

  • "Elusive seabird breeding grounds discovered in Chilean desert" Mongabay, June 16, 2017

  • "Can marine reserves help counteract climate change?" Mongabay, June 8, 2017

  • “Malaria During Pregnancy Could Bolster Babies' Immunity” Discover Magazine – The Crux, June 5, 2017

  • “Lessons from teen activists” inquiry@UC Santa Cruz, June 2017

  • “Metagenomic Sleuthing Treats Illness Like a Crime Scene” Discover Magazine – The Crux, Feb 16, 2017

  • “Will Biden’s Cancer Moonshot Survive the Trump Administration?” Discover Magazine – D-brief, Feb 2, 2017

  • “Wanted: Stem Cell Super Donors” Discover Magazine – The Crux, Oct 24, 2016

  • “Exploring Alternative Codon Usage in Yeast” The Scientist, Aug 18, 2016

  • “FDA Nods for Atezolizumab and Nivolumab” Cancer Discovery, June 2016

  • “Journey into the unknown: Exploring mysteries and marvels of science” Santa Cruz Style, Summer 2016

  • “A Lab in the Hand” inquiry@UC Santa Cruz, May 2016

  • “Midostaurin + Chemo Ups AML Survival” Cancer Discovery, Jan 6, 2016

  • “Crab fishermen train as first responders for entangled whales” Mongabay, Nov 24, 2015

  • “Musician-turned-scientist develops drug for inflammatory bowel disease” Inside Stanford Medicine Nov 20, 2015

  • “Measuring immune cells before surgery may help predict recovery time” Inside Stanford Medicine, Nov 17, 2015

  • “Finding usable medical images made easier through software” Inside Stanford Medicine, Aug 19, 2015

  • “Researchers find mutations that contribute to rare blood cancer” Inside Stanford Medicine, Aug 10, 2015

  • “'A mother hen,' early Stanford kidney donor dies at 99” Inside Stanford Medicine,  July 8, 2015

  • “Ulcer-causing bacteria induces stomach stem cell growth in mice, researchers find” Inside Stanford Medicine, May 6, 2015

  • “Foreign antibodies mobilize immune system to fight cancer, researchers find” Inside Stanford Medicine, Apr 29, 2015

  • “Encountering a wall corrects 'GPS' cells in mouse brains, study finds” Inside Stanford Medicine, Apr 16, 2015

  • “California’s shift toward renewables makes energy harder to manage” San Jose Mercury News, March 26, 2015

  • “Happy Pi Day! This year it’s extra special” San Jose Mercury News, March 13, 2015

  • “Freakish weather on both coasts is related” San Jose Mercury News, Feb 25, 2015

  • “Lessons Learned From Ebola: Preventing Future Outbreaks Will Require Long-Term Investments” AAAS Website, Feb 15, 2015

  •  “Sea lions desperate for nourishment dying off in alarming numbers on California coast” San Jose Mercury News, Feb 12, 2015

  • “23andMe: Quest for Parkinson’s cure opens door to genetic data mining” San Jose Mercury News, Feb 8, 2015

  • “California drought: Sierra snowpack measuring is a lot more complex than it looks” San Jose Mercury News, Jan 28, 2016 (with James Urton)

  • “Watsonville workshop lures young Latinos into science” San Jose Mercury News, Jan 21, 2015

  • “Poisoning of small animals in China may increase flood risks” Science, Dec 5, 2014



Since graduating from the UC Santa Cruz Science Communication program I've written online articles for Discover Magazine, The Scientist, Cancer Discovery, and Mongabay. My features have appeared in Santa Cruz Style and inquiry@UC Santa Cruz.


Science writer


Stanford Oral History Project


Stanford's Oral History project aims to record and preserve the memories, impression and details of the school's history as well as the lives of Stanford's extraordinary professors, students, and staff. I've worked on oral histories of marine biologists, biochemists, medical doctors, radio engineers, political scientists, educators, and athletic department staff.


Wrote press releases and news articles for Inside Stanford Medicine and accompanying posts on Scope blog

April-August 2015

Stanford School of Medicine

Communications Department

Meet your Neighbors from the White Shark Café

Summer 2017

Santa Cruz Style Magazine

Local scientists explore why more great white sharks are showing up along California’s coast.

Elusive seabird breeding grounds discovered in Chilean desert

June 16, 2017


Scientists see the discovery as critical to determining the threat posed by mining and proposed wind farms in the region.

Metagenomic Sleuthing Treats Illness Like a Crime Scene

The Crux - Feb 2017

Discover Magazine

Using next generations sequencing, doctors may be able to diagnose infections with a single test.

January-March 2015

San Jose Mercury News


Wrote 6 front page enterprise stories (3 centerpieces) and 1 B1 centerpiece daily story presenting science in a meaningful way for the general public. This paper is part of a larger news group with a total daily circulation of 650,000.


Bacteriology Degree

Bachelor of Science in Bacteriology, University of Wisconsin—Madison

Bioinformatics Certificate

Capstone Certificate in Bioinformatics, University of Wisconsin—Madison

SciCom Program

Graduate Certificate in Science Communication, UC Santa Cruz

1993 –1997

2004 – 2005

2014 - 2015