Journalist in Residence Program

It is often said that mathematics is too abstract; too remote from "real life" to be of interest to the general public. It is a commonplace that mathematicians are "too far up in the clouds" to be able to explain their science to the layman. Yet, mathematics underlies almost all of real life as we know it today (computers, satellites, finance), and successful attempts to explain mathematics are popular with the general public (i.e., K. C. Cole's The Universe and the Teacup, R. Osserman's The Poetry of the Universe). Mathematics CAN be presented intelligibly to the public and there is genuine interest when that happens.

From 1998 to 2004, MSRI hosted a series of journalists for a semester each to help make contacts between mathematical scientists and journalists who can spread more and better information to the public. 

The Journalist in Residence Program was supported by grants from the Gabriella and Paul Rosenbaum and William Randolph Hearst Foundations, and managed by a board of distinguished advisors, chaired by William R. Hearst III.  


Biographies were current at original time of publication.

Spring 1998

K. C. Cole, Science Writer for the LA Times

Fall 1998

Allyn Jackson, Senior Writer and Deputy Editor for the Notices of the AMS 

Spring 1999

Brian Hayes, Computing Science Writer for American Scientist 

Summer 1999

Ivars Peterson, Mathematics/Computer Writer and Online Editor at Science News 

Ivars Peterson is the mathematics/computer writer and online editor at Science News. He is the author of The Mathematical TouristIslands of TruthNewton's ClockFatal Defect, and The Jungles of Randomness. He and his wife, Nancy Henderson, have just completed Math Trek: Adventures in the MathZone, a fun math book for children of middle-school age, published by Wiley.

Ivars Peterson's MathTrek was a weekly online math column. Ivars Peterson was Journalist in Residence at MSRI during the summer of 1999. The columns that he wrote while he was at MSRI are named below.

Fall 1999

Beverly Wachtel, Producer/Writer for Earth and Sky Radio Series 

Radio scripts by Beverly Wachtel:

Spring 2000

Larry Gonick, Cartoonist

Fall 2000

Jim Holt, Author, columnist and frequent contributor to the New York Times Book Review, The Wall Street Journal, Prospect (U.K.), and Slate

Spring 2001

Sara Robinson, Writer and contributor to the New York Times

Spring 2002

Erica Klarreich, science writer 

Spring 2003

Ed Alcock, Photojournalist and frequent contributor to The New York Times and The Guardian 

Spring 2005

Steve Olson, Author of Countdown: Six Kids Vie for Glory at the World's Toughest Math Competition

While associated with MSRI he worked on "Nurturing Mathematical Talent: Views from Top Finishers in the William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition." His work was based on a large number of interviews, which are interesting to read in themselves.

Note: Applications for the JIR position are no longer being accepted.