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Knight Science Journalism Fellowships, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA

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Knight Science Journalism Fellowships, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA

The basic premise of the fellowship is to lay aside the journalist’s normally narrow focus on getting “the story,” and instead to explore science more deeply and more broadly—to follow intellectual digressions, to learn the history of a field, to understand how scientists and engineers pursue their work. With background knowledge, our Fellows return to the workplace more confident about asking the right questions, and in turn are better prepared to communicate science to their readers.

Fellows receive a stipend of $65,000 as well as some additional benefits. The program is divided between programs arranged by the Knight Science Journalism Fellowships and individually-chosen activites. In addition to these aspects, our Fellows often report that the sense of collegiality and life in Cambridge are some of the most rewarding parts of the year.

Individualized Study
Each Fellow designs his or her own course of study in discussion with the director. Some Fellows audit three or four courses. Others choose to spend time in a lab. A Fellow’s work usually includes courses audited at MIT and Harvard, attendance at departmental colloquia, research trips, lab visits, interviews, reading and writing. Fellows must refrain from professional work, unless prior permission is granted by the director.

Fellows are required to attend at least one science-related course per semester at Harvard or MIT (the choice to be made in consultation with the director). Near the end of each semester, each Fellow will make a 20-minute presentation to the other Fellows of some relevant portion of what was learned.

Among the many resources available for Fellows to tailor design their study are the course catalogue for MIT and for Harvard University.

Knight Fellowship programs and activities
In addition to their individually selected courses, Fellows are expected to attend the following programs:

Seminars: Fellows meet twice weekly for seminars with top researchers. Sometimes the presenter comes to us, and sometimes we visit them in the lab. A few seminars are devoted to the craft of science writing and issues involving interactions between science and society. See our seminar schedule.

Boot Camps: Knight Fellows also gain automatic admission to our highly competitive week-long Boot Camps, one per semester. See our upcoming boot camps.

Field Trips: Each fall, Fellows spend a few days in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, visiting the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the Marine Biological Laboratory. Other field trips to local science centers may arise during the course of the year.

Digital Media Training: Due to the changing nature of journalism, we want our Fellows to return to the work-force with more skills than they had coming in. As of 2009, we now offer training in various technologies, including audio and video capture, and digital editing.

Stipends & Benefits
Fellows receive a stipend of $65,000 divided into ten installments over the academic year. Our $65,000 stipend is awarded to all Fellows, regardless of nationality.

Additional Benefits
Health Insurance: Fellows who elect to participate in the MIT Affiliate Health Insurance program may have their own coverage paid by the Knight Science Journalism Fellowships. Fellows who wish for their spouses and children to join the same plan must arrange to pay the cost for their families.

Access to everything at MIT and Harvard: With few exceptions, all MIT and Harvard University courses are available for audit by Knight Fellows.

To be awarded our 9-month academic year Fellowship, selected applicants must agree to the following requirements:

  • To reside full-time in the Boston/Cambridge area for the academic year: August 15 through May 15.
  • To attend all boot camps, field trips, seminars, and new media training sessions arranged by the Knight Science Journalism Fellowships.
  • To participate in at least one science course per semester.
  • To refrain from professional work during the Fellowship, unless written permission has been granted by the Director.
  • For international candidates: To obtain a J-1 visa from the U.S. State Department after being awarded the Fellowship.

Selection process:
Applicants are selected each spring by a panel of leading journalists and MIT faculty. All application materials must be received by February 28. Finalists are chosen in mid-April. U.S. finalists are brought to Cambridge for interviews in late April. International finalists are interviewed by telephone. Winners are announced by early May.

A few things everyone should be aware of when they apply for our 9-month Fellowship
If you are selected as a Fellow:

  • You will need to pay for you and your family’s travel to and from Boston.
  • Your housing search should begin early! We’ll share information from previous Knight Fellows and apartment listings, but securing an apartment is your responsibility.
  • Before signing a lease or sending any money for an apartment either see it in person or have someone you know and trust, like a friend or relative in the area, check it out for you.
  • Housing in the Cambridge area is expensive. To finalize a rental agreement, it is often required that a person pay their first and last month’s rent, plus a security deposit of one month’s rent. MIT’s International Scholars website has information everyone should read about housing, utilities, and food prices in Cambridge.
  • Knight Fellows receive their stipend in 10 installments. If you are selected as a Fellow, your first stipend payment will be on August 31. Unfortunately, salary advances and loans are not possible.
  • FOR INTERNATIONAL APPLICANTS: If you are selected as a FINALIST, please make sure that you and your family’s passports are current. The visa process must begin immediately after the Fellows are selected, and that process cannot start without a valid passport.

Many Knight Fellows have said that one of the most valuable and lasting benefits of their year at MIT is the interaction with other Knight Fellows. The fellowship year is a time to learn how other science writers work, how they think, how they judge story ideas, and, not least, how they have fun. For many at smaller news organizations and for freelance writers, science writing can be a lonely pursuit. The professional community fostered by a Knight Fellowship offers new opportunities for collegiality.

Since the program began in 1983, 298 journalists have been—or are—Knight Fellows. They remain part of a growing group of journalists who share questions, information, ideas, job opportunities, and thoughts about the craft. We encourage former Fellows to return for seminars or to use our office as a base of operation when in town.

Family Life
Applicants often ask whether family can join them on their Fellowship. The answer is YES. Spouses are considered MIT Affiliates, enabling them to audit most classes at Harvard and MIT, and use MIT libraries.

Also, Cambridge is a great place for children. Fellows find a wealth of educational and fun activities through the local universities, museums and community programs.

Living in Cambridge
As if a year away from deadline pressures to feed your mind wasn’t enough, the Knight Fellowship gives you a great location in which to do it. Cambridge boasts an intellectual energy here that is hard to match. Often people you meet in casual conversation will turn out to have fascinating academic connections. On the other side of the Charles River, Boston is also teeming with things to do.

Take note, Fellows must pay all their living costs in the Cambridge area. Apartments are relatively expensive by U.S. standards.

For more information, please visit official website: ksj.mit.edu.

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