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Laura Helmuth: From psych degree to editor in chief of Scientific American

sue_frantz
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I was pleased to see in the April/May 2022 issues of the APA’s Monitor on Psychology an interview with Dr. Laura Helmuth, editor in chief of Scientific American (Santoro, 2022). (Read it here.)

According to her LinkedIn page, Dr. Helmuth has a BS in biology and psychology from Eckerd College. For those who have ever taken the airport shuttle from the Tampa airport to NITOP, you may have stopped at Eckerd to drop off students returning to college after winter break. NITOP has been at the Tradewinds in St. Pete Beach since 1988 (Bernstein, 2019). Helmuth was there between 1987 to 1991. Long-time NITOP attendees may have shared an airport shuttle with her.

From Eckerd, Helmuth went to UC, Berkeley for her Ph.D. in cognitive neuroscience. It didn’t take her long to find her calling in science journalism. Here are some career highlights. She’s worked as a reporter and editor for the AAAS flagship publication Science, as science editor for Smithsonian Magazine, and science and health editor for Slate, as health and science editor for The Washington Post, and since 2020 as editor in chief for Scientific American.

The short interview with Dr. Helmuth in the Monitor would be good for students to read for a number of reasons. For all college students, this is an excellent lesson in the importance of solid writing skills. If you can write well, you can take your career in any number of directions. For psychology majors, the interview points out the need for people who understand the inner workings of science to be able to translate it for the general public. Students should see science journalism as a legitimate career path. For Intro Psych students, the interview drives home the point that, yes, psychology is indeed a science.

If you would like to build a class discussion (face-to-face or online) around this article, here are two suggested discussion questions.

  1. After reading this interview, what do you think is the most important thing Dr. Helmuth wants you to know?
  2. If you could ask Dr. Helmuth a question, what question would ask? Why?

If you are feeling especially adventurous, take the questions students would ask Dr. Helmuth and combine those that are most similar together. Share the final list with students, and then invite students to vote for, say, their top three favorite questions. Send the top question or two to Dr. Helmuth via Twitter (@LauraHelmuth). If she responds, be sure to share her response with your students.  

 

References

Bernstein, D. A. (2019). A brief history of NITOP. National Institute on the Teaching of Psychology. https://nitop.org/History

Santoro, H. (2022, April). Psychology coverage is vital for scientists: 6 questions for Laura Helmuth. Monitor on Psychology, 53(2). https://www.apa.org/monitor/2022/04/conversation-helmuth-psychologists-scientists

 

 

 

About the Author
Sue Frantz has taught psychology in community colleges since 1992, and has been at Highline College in the Seattle area since 2001. She has served on several APA boards and committees, and was proud to serve the members of the Society for the Teaching of Psychology as their 2018 president. In 2013, she was the inaugural recipient of the APA award for Excellence in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning at a Two-Year College or Campus. She received in 2016 the highest award for the teaching of psychology--the Charles L. Brewer Distinguished Teaching of Psychology Award . She presents nationally and internationally on the topics of educational technology and the pedagogy of psychology. She is co-author with Doug Bernstein and Steve Chew of Teaching Psychology: A Step-by-Step Guide, 3rd ed.