Meet the Authors: Conversations with Best-Selling Science Writers

Stack of hardcover encyclopedias against red background
Date: Saturday June 1, 2013
Time: 12:00 PM-04:00 PM
Venue: NYU Kimmel Center, Commuter Lounge
Moderator: Alison Stewart
Participants: Richard Besser, Steven Strogatz, Michael Moss, Jonathan Weiner, Jessica Wapner, Mario Livio, Sarah Elizabeth Richards

Spend a thought-provoking afternoon meeting with celebrated science writers, Pulitzer Prize winning journalists, and best-selling authors.

This unique collection of discussions, readings, and book signings connects you with expert science communicators. The topics will move from curiosity-quenching medical advice to the cutting-edge food science equations hooking us on of junk food addiction to the remarkable story of a ground-breaking cancer drug. Bring your questions and your books!

This program is part of the Science and Story series.

Speaking Schedule:
12:00 PMMichael Moss, Salt Sugar Fat
12:30 PMSteven Strogatz, The Joy of X
1:00 PMJessica Wapner, The Philadelphia Chromosome
1:30 PMJonathan Weiner, Long for this World
2:00 PMSarah Elizabeth Richards, Motherhood, Rescheduled
2:30 PMMario Livio, Brilliant Blunders
3:00 PMRichard Besser, Tell me The Truth, Doctor

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20ll marked Alison Stewart’s twentieth year as a professional journalist and on January 1, 2012 Stewart filed her first report for 60 Minutes. In 2010-2011 she hosted the PBS news magazine Need to Know. In 2007 Stewart was the founding host of NPR’s breakthrough multiplatform news program, The Bryant Park Project, the first public radio news program to seamlessly incorporate audio, video, and social media. She also guest hosted the network’s flagship programs, Weekend Edition and Talk of the Nation. Stewart has anchored major news events from Hurricane Katrina to the Hezbollah/Israel conflict, reported live from the 2006 Olympics in Torino, Italy, and contributed to NBC Nightly News, The Today Show, and Weekend Today.

Over the years Stewart has reported from the floor of six presidential conventions. Interview highlights of her career include President Bill Clinton, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, Bono, Elizabeth Warren, 9/11 commissioner Tom Kean, Mark Pollan, Broadway director Julie Taymor, House Speaker Newt Gingrich, radio icon Howard Stern, authors Carl Hiassen and David Grossman, humorist Amy Sedaris, movie titan Steven Spielberg, and U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher.


ABC News Chief Health & Medical Editor

Richard Besser is ABC News’ chief health and medical editor. In this role, he provides medical analysis and commentary for all ABC News broadcasts and platforms, including World News with Diane Sawyer, Good Morning America, and Nightline.

Since his arrival at ABC News in 2009, Besser has been at the forefront of news coverage for every major medical story. When ABC News first reported on the health problems facing then-hospitalized, former President Clinton, Besser was there with insights and reporting on heart health. In January 2010, he reported from the ravaged country of Haiti in the immediate aftermath of a devastating earthquake.

Besser is the leading correspondent on ABC’s global health series, Be The Change, Save a Life. He has traveled from Bangladesh to Burkina Faso, raising very important global health issues.

Besser came to ABC News from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), where he served as director of the Coordinating Office for Terrorism Preparedness and Emergency Response. In that role, he was responsible for all of the CDC’s public health emergency preparedness and emergency response activities. He also served as acting director for the CDC and acting administrator for the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry from January to June 2009, during which time he led the CDC’s response to the H1N1 influenza outbreak.

Besser began his career at the CDC in 1991 in the Epidemic Intelligence Service working on the epidemiology of food-borne diseases. Following this, in 1993, he served for five years on the faculty of the University of California, San Diego, as the pediatric residency director. While in San Diego he worked for the county health department on the control of pediatric tuberculosis. He returned to the CDC in 1998, where he served in various capacities, including epidemiology section chief in the Respiratory Diseases Branch; acting chief of the Meningitis and Special Pathogens Branch in the National Center for Infectious Disease; and as the medical director of “Get Smart: Know When Antibiotics Work,” the CDC′s national campaign to promote appropriate antibiotic use in the community.

He has authored and co-authored hundreds of presentations, abstracts, chapters, editorials, and publications. He has received many awards for his work in public health and volunteer service including the Surgeon General′s Medallion for his leadership during the H1N1 response.

Besser received his Bachelor of Arts degree in economics from Williams College and his medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania. He completed a residency and chief residency in pediatrics at Johns Hopkins University Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland.

He met his wife Jeanne, a food writer, while on his first outbreak investigation in 1991. They have two sons, Alex and Jack.


Steven Strogatz is the Jacob Gould Schurman Professor of applied mathematics at Cornell University. He studied at Princeton, Cambridge, and Harvard and taught at MIT before moving to Cornell in 1994. A renowned teacher and one of the world’s most highly cited mathematicians, he has blogged about math for the New York Timesand has been a frequent guest on RadioLab. His honors include a Presidential Young Investigator Award; MIT’s highest teaching prize; a lifetime achievement award for the communication of mathematics to the general public; and membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is the author of Nonlinear Dynamics and Chaos, Sync, and The Calculus of Friendship. His latest book is The Joy of x.

Journalist and Author

Michael Moss is the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us, published by Random House in 2013. He has been an investigative reporter with The New York Times since 2000. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for explanatory reporting in 2010, and was a finalist for the prize in 2006 and 1999. He is also the recipient of a Loeb Award and an Overseas Press Club citation. Before joining the Times, he was a reporter for The Wall Street Journal, New York Newsday, and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He has been an adjunct professor at the Columbia University School of Journalism and currently lives in Brooklyn with his wife, Eve Heyn, and two sons.


Jonathan Weiner’s books have won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and many other honors. While working on His Brother’s Keeper, he was writer-in-residence at Rockefeller University. Now he teaches science writing at Columbia University’s graduate school of journalism, where he is a professor. He lives in New York with his wife, Deborah Heiligman, the children’s book author.

Photo credit – Piotr Redlinski


Jessica Wapner is a freelance writer focused mainly on science and medicine. Her first book, The Philadelphia Chromosome, was published in May 2013. Publishers Weekly named The Philadelphia Chromosome a top-ten science book for Spring 2013, and Kirkus calls it “an absorbing, complex medical detective story.” The book has garnered nationwide attention, including coverage on The Leonard Lopate Show, WAMC’s The Roundtable, and KERA’s Think, with Krys Boyd.

Jessica’s work has appeared in publications including Scientific American, Slate, The New York Times,, AARP, New York, Science, Nature Medicine, the Ecologist, the Scientist, Cosmos, and Aeon. Her writing on cancer research and treatment has also appeared in the patient-focused magazines CR and Cure, and the industry publication Oncology Business Review.


Mario Livio is an internationally known astrophysicist, a best-selling author and a popular lecturer. His popular book The Golden Ratio: The Story of Phi, the World’s Most Astonishing Number won the Peano Prize for 2003, and the International Pythagoras Prize for 2004, as the best popular book on mathematics, while his Is God A Mathematician? was selected by the Washington Post as one of the best books of 2009.

Livio is a senior astrophysicist at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), which conducts the scientific program of the Hubble Space Telescope, and will conduct the program for the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope. He has a regular blog, A Curious Mind, about science, art, and the links between them.

During the past decade, Livio’s research focused on supernova explosions and their use in cosmology to determine the rate of expansion of the universe, and the nature of the “dark energy” that causes the cosmic expansion to accelerate. He has also done extensive work on extrasolar planets.

Livio’s recent book, Brilliant Blunders (2013), was a New York Times Bestseller, and was selected by the Washington Post as one of the “Best Books” of 2013.


Sarah Elizabeth Richards is a journalist specializing in health, medicine, psychology, and social issues. She has written for more than two dozen newspapers, magazines, and websites, including The Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Financial Times, Elle, Marie Claire, Slate, and Salon. She is a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley and holds master’s degrees from the graduate school of journalism and the school of international and public affairs at Columbia University. She is a three-time winner of the Newswomen’s Club of New York’s Front Page award. She lives in Manhattan.