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Marissa Fessenden
Works at Freelance
Attended University of California, Santa Cruz
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Marissa Fessenden

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"Like many others who turned into writers, I disappeared into books when I was very young, disappeared into them like someone running into the woods. What surprised and still surprises me is that there was another side to the forest of stories and the solitude, that I came out that other side and met people there. Writers are solitaries by vocation and necessity. I sometimes think the test is not so much talent, which is not as rare as people think, but purpose or vocation, which manifests in part as the ability to endure a lot of solitude and keep working. Before writers are writers they are readers, living in books, through books, in the lives of others that are also the heads of others, in that act that is so intimate and yet so alone."

-Rebecca Solint in "Flight" from The Faraway Nearby via Brain Pickings
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Such an interesting, fun story to report -- and just where I like it: science, art, microbes and food.
What growing cheese from foot bacteria can tell us about art, science, and ourselves.
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Marissa Fessenden

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I took this trying to forget everything I've learned about speaking after I left home. (And weird things: I call traffic circles roundabouts because we had an English exchange student when I was a teen. Also, I don't really know any traffic terms because I grew up in an area that was basically road, ditch, corn field or alfalfa field. So I don't know these verge, berm, median, access road things.)

My results: Rochester, Baltimore and Arlington as my most similar cities. Houston, Baton Rouge and New Orleans as least similar.
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I tried to do the same thing: forget anything I learned from traveling or living elsewhere. My results: Rochester and Minneapolis for most similar!
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Marissa Fessenden

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I love this photo series by Olivia Locher called "Another Day on Earth." (It's NSFW.)
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Marissa Fessenden

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+Dan Fagin  makes a clear-headed argument for accepting GMO labeling:

"But would mandatory labeling, even if unwarranted, really be such a disaster? I don’t think so. There are good reasons to believe that the deleterious effects of mandated labels will fall more heavily on commercial producers like Monsanto than on the broader cause of food bioengineering. The most important reason is that secrecy is a key driver of risk perception heuristics: When information is being withheld from us, we immediately assume the worst. That’s especially true if the topic is complex and poorly understood, which is why right-to-know is the most powerful argument the anti-GMO forces have. (Journalist and GMO advocate Mark Lynas, who favors labeling, made this point well in a recent speech.) For all their shortcomings, label laws would at least partially disarm the conspiracy theorists and nudge the mainstream debate in the right direction: toward a clear-eyed, case-by-case discussion of the costs and benefits of specific GMOs."
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Back some excellent journalists that will show you how plants and animals are responding to climate change: 

Do it, do it now. 
Genetic advances are unearthing critical information about how plants and animals adapt – or not – to climate change. Back this project, and we’ll show you how genetic research could remake biodiversity conservation in a warming world.
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Marissa Fessenden

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"'There’s either a scapegoat or a silver bullet in almost every bestselling diet book,' [says epidemiologist David Katz].

The recurring formula is apparent: Tell readers it’s not their fault. Blame an agency; typically the pharmaceutical industry or U.S. government, but also possibly the medical establishment. Alluding to the conspiracy vaguely will suffice. Offer a simple solution. Cite science and mainstream research when applicable; demonize it when it is not."

James Hamblin at The Atlantic dives into the bestselling book "Grain Brain" in his article "This is Your Brain on Gluten."
The idea that gluten and carbohydrates are at the root of Alzheimer's disease, anxiety, depression, and ADHD has now reached millions of people. It is the basis of a number-one bestseller written by a respected physician. What is it worth?
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Marissa Fessenden

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"Aided by genomics and related molecular tests, breeders have managed to create a cornucopia of new foods that are already available at some grocery stores and farmer’s markets, including cantaloupe that’s firm and ripe in the winter, snack-size bell peppers, broccoli that brims with even more nutrients than usual, onions that do not offend the eye and tomatoes that do not disappoint the tongue."

Love +Ferris Jabr's writing. Always. And of course, this was wonderful fun to illustrate.
By combining traditional plant breeding with ever-faster genetic sequencing tools, researchers are making fruits and vegetables more flavorful, colorful, shapely and nutritious ;
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Marissa Fessenden

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Reading Charles Mee's "Big Love" and really just want to see it. He writes,

"But the setting for the piece should not be real, or naturalistic.
It should not be a set for the piece to play within
but rather something against which the piece can resonate:
something on the order of a bathtub, 100 olive trees, 
and 300 wine glasses half-full of red wine."
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From Lillian Ross's 1950 New Yorker profile of Ernest Hemingway, up on the Neiman Storyboard with annotations:

"He began his new book as a short story. “Then I couldn’t stop it. It went straight on into a novel,” he said. “That’s the way all my novels got started. When I was twenty-five, I read novels by Somersault Maugham and Stephen St. Vixen Benét.” He laughed hoarsely. “They had written novels, and I was ashamed because I had not written any novels. So I wrote ‘The Sun’ when I was twenty-seven, and I wrote it in six weeks, starting on my birthday, July 21st, in Valencia, and finishing it September 6th, in Paris. But it was really lousy and the rewriting took nearly five months. Maybe that will encourage young writers so they won’t have to go get advice from their psychoanalysts. Analyst once wrote me, What did I learn from psychoanalysts? I answered, Very little but hope they had learned as much as they were able to understand from my published works. You never saw a counter-puncher who was punchy. Never lead against a hitter unless you can outhit him. Crowd a boxer, and take everything he has, to get inside. Duck a swing. Block a hook. And counter a jab with everything you own. Papa’s delivery of hard-learned facts of life.”"
It’s easy, now, to see Lillian Ross’s 1950 New Yorker Profile of Ernest Hemingway for what it is: a masterpiece. But 63 years ago, this wasn’t so obvious.
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Marissa Fessenden

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Elizabeth Gilbert says in a NYTimes interview: "...my experience, even now, is that what holds women from putting their work forward is a fear that it is not immaculate, not beyond reproach and that it may not be taken seriously."
After the success of "Eat, Pray, Love," Elizabeth Gilbert set off on a different path with her new novel, about a 19th-century botanist.
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nice
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People
In their circles
974 people
Have them in circles
2,754 people
edgar cisneros's profile photo
Ran Arad's profile photo
Ksenia Chumakova's profile photo
Bekaddour Karim's profile photo
John Marsh's profile photo
Vasudevan Mukunth's profile photo
Samuel Hansen's profile photo
Ai Rasel's profile photo
Moein “‫معین محمدی‬‎” Mohammadi's profile photo
Work
Occupation
Science journalist
Employment
  • Freelance
    2013 - present
  • Scientific American
    Intern, 2012 - 2013
  • University of California, Los Angeles
    Staff Research Associate, Flow Cytometry Core, 2010 - 2011
Story
Tagline
omnivorous and geeky science writer
Introduction

I'm a science journalist interested in biology, genetics, evolution, bioengineering, ecology, exploration, agriculture, biotechnology and the history of science. I tell stories with words and pictures.

In other news:
I doodle with pens, markers and my tablet.
I'm interested in gender and sexuality.
I love to cook, be with my family, climb trees, eat good food and learn how to make stuff.

Education
  • University of California, Santa Cruz
    Science Writing Program, 2011 - 2012
  • Cornell University
    Interdisciplinary Studies, 2005 - 2009