September 18, 2023
The PSD September Spotlight is Maureen Searcy, Assistant Director of Content. Maureen, who grew up mostly in Raleigh, North Carolina, joined PSD in June but has been working with us for over a decade as a science writer in UChicago’s Alumni Relations and Development. From 2013 through 2019, she edited PSD’s former alumni newsletter, Inquiry. We interviewed her about her interests and experiences below.
People can come to me for...
Work: help with translating science for a general audience, interviewing people, finding the best transcription software (I’ve tried many), naming things, puns
Non-work: horror movie recommendations, advice on specialty glues, naming things, puns
What do you enjoy about being a part of the PSD community?
I love writing about all types of science, and the PSD includes so many different fields to cover. I’ve written about slime mold watches, tornadoes, and solar-powered pacemakers.
Tell us a bit about you.
I grew up loving space and dinosaurs. In college I started off in conservation, which allowed me to catch sea turtle eggs as they were being laid and stick my hand in a tiger’s mouth. But when I realized conservation didn’t have that many job opportunities beyond academia, I transferred to biotech. I worked as a lab tech in cancer diagnostics before going to grad school for bio but decided to get an MFA in nonfiction writing instead. (I also studied English lit in college because I’m indecisive.)
Who inspires you?
Science journalist Ed Yong. I’ve been reading his work since his Not Exactly Rocket Science days and have been awed by his journey from blogger to Pulitzer Prize–winner.
What is the most interesting thing that you are working on right now?
The messaging for the South Side Science Festival. This is its second year but my first year working on it, and I love the concept that “science is for everyone.” Building on that message has been fun and rewarding.
What does diversity and inclusion mean to you?
I grew up watching my mother—a woman of color—excelling in heavily male-dominated spaces (first the military and then IT). As a young woman in science, I didn’t always feel welcome, but because I had a personal example of someone like me claiming her own space, I knew I could too. There’s still a long way to go, and as a science communicator, I’m strongly motivated to show people who have been actively discouraged from pursuing science that there’s a place for us here and that we’ve actually been here all along.
Do you have pets, and if so, what are their names?
I’m currently my family’s designated cat-sitter, but my last cat roommates were Hawkeye and Hunnicutt.
What is your favorite restaurant in Chicago?
I just tried Roux a couple of weeks ago, and right now it’s my favorite. The loaded grits and chocolate chip cookies are incredible.
What hobby do you spend the most time on?
I’ve been making horror-themed book nooks (rebranded dioramas) and just finished a catacomb scene.
What did you want to be when you grew up? Or, what do you want to do when you retire?
I wanted to be a veterinarian. When I retire, I want to make custom Halloween costumes.