Chemistry and Biochemistry

Graduate Student Wins Blog Award

Posted: May 21, 2013

Chad Jones, a third-year PhD student working in Dr. David Dearden’s lab, has recently won an award for “best chemistry post.”

The award was presented by Science Seeker, an online entity funded by the National Association of Science Writers that collects the latest science reporting, analysis and discussion. Every year, it accepts nominations for best blog posts in ten different areas including chemistry. This year’s award winners range from professional writers at Scientific American andNational Geographic to university students like Jones. Recipients have to be nominated.

Jones’ winning post was written January 3 about negative absolute temperature. It was inspired by an article in Science magazine by a research group in Germany who achieved negative absolute temperature with a group of potassium ions.

“Technically whenever you use a laser, part of the system is at negative absolute temperature, but [these researchers] had a whole group of potassium ions at negative Kelvin, and that hadn’t really been done before,” Jones explained.

He learned about the article from reading Science magazine. When he read people’s comments about it, he realized many of them misunderstood what negative absolute temperature meant, so he decided to write a blog post that explained the concept.

Jones wasn’t always an avid blogger. He first began his blog in December 2011 after applying for a fellowship that required him to explain his research in layman’s terms.

“I didn’t get the fellowship, and I learned I was really bad at explaining [my research] to anybody not in my field,” Jones said. “I started my blog as a way to practice explaining science to a general audience.” 

At first he didn’t really care about the following his blog received; it was limited to Jones’ friends and people he knew. Later he created a Facebook page for it and spent time actively promoting it, but ultimately decided to let his writing be the promotion.

By Jessica Henrie, Ellen Westenhaver

Photos by Ellen Westenhaver