Alex Jackson

UK-based journalist and digital editor. Writes about science, the environment, health and technology, and human interest stories from across the globe. With occasional music writing thrown in for good measure. 

Contributed to The Guardian, Nature, Scientific American, BBC, Japan Times, Mail & Guardian, Yorkshire Post, Geographical Magazine and Huffington Post.

The astrophysicist on a mission to get more women into physics : Soapbox Science

“Very often the famous names we know and read about in science are not those of women,” says Professor Jo Dunkley. “To get more young girls studying the subject, we must change cultural perceptions and have more visible female role models.” As we sit discussing the women who have inspired Dunkley, a professor of physics and astrophysical sciences at Princeton University, to study the universe, the mood is rather sombre. On a morning when the first female frontrunner for US presidency has missed

Buzz Aldrin: Space policy, cooperative efforts to Mars and the need to inspire future generations : Soapbox Science

“To realize the dream of humans on Mars we need a unified vision. We need to focus on a pathway to the prize.” These were the strident historic words articulated by Buzz Aldrin in July 2009 at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum’s John Glenn Lecture Series for NASA’s 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing. Five years on, and having very recently celebrated his 84th birthday, Dr Aldrin’s enthusiasm, ambassadorial work, resolute attitude and ideals are no less subdued.

From despair to repair: Empowering communities to restore their oceans : Soapbox Science

“People used to talk about the size of the fish they caught vertically,” says a perspicacious 15-year-old Curaçaoan holding his hands off the ground at head height. “But now we show fish size horizontally.” As the young man lowers his hands at shoulder width apart to demonstrate this, it is strikingly clear the great fishing catches of old have all but gone in the southern Caribbean Sea.

UNESCO Regional Chair on Women, Science & Technology, Dr Gloria Bonder, talks women in science and gender equality : Soapbox Science

“What I would love to see is more qualitative research not on why women can’t and why so few, but who the women are that are successfully developing careers in engineering, technology or sciences,” strongly asserts Gloria Bonder, coordinator of the global network of UNESCO Chairs on Gender and the Regional Chair on Women, Science and Technology in Latin America. She continues: “We should look at why they chose that career, what their experiences have been so far, and what they like and don’t like, as well as how they overcome obstacles. We must move away from the basic question of why so few.”

Distinguished South African Professor Tebello Nyokong on science, education and innovation : Soapbox Science

“I keep telling people I’m no longer a role model, I’m too old, too straight and not hip enough,” asserts a hysterical Professor Tebello Nyokong in her own typically modest and charismatic demeanour. Of course, her defiance is far removed from the truth. The quick-talking, affable and extremely accommodating distinguished professor is today not only one of the most internationally respected scientists in the world, lauded for her pioneering research into photodynamic therapy for cancer treatment, but is a constant source of inspiration for students across Africa.

Google Chrome’s security lead on STEM, women in technology and fighting cyber crime : Soapbox Science

“Good code is marked by qualities that go beyond the purely practical; like equations in physics or mathematics, code can aspire to elegance,” author Vikram Chandra recently exclaimed in an article in the Financial Times. In an environment where statistics in US education make for grim reading in the numbers of young people, especially women, that are going into programming and computer science, this “beautiful art form” needs to be embraced – and fast.

Citizen Science: In the Shadows of Volcán Tungurahua : Soapbox Science

Seemingly unflappable, tall and with a sharp sense of humour betrayed by a cheeky grin that can’t help but make you smile, Benigno Meneces is by no means your average citizen scientist. As a farmer in the modest surroundings of the Ecuadorian Andes village Bilbao, Meneces ploughs the land by day and monitors volcano eruptions by night. He is one of 35 residents across local villages and towns in the path of Volcán Tungurahua that make up a network of volunteers, known as the ‘vigías’.

Oreoluwa Somolu: The Nigerian woman empowering young women in Africa to engage with technology : Soapbox Science

It was while volunteering in a downtown Boston community centre and women’s shelter, that Nigerian-born STEM enthusiast Oreoluwa Somolu realised the severe lack of awareness around the benefits of using technology. Every day she would teach women and children from across different parts of the US city how to use computers, answering questions and offering guidance on web design and basic programming. It would often surprise her how “mysterious” computing was to many, but made her fully grasp the profound impacts technology could have on people’s lives.

Oscar-winning visual effects mastermind behind Gravity, talks Physics lessons, NASA imagery and defining the art of CG ‘weightlessness’ in space. : Soapbox Science

Thrust deservedly into the limelight with last night’s Oscar win (Best Achievement in Visual Effects) and the previous month’s Bafta success for space epic, Gravity, Webber and the influential team of visual effects artists from Framestore have taken filmmaking to a whole new level. Yet Webber, who had a passion for Maths and Physics at school, before completing a degree in Physics at Oxford, still finds the attention and acclaim surprising.

Roma Agrawal on bridging the diversity gap in engineering and inspiring a future generation : Soapbox Science

When a young Roma Agrawal moved from her hometown of Mumbai in India to London, she could never have imagined that years later her ideas would be helping shape the future skyline of the capital. A maths and science whizz at school, with a childhood passion for design, technology and all things LEGO, she was encouraged by her teachers to go on to study physics at the University of Oxford.

Portrait of a Chemist: From a wartime fascination with chemistry to advising inner-city groups : Soapbox Science

He speaks to Alex Jackson about his lifelong passion for science. “I read chemistry books like other people read detective stories,” says affable, wide-eyed 86-year-old Peter Gallant. Gallant’s story is one of remarkable fortitude that in recent years has seen him awarded an MBE. Growing up in the early 1930s in Edgware, London, Gallant’s early childhood was much like many of his schoolmates. Both his parents worked in the admiralty, his dad supplying crews for ships, and his mum, a secretary.

Christina Lewis Halpern: The New York woman inspiring young men from minority backgrounds to code : Soapbox Science

On a sign that adorns the premises of the vibrant New York technology charity, All Star Code, the bold messaging could not be clearer. Displayed in large writing are the top ten principles that inspired the charity’s creation. Most prominently placed, and one that will ring true to many Americans, is number one. It reads: “Boys Matter: Young men of color are one of our nation’s greatest sources of untapped talent.” This is a sentiment echoed throughout the organisation’s activities, which primarily aims to prepare talented young men from minority backgrounds for careers in science and technology.

Nature India Editor Subhra Priyadarshini on the Indian science boom and the role of journalism : Soapbox Science

When Subhra Priyadarshini, who started Nature India in 2006, first specialised in science journalism after nearly 10 years covering everything from economics to sport, she found there were certain challenges to getting science on the news agenda. “In the early 2000s you would be lucky to find a science journalist working on a newspaper or magazine in India. You had to be a generalist and would find yourself one day covering Bollywood and the next looking at financial markets,” says Priyadarshini, who has worked at the Times of India, The Asian Age and the Press Trust of India, among others. “Science was always my first love and I used to get the kind of fulfilment from a science story that I would not get from say a political reportage.”

What does Indian science represent to you? : Of Schemes and Memes Blog

Nature India recently challenged photographers across the globe to provide their stories and perspectives through a stunning image and short description encapsulating science and technology in India. There has been a diverse range of entries with a distinct flair for photography and fascinating personal tales. Over the course of the next two weeks, Nature India will be sharing the best seven images and encouraging people to share and like on social media. The inaugural photo competition judges

The Dominant Malignancy: Lung Cancer : Of Schemes and Memes Blog

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer mortality. In some countries, incidence rates are dropping but survival rates for those with the disease remain low. A special supplement published in Nature today explores the current risks, therapies and causes of lung cancer. The Nature Outlook on lung cancer, supported by Cancer Research UK and Boehringer Ingelheim, contains commentaries, features and articles on topics including: the risks and costs associated with lung-cancer screening, therapie

The big issues affecting lung cancer worldwide : Of Schemes and Memes Blog

Lung cancer is the biggest cancer killer – both here in the UK and globally. And although the UK has seen signs of improvement – lung cancer rates in men have dropped by 50 per cent in the last four decades – a huge burden still looms. Over the last 40 years, the number of women being diagnosed with the disease has increased by 75 per cent, largely mirroring trends in smoking from decades ago.

Turning art to science: A focus on lung cancer : Of Schemes and Memes Blog

The fine art of representing complex science in illustrations and images can often be tasking to the most adept artists and designers. First there is the brainstorming process, then the pages and pages of sketches and templates, and then the small matter of aligning those thoughts and ideas with those of the editor. This is a situation very familiar to UK illustrator, Russell Cobb, whose work has been much coveted by national publications and featured across the world. Cobb, this month, took on
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