Yen Duong, a recent graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago, has been awarded the 2018 AMS AAAS Mass Media Fellowship.

Of the more than 20 articles (8 made the front page!) that Yen Duong wrote for The News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C., the 2018 AMS-AAAS Mass Media Fellow said that three stories came to mind as favorites.

Peanut allergies, potential treatments and a "honey bear"

Duong's first favorite assignment was a dive into peanut allergies and potential treatments such as pills, patches and drops. For that story, she interviewed biopharmaceutical representatives, medical researchers, parents, and a six-year-old, named Elias.

The second story was about using polio to treat brain cancer, based on research at nearby Duke University to insert modified poliovirus into tumors to kill their cells.

Although Duong covered several other medical stories, as part of her 10-week summer stint as an AMS-AAAS Mass Media Fellow, her next favorite assignment was a ". . . fun reporting experience . . . covering a new kinkajou at Carolina Tiger Rescue."

Also known as a "honey bear," a kinkajou is a long-tailed and-tongued raccoon relative native to tropical forests of Central and South America. "I'm pretty sure I will never have another opportunity to pet a kinkajou So cute, so soft, so dangerous."

A deep dive into the fields of paleontology, genetics, climatology and others

With an upcoming application deadline of January 15, 2019. the Mass Media Fellows program places students in media outlets to help improve public understanding of science and technology. Duong graduated with a doctorate in mathematics in 2017 from the University of Illinois at Chicago. "The summer convinced me that there's a desire and a thirst for science stories among the public-people want to know what's happening in science research, which can affect their lives," she said.

Duong enjoyed diving into paleontology, genetics, climatology and other fields."I feel so lucky that I've had my mathematical experiences to ground me and give me confidence in my ability to learn anything."

The intersection of mathematics and communicaton

Yen Duong
Math doesn't exist outside of communication about it, Duong said.

"I think that my math background really prepared me for adapting arguments and creating interesting analogies and ways to explain different ideas to different audiences. "I look forward to my continued involvement in the math community, maybe as a panel participant who discusses alternative careers."

After the conclusion of her fellowship, Duong began a part-time job with the award-winning nonprofit, North Carolina Health News, and is also working as a freelance science journalist.

"None of this would have happened without the support of the AMS. I cannot imagine what my life would have looked like without this fellowship – it is the jumping off point for the rest of my career doing what I love.

"Math will always be part of me and I will always spread my love of it, and thanks to the AMS, I can now do that in a way that better matches my strengths and vision of what I want my life to look like."


American Mathematical Society