Jennifer SalazarBy Brian Grabowski • February 22, 2013
Jennifer Salazar is a Coordinating Writer and Editor in Argonne’s Computing, Environment and Life Sciences directorate.
What role do you play at Argonne and what kind of work do you do?
I help communicate new science ideas and progress to the public, to other scientists in the research community and to the Department of Energy (DOE). I have a broad range of responsibilities, including editing reports, keeping writing assignments on deadline, writing about science for the general public and assisting in the preparation of grant proposals. Another important aspect of my job is that I need to be well aware of how our readers will use and navigate through technical information, so there is the very important step of becoming acquainted with your target audience. Occasionally, I also have the opportunity, which I greatly enjoy, to be involved in education opportunities for junior high and high school students.
What attracted you to work at Argonne?
I was very interested in the different kinds of research being conducted here. I initially followed the news and publications coming out of Argonne, particularly in the areas of biology and computation biology. Then I started investigating specific researchers and their projects. Argonne has top names in the field, people who are exploring microbial biodiversity, figuring out and labeling what is in a genome, modeling and learning how to reengineer a cell and asking how best to handle, integrate and analyze enormous biological datasets.
What do you like most about your job?
I most enjoy the environment of my directorate (Computing, Environment and Life Sciences) and the people in it, and I am surrounded by co-workers that take the time to help me learn new things. Most of the research puzzles or problems our scientists are working on require creative interdisciplinary teams and the national labs have long been organized that way — in fact, they have led the nation in developing these synergistic working and research models. Because diverse researchers are purposely put together in this way, there is a huge potential to learn. I've also found that our researchers want to share what excites them and communicate it to others in the wider research community or to the public, and this offers a great environment for a writer.
What does a typical workday look like for you?
There is really no typical day, and I come in with a set to-do list, but on most days after about an hour, that list becomes highly modified. One project I also do work on is the DOE Systems Biology Knowledgebase. As a team member for that project, I test and edit tutorials, help write outreach, education and public relations materials and provide content for the project’s website.
How have your individual experiences and background influenced your career path?
I have always been excited about writing, biological research and education. In college, I had majors in both Biology and Communications with an emphasis in Journalism. My first job was as a technical writer, and while I enjoyed it very much, I felt the need to return to school to pursue questions about evolution that interested me and in doing so, I earned my Ph.D. in Biology. I also had the opportunity to conduct fieldwork in the Philippines. The fascination I experienced in research was incredible, but I again felt a strong pull to return to communicating about the research rather than producing it. Now I regularly combine my three interests: writing, science and education.