About Kenna

Being a good writer requires being a good reader, or so I’ve always believed. Ever since I was a child, I’ve ravenously gobbled up books. I’ve also learned that being a good writer means that you need to ask the right questions. In my experience, it’s good to just question everything. Sooner or later, you’ll get compelling answers for a good story.

In my late teens, I wrote my first three novels, self-publishing two of them. As you can imagine, they didn’t turn out too well, but I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of novel writing. Just before I left for college I gave a TED talk, reciting slam poetry.

My TED Talk in 2015

I went to the University of Iowa, double majoring in both English and Biology, as I loved plants, and didn’t want to pursue English fully. After two years, I missed the mountains too much and headed back to Colorado, obtaining my B.A. in English and a B.S. in Biology summa cum laude at Colorado State University (CSU). It was here at CSU that my love for science communication blossomed. I became an undergraduate researcher in the lab of Elizabeth Pilon-Smits and her husband Marinus Pilon. Their work focused on environmental cleanup of excess iron, copper, and selenium through the use of plants in a process called phytoremediation. I began by working on the lab’s website, writing blogs about selenium, phytoremediation, and other laboratory activities.

Working as a Medicinal Plant Intern at the Denver Botanic Gardens

I also was the first Medicinal Plants Intern at the Denver Botanic Gardens, making a popular virtual tour about medicinal plants for the Gardens’ website. Currently, the Medicinal Plants Tour is the third most popular tour on the Denver Botanic Gardens’ website, and has a series of YouTube videos I created with recipes for users to try on their own.

I decided to pursue my master’s degree in Science Communication at Imperial College London. While in London, I began my first podcast, Human Angle, where I uncovered the hidden lives of scientists. I wanted to make these scientists more human and less of celebrity figures, as well as give a voice to unknown scientists, particularly women and minorities. We’ve had over 30 episodes for this podcast, and covered scientists such as Nikola Tesla, Beatrix Potter, Michael Crichton, Sigmund Freud, Chieng-Shiung Wu, Gladys West, and many others. You can listen to the podcast through this website or here.

Due to COVID-19, I returned back to Colorado and finished my degree virtually. While home, I created a second podcast: Young Scientists. I wanted to interview young people in science and get their opinions, as they have been largely overlooked. I worked with The Young Scientists Journal and interviewed several young scientists around the world, the youngest being 15 years old. It was a wonderful and eye-opening experience for me.

Hosting a podcast

I also created a blogcast (part blog, part audio interview) where I interviewed several popular science and science fiction writers about their work. From the Biblio-Files focused on the authors themselves, their past history and motives for some of their popular works. I also wanted them to illustrate how the science in their work was being communicated. I was honored to interview writers such as Chris Ferrie, Deborah Blum, Kathryn Harkup, Randy Olson, Sheril Kirshenbaum, Helen Scales, Olivia Judson, Brian Clegg, Amy Stewart, Sam Kean, and Sy Montgomery as well as many others.

Currently, I work at JILA (the Joint Institute of Laboratory Astrophysics) at the University of Colorado, Boulder. This job is a dream job of mine as I get to work with some of the most brilliant scientists from around the world and interview them about their work. This job has been a challenge as I had to change my field from biology to physics rather quickly. I love the challenges of learning new and abstract concepts within physics, particularly in quantum physics and quantum technology. I’m so honored to be the Science Communicator for JILA.

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