brain10Thomas Willis, Cerebri Anatome, 1664 


  • MA, History and Philosophy of Science, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, 1986.
  • BA, Chemistry, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, 1983.

Work Experience

  • 1/2022 – present: I have assumed the role of Science Communications Manager at Columbia University’s Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute.
  • 2/2020 –  1/2022: I returned to Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) fora second tour of duty as a “documentarian” with a primary role of producing the podcast, Voices from DARPA, and otherwise telling the story of this storied technology development agency.
  • 11/2018 – 9/2020: In a grant-funded project, I create the online publication titled The Moonshot Catalog and served as the one-man masthead through to the completion of the project.
  • 4/2015 – 10/2018:  I worked in the Public Affairs group of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) where I help tell the story of the technologically visionary agency. Among my many responsibilities is to produce the podcast series, Voices from DARPA.
  • 11/2011 – 4/2015: Contract book author/consultant, Naval Center of Space Technology, which is part of the Naval Research Laboratory. I have been hired to write a book-length chronicle of NRL’s role in the American space program. With a possible title of “America’s Secret NASA,” the book will tell the little-known but hugely consequential role of non-civilian space program run by the Navy since the 1950s. I am working on this project as a subcontractor with Praxis, Inc., based in Alexandria, VA. During this time frame, I also was working on freelance articles aor Nature magazine, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Bulletin and the Washington Post. I also have been doing contract work for the National Nanotechnology Coordinating Office (NNCO).
  • 1/2014—4/2014: Journalist in Residence, Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara. For several months, I joined a community of big-thinking scientists who ponder some of the most basic questions about the origin and nature of the universe, from its tiniest to largest scales. During my residency, I gave several public talks and organized a new and ongoing public engagement series, Café KITP, which now runs every other month in downtown Santa Barbara.
  • 5/2011—present: Founder, DC Science Café. I run a quasi-monthly science café event at Busboys and Poets, a well-known restaurant and cultural hub in Washington, DC. In addition to raising money for the series and organizing the events, I promote them and preside as a discussion facilitator. To view descriptions of the each of the events since the series’ inception, go to
  • 5/2010—10/2011: Senior Officer, Communications, Pew Health Group of the Pew Charitable Trusts. My charge has been to build up from scratch a publishing operation to help the various campaigns and projects that comprise the Pew Health Group’s portfolio of efforts to reduce avoidable and unacceptable risks to American households. I now manage that operation and write op-eds and other document for the PHG’s managing director.
  • 11/09—5/10: Freelance Writer and Consultant. One of my primary projects was to work with the Presidential Council of Advisors on Science and Technology as a writer and consultant for reports that PCAST is tasked to deliver to President Obama. Another primary project involves writing chapters for a massive book, titled Modernist Cuisine, on the science and technology of cooking and on the experience of eating. In addition, I placed several articles during this time in the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Bulletin and in the Washington Post.
  • 8/09—11/09: Senior Correspondent and Special Projects Coordinator for Chemical & Engineering News, a weekly publication of the American Chemical Society. I wrote feature articles for the magazine while also organizing and beginning the execution of a project to create a digital archive of the entire 86-year run of the magazine. I also helped initiate the magazine’s first webinars. In addition, I wrote and packaged picture-driven web pieces and blog items.
  • 2/07—8/09: Managing Editor, Chemical & Engineering News. I helped coordinate every aspect of the magazine, seeing every detail from conception to final printed page or posted web item. I ran weekly story meetings and monthly long-range meetings and oversaw, with the Deputy Editor & Chief, the installation of a more rigorous editing process to improve the overall quality of the magazine. All the while, I continued to write for the magazine, including two pieces that were mentioned in the annual Best American Science and Nature Writing series.
  • 11/05—2/07: Senior Editor, Chemical & Engineering News. As a senior editor in the science and technology group, I covered a wide range of stories in the chemical sciences, especially ones covering the interfaces with biology, medicine, earth science and other disciplines.
  • 10/04—12/05: Project Coordinator and Editor for Science magazine’s yearlong essay series in 2005, Global Voices of Science, written by scientists in developing countries that I recruited and hand-held through the writing and editing process.
  • 7/00—11/05: Associate Editor, half time, for Science News magazine, a well-known weekly magazine in the world of science communication. Each week, I edited up to 20 short and long stories. With the rest of my time, I freelanced for print venues, including Fortune, US News & World Report, Discover, and Technology Review, and worked on a book project. In 2004, I wrote a script for the Discovery Channel series The 100 Great Discoveries, which was hosted by Bill Nye. The series aired for the first time in early 2005.
  • 7/99—12/00: Special project editor for Science magazine. I orchestrated a special millennial series of essays, called “Pathways of Discovery.” The essays appeared once each month throughout the year 2000. John Wiley & Sons worked with me to repackage the series as a book, Science: Pathways of Discovery, which was published early in 2002. I also freelanced throughout this period.
  • 6/98—6/99: Science correspondent of National Public Radio, half time. I contributed several radio pieces per month. I freelanced for magazines during my other work time. This gig followed a shorter stint at NPR in 1997.
  • 11/96—4/98: Book writer. As a civilian employee of the Navy during this time, I wrote a book-length institutional history of the Naval Research Laboratory, the Navy’s “corporate” laboratory. Published by the Government Printing Office, the title of the book is Pushing the Horizon: 75 Years of High Stakes Science and Technology at the Naval Research Laboratory.
  • 6/95—10/95: Co-creator and co-writer of a TV pilot for a primetime dramatic series in collaboration with Adrian Malone, producer of The Ascent of Man, Cosmos and Nobel Legacy. The show was an ensemble drama, like ER, only the subject matter focused on science and scientists. It was considered by Steven Spielberg and Chris Carter (of X-files fame), but it was never picked up in Hollywood.
  • 11/93—11/96: Special Projects Writer for the National Institute of Standards and Technology. I prepared a variety of documents including speeches, articles, and op-ed pieces for the director of NIST. I also wrote lay descriptions of technical projects for the Business and Public Affairs Division, created parts of NIST’s web site, and wrote brochures for NIST divisions.
  • 3/1991—11/1993: Staff writer for Science Magazine. In addition to meeting my weekly writing obligation, I frequently edited a section of short pieces called Random Samples.
  • 12/1988—3 /1991: Chemistry and materials science editor for Science News. I helped to create this beat and was the first to fill it.
  • 1/1988—12/1988: Assistant Editor for Analytical Chemistry, published by the American Chemical Society. I wrote one feature article per month and served as one of the editors responsible for getting technical papers through the referee process.
  • 1/1987—1/1988: Staff writer for the news service of the American Chemical Society. I wrote press releases, organized press conferences, and helped journalists get the chemistry-related answers they needed.

Independent Writings           


  • Privileged Perch: The Naval Research Laboratory and the Ascent of the Space Age. Pending a security review by the Department of Defense, this book chronicles for a wide audience a little known but hugely consequential player in the advent and maturation of the Space Age and the U.S. space program. It’s a story about the Naval Research Laboratory’s role in the U.S. space program, a tale that spans from the birth of the Space Age, through the fear and paranoia of the Cold War, and onward toward the quest for ubiquitous, global-scale detection of modern-day security threats.
  • Super Vision: A new View of Nature. Published by Harry N. Abrams, Inc., in November 2003, this book is a celebration of the stunning and informative ways that instrumentation enables us to view phenomena, which our unassisted senses are unable to discern.
  • Science: Pathways of Discovery. This book, published in 2002 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc., is a repackaging of a millennial series of essays that I edited for Science magazine and that appeared originally throughout the year 2000.
  • Pushing the Horizon: Seventy-Five Years of High Stakes Science and Technology at the Naval Research Laboratory. The book was published by the Naval Research Laboratory, via the Government Printing Office, in June 1998.
  • Stuff: the materials the world is made of. This, my first book, was released in March 1997 by Basic Books and was chosen as a New York Times Notable Book for that year. Avon Books published the paperback in September 1998.

Feature Articles

My articles have appeared in Time, Fortune, The Washington Post, Baltimore Sun, San Francisco Examiner, Los Angeles Times, International Herald Tribune, Scientific American, Science, Nature, Science News, Discover, New Scientist, Technology Review, Wired, US News & World Report, Howard Hughes Medical Institute Bulletin, Chemical & Engineering News, Men’s Fitness, Garbage, Compton’s Encyclopedia, Chemistry and Industry in Britain, The Materials Research Society Bulletin, as well as other magazines, newsletters (including the well-named Nickel Quarterly) and websites.


My poem, Suspended Reanimation, appeared in the Fall/Winter 2002-2003 issue of the Potomac Review. Red Asphalt appeared in the Spring/Summer 2004 issue. I have read publicly from my portfolio of poems in several Washington area events, including one—a science poetry event—that I organized in 2003. I was a featured poet in October 2003 for the Virginia-based Iota Poetry Series. In April 2010, I was among a series of poets reading their work at Busboys and Poets, in Washington, D.C. In October 2012, I organized, ran and participated in a science-themed poetry event as part of my DC Science Café series.

Essays and Editorials

My essay, Making the Best of the Worst: The End of the Universe and other Scientific Curios, appeared in the Fall/Winter 2003-2004 issue of Potomac Review. During my tenure as managing editor of Chemical & Engineering News, I wrote several editorials for the magazine, including ones on synthetic biology and environmental ethics and a fantastical new branch of science technology, picotechnology, which would follow today’s tiny science-and-technology darling, nanotechnology.


In May 2010, I was among 50 “provocateurs” participating in the choreographer Liz Lerman’s ambitious and epic, multimedia performance titled “The Matter of Origins.” The performances took place at the Clarice Smith Performance Center on the College Park campus of the University of Maryland.

Invited Lectures (selected)

  • October 2014, invited speaker on the topic of new and emerging channels of science communication for the communications group at Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
  • November 2013, featured speaker at Nerd Nite DC. The topic was “The World’s First Spy Satellite…as far as we know of.”
  • August 2013, speaker/panelist on the topic of freelance science writing for the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Mass Media Fellows Program.
  • November 2012, speaker for public event in Philadelphia titled “Telling the Stories of Science,” organized by the Philadelphia Area Center for the History of Science.
  • November 2012, Don Hamingson Literary Showcase, Columbia High School, Maplewood, NJ. The talk chronicled a former Columbia High School student’s journey into science writing and journalism.
  • October 2012, primary speaker at Lyceum ELI Common Reader Program, an annual literary event at Northern Virginia Community College, Annandale Campus. Talk on the book-writing process of Rebecca Skloot, author of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.
  • March 2012, banquet speaker at Corning Corporation’s 1012 Patent Awardee Dinner, held at the Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, NY. Talk was on “places of innovation.”
  • February 2012, mediator of “Innovation Stories,” centered on a panel of industrial leaders in the area of advanced materials, held at the Chemical Heritage Foundation in Philadelphia, PA.
  • April 2011, judge and speaker, Department of Energy’s competition for the Frontier Energy Research Centers, held at the convention center in Washington, DC.
  • December 2009, keynote speaker for the Rutgers University Chemistry Club. I spoke about nontraditional career pathways for those with a chemistry background.
  • September 2009, speaker and facilitator at the Chemical Communication Leadership Institute, sponsored by the National Science Foundation, the American Chemical Society, and the University of Washington, Seattle, where the program was held.
  • April 2009, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, seminar presentation based on my book Super Vision. This was an open lecture sponsored by the university’s materials science department.
  • April 2008, speaker in a symposium on Alternative Careers in Chemistry at the Spring National Meeting of the American Chemical Society.
  • November 2005, science writer in residence at the University of Wisconsin. During the week of the residency, I gave five separate presentations, some based on my book of science imagery, Super Vision, and some covering the challenges of writing about science and technology for large audiences.
  • October 2005, speaker in a symposium titled “The Art and Business of Science Editing,” at the National Association of Science Writers Meeting in Pittsburgh, PA.
  • April 2005, invited lecture by the School of Architecture at the University of Texas in Austin. My talk focused on the design lessons inherent in my book Super Vision: A New View of Nature.
  • January 2005, moderator of a dialogue titled Foreign Policy Implications of Nanotechnology, for the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, D.C.
  • May 2004, spoke in the event called Science for Everyone: Lives in Science Writing, at Cornell University: My talk was titled The Freelancing Life.
  • April 2004, at the National Science Foundation, I spoke to the staff on the topic of science visualization. Seeing Science was the name of the talk.
  • November 2003, Barnes and Noble, Bethesda Maryland: author talk for my book Super Vision: A New View of Nature.
  • April 2002, National Science Foundation, I spoke at the director’s meeting of NSF’s Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers. The topic was the challenge of communicating materials science to the general public.
  • November 2001, at the national meeting of the Materials Research Society, I was a featured speaker in a symposium designed for the general public. My talk was about the aesthetic value inherent in data.
  • March 2001, at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design, I spoke as part of a lecture series. My talk was about the influence of materials on the constructed landscape.
  • April 2000, Jean Wilson Day Lecture, Rutgers University. I returned to Rutgers, my alma mater, as the featured speaker during an annual day that celebrates undergraduate research in chemistry.
  • August 1999, Gordon Conference (New Hampshire) on high-tech ceramics: I was the banquet speaker and I spoke about how science gets into the news.
  • May 1998, I spoke at a topical meeting on materials science at the Keck Center at the University of California, Irvine, organized by the National Academy of Sciences.
  • April 1996, I spoke in a Science, Technology and Society series for an undergraduate honors program at the University of Maryland.
  • April 1995, national meeting of the American Chemical Society, for ACS’s Younger Chemists Committee. At this meeting, I also gave an acceptance speech for the Grady-Stack award for science writing.


Professional Recognition, Honors, and Awards

  • 2013: Chosen as a journalist-in-residence at the Kavli Institute for Theoretic Physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara, for three months beginning in late January 2014
  • 2013: Appointed to the National Academy of Sciences’ Roundtable on Public        Interfaces in the Life Sciences (PILS)
  • 2012: Inducted onto the Chemical Heritage Foundation’s Board of Overseers.
  • 2011: Member of the Board of the DC Science Writers Association
  • 2008: My 2007 article in Chemical & Engineering News, “Experiments of Concern”, was listed in the Best American Science and Nature Writing annual series.
  • 2007: My 2006 article in Chemical & Engineering News, “Bar Coding Life,” was listed in the Best American Science and Nature Writing annual series. This was a first for the magazine.
  • 2005: I was selected to be the 2005 Science Writer in Residence at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.
  • 2004: I was selected among many applicants to participate in the Brain Science Bootcamp, a fellowship program administered by the Knight Science Journalism Fellowships.
  • 2001: The Foresight Institute honored me with their 2001 Communications Award for writing about nanotechnology.
  • 1997: My book, Stuff, received several excellent reviews, including one in the New York Times on August 17, 1997. The book was chosen as a New York Times Notable Book in 1997.
  • 1995: I was selected as the recipient of the Grady-Stack Award, a major science-writing award administered by the American Chemical Society.
  • 1988: I was selected as a science writer fellow at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole



  • Matthew Heyman, my former supervisor at National Institute of Standards and Technology and now a friend, acquaintance and colleague for 20 years, 240-793-8849
  • Amanda Yarnell, assistant managing editor of the science and technology group for the weekly magazine Chemical & Engineering News,, and 617-395-4163.
  • Julia Moore, my former supervisor in the Pew Health Group of the Pew Charitable Trusts,
  • Joe Palca, NPR Science Correspondent,, 202-513-2776.
  • Holly Stocking, associate professor emerita, science journalism, Indiana University, 812-336-1632,
  • Andy Shallal, owner of Busboys and Poets (venue for DC Science Café),

One Comment

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  1. Dear Ivan,

    In conversation via Zoom with John Feffer this morning, he suggested that we might meet. He thinks you are a star. So I’m reaching out. Hope to connect soon. Thanks in advance for your response. Best, Merle Lefkoff


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