Meet Our New Board Members

Last month we welcomed four new members to the SANDSWA board. They shared more about themselves, including what they are looking forward to as a board member, how they broke into science writing and more. 

Mario Aguilera (he/him/his) 

Director of Strategic Communications, UC San Diego Division of Biological Sciences

As a new SANDSWA board member, what are you looking forward to most in the year ahead?

I’m really looking forward to putting my head together with the other board members to come up with top-notch programs and events for SANDSWA members. I’ve enjoyed SANDSWA activities as a long-time member and it’s great to be able to pay some of this work back to our community.

How did you break into science writing?

I got a taste of science as a technology and biotech reporter for the San Diego Daily Transcript and later the North County Times. I loved being a journalist but as a UC San Diego alum I knew that the sciences at my alma mater were world-renowned, so when an opportunity to join the university’s science communication team opened up, I jumped on it. Over the years I’ve been fortunate to have been able to join research expeditions, witness research first-hand and help share these stories at my previous position at Scripps Institution of Oceanography and currently in Biological Sciences.

What is your best writing tip? / What’s the best writing advice you’ve received?

Some of the best advice I’ve received over the years includes finding the best time of day to write for you (for me it’s mid-morning) and try to do your core writing during that window; Also, if you’re feeling stuck to just start writing now and edit later; and if you or someone reading a draft stumbles over something in your piece, it’s highly likely that others will as well.

What do you wish people knew about science writing?

Being an expert in science doesn’t necessarily make one a capable science writer. Also, being a great writer in other fields doesn’t necessarily translate to science writing. There are skills that science communicators develop to walk the delicate balance of accurate science reporting and clear, compelling storytelling for public audiences, a point my colleagues and I emphasize in the Research Communications Program that I co-lead at UC San Diego.

What do you like to do for fun?

I love exercising and playing/watching sports. As a San Diego native, I’m a die-hard Padres fan (“just ONE championship before I die!”) and a jilted Chargers fan who hopes for their return home some day. I also love sharing today’s science fiction, fantasy and superhero stories that I enjoyed as a kid with my wife, twin daughters and other family.

What are you reading/listening to right now?

Draft No. 4 by John McPhee; Star Wars Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn; and Conan O’Brien’s podcasts.


Nicole Woolcock (she/her/hers)

Marketing and Communications Strategy Lead, Booz Allen Hamilton

As a new SANDSWA board member, what are you looking forward to most in the year ahead?  I’m excited to spotlight more of our members and events on the blog. We have a community of fascinating individuals–I can’t wait to tell more writers’ stories!

How did you get into science writing? Writing has long been a passion and creative outlet for me. When I first encountered the scicomm craft in January 2021, I realized that I had found an ideal pairing of scholarly insight and storytelling. Most recently, I authored two SANDSWA blog posts (May and October 2021). 

What do you like to do for fun? I love hosting friends for tea, playing the violin, surfing long mellow rights, and baking almost anything. Oh, and writing! 😉 

What is your best writing tip? / What’s the best writing advice you’ve received?

A mentor and AP lit teacher once told me: “Write what you know.” Trying to write like someone else or telling a story that you cannot relate to often falls flat with your audience. Drawing from personal or direct experiences has the potential to capture readers’ imaginations and, even, compel them to action.  

What do you wish people knew about science writing?

I wish people knew that science writing exists! This is a craft full of dedicated, creative, and brave people. Science writers dive into topics that many would be daunted to wade into, and they do it with flair. I wish more people recognized this creative corner of the science world. 

What are you reading/listening to right now?

I’m steadily making my way through a collection of Lorrie Moore short stories as I eagerly await Leon Bridges’ next album (Any fans of Gold Digger Sound in SANDSWA?).


Nicole Mlynaryk (she/her/hers)

Bigelow Science Communication Fellow, UC San Diego Health

As a new SANDSWA board member, what are you looking forward to in the year ahead? 

I’m excited to continue getting to know my San Diego colleagues and I look forward to helping this community find new ways to connect this year. Many of us and other aspiring science writers are also in a period of adapting their career goals and work practices, so I look forward to engaging in this conversation together and lifting each other up during these evolving times. 

How did you break into science writing? During graduate school at UC San Diego, I wrote for the blog NeuWrite-San Diego, served as an organizer for ComSciCon-San Diego, and worked as a writing consultant at the UCSD Writing Hub. I also learned a lot through the Science Writing I course at UCSD Extension.

What is your best writing tip? / What’s the best writing advice you’ve received?

Knowing your audience and your purpose is key. But the biggest lesson I’ve learned since making the switch from scientist to science writer is the power of a human story. Not everyone is as interested in the minutia of science as I am, but everyone is interested in people, and learning how to infuse that bit of humanity into any piece is a powerful thing. 

What do you wish people knew about science writing?

I wish more scientists knew how 1) important and 2) challenging it is to translate scientific discourse into consumable and effective content. I also wish more people knew how fun and intellectually stimulating the process can be, especially for those logically- and creatively-minded folks in a constant mission to scratch both itches. 

What do you like to do for fun? In my spare time, I enjoy hiking, camping, music, comedy, and watching documentaries.

What are you reading/listening to right now?

Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari and Touching a Nerve by Patricia Churchland


Mike Miller (he/him/his)

Freelance Science Writer

How did you break into science writing? 

My background has been bifurcated. After getting my master’s degree in biochemistry at UCLA, I produced TV game shows (Password, Hollywood Squares, etc.) for 15 years before heading back east to ‘re-pursue’ a career in science, getting an MPH at Hopkins. At NIH, I started at the National Institute on Aging, where I was hired to produce public service announcements but was also afforded the ability to hone my science writing skills in longer form background articles on Alzheimer’s disease. After six years, I moved to the National Cancer Institute, where I continued to buff up my science writing skills and interests. It took many years of experience and practice to perfect (sort of) my writing techniques, skills and practices. 

As a new SANDSWA board member, what are you looking forward to in the year ahead? 

Like everyone else, I’m very much looking forward to in-person events! Getting to meet and chat in person can never fully be replaced by a Zoom session. Here’s hoping that SANDSWA can have multiple such events, perhaps starting as early as this spring.

What is your best writing tip? / What’s the best writing advice you’ve received?

My best tip comes from the composer Stephen Sondheim. He was adamant about writing lyrics that scanned and rhymed properly, as he argued that was the only way for an audience to easily understand and appreciate what they were hearing. I believe that same precision and attention to detail is critical to any other type of writing.

What do you wish people knew about science writing?

That good science writing can tell as compelling a story as any work of fiction, biography or science fiction. If the writing is clear and understandable, many authors have proven that the complexities of science can be told in highly compelling ways.

What do you like to do for fun?

Traveling and theater. My husband and I took a 2,700 mile trip up and down the California coast (and up to Crater Lake in Oregon) last Fall and the diverse wonders of this state are endless.

What are you reading/listening to right now?

The Lincoln Highway, by Amor Towles. He also wrote A Gentleman in Moscow and Rules of Civility, which I also highly recommend. We’re in the middle of Amazon Prime’s Mozart in the Jungle, and despite some sloppy soap opera stretches, the life of a contemporary classical symphony orchestra is entertaining.

Interested in potentially becoming a board member? We hold elections every December. Keep an eye out for notices in the October/November time frame if you are interested in running for an official board position.

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