Out of the home office: MIT Knight Science Journalism Food Boot Camp

by Nicola Temple | March 28, 2014

Cambridge/Boston is cold, but generally sunny, though to be honest, we aren’t seeing a whole lot of daylight. The MIT Knight Science Journalism Food Boot Camp has a packed schedule and most of our time is spent in a small, windowless room. I don’t mean to make it sound unappealing – it isn’t….not by a long shot.

There are 27 of us on this boot camp: 13 nine-month Fellows, an MIT Science Writing graduate student and 13 of us that were selected specifically for this boot camp. I am surrounded by award winning journalists, TV anchors, editors from some great publications, such as New Scientist and The Walrus, and I’m feeling very privileged to be in their company. As with any event, it is often the conversations outside the classroom – over a beer and dinner – that are at least or more beneficial than those in the classroom.

MIT's Building 10 - The Engineering College.

MIT’s Building 10 – The Engineering College.

What has been said in the classroom is nothing to be sneezed at though. We’ve had some rather big names come in to speak to us about food safety, foodborne outbreaks, the delights of E. coli, malnutrition, obesity, climate change, pesticides, food processing and cultured meat. Yet despite having a daily bombardment of a million and one ways to either die or get fat from eating….we all seem to religiously partake in the endless display of delicious food that is provided for us. The irony is not lost on us.

Today is the last day of the four-day boot camp and another promising line-up of speakers is on the schedule. At the top of my list is Gary Beauchamp, Director of the Monell Chemical Senses Center.  Monell takes a scientific multidisciplinary approach to studying smell and taste and its significance in human disease and health. I’m hoping to have the opportunity to speak to him a little about our capacity to detect certain forms of adulteration. We’ll see.

Aside from the speakers (good and bad…because the bad ones also provide a learning experience) and my brilliant classmates, I admit there is something pretty special about being in the presence of MIT and Harvard. I feel that I am simply getting smarter through a process of osmosis. Not to mention there are some rather visually pleasing aspects to both campuses. Cambridge, MA is a rather beautiful area of this part of the world.

Right, well, while I would like to delve into the content of some of what I’ve been learning, that will have to wait. Another eight hour day of lectures awaits me! It’s been a long time since I just sat and learned…hope I don’t hurt something!

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