FOJBI Friday: Rachel Shaffer Talks Toxicology Joe Palca isn't the only fan of "Big Ideas" in science. Toxicology grad student Rachel Shaffer hopes her blog can help cut through misinformation about environmental health risks.
NPR logo FOJBI Friday: Rachel Shaffer Talks Toxicology

FOJBI Friday: Rachel Shaffer Talks Toxicology

FOJBI Rachel Shaffer Jeremy Shaffer/Courtesy of Rachel Shaffer hide caption

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Jeremy Shaffer/Courtesy of Rachel Shaffer

FOJBI Rachel Shaffer

Jeremy Shaffer/Courtesy of Rachel Shaffer

The "Friends of Joe's Big Idea" is a vibrant community of talented people we think you should meet. FOJBI Friday introduces some of these cool communicators of science, in their own words. This week: Rachel Shaffer.


I'm a Toxicology Ph.D. student in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences at the University of Washington School of Public Health in Seattle. Broadly, I'm interested in the effect of consumer chemicals on human health and the environment.

Science Communication In Her Field

I am acutely aware of the fact that scientific research is not useful if it remains only in niche publications and in specific academic circles. Science must be translated to the public and to policymakers to be able to be used to improve health outcomes. I think that there is a lot of misinformation and/or lack of awareness of the effects of chemicals on human health. I want to help communicate relevant information so people can better understand what we know and can feel empowered to take action to minimize exposures.

How She Got Interested In Science Communication

My interest in science communication stems in part from my experience working in the health program at the Environmental Defense Fund, in Washington, D.C. One component of my job was to monitor the latest science in the environmental health field and write blog posts to communicate these findings to our members and target audiences. Through this work, I discovered that I really enjoy the challenge of writing posts that are scientifically accurate and accessible to a wide audience. I've tried to keep up with science writing in graduate school through a personal environmental health blog, Rachel Talks Tox. I have completed the Pacific Science Center's Portal to the Public workshop series, part of a national network that provides training to scientists in public communication and engagement.

Future Plans

I hope to work in environmental public health policy. I think it would be exciting to be at the interface of science and policy and be involved in helping to translate and implement science into effective and protective public health policies.