Science and Medical Journalism Program

The Science and Medical Journalism Program at UNC is one of the nation's first master's programs of its kind. The program teaches skills needed to work as a practicing science and medical journalist across all media platforms.

Science and medical journalists provide a bridge between scientists and consumers by making complex science understandable to a broad audience of readers, viewers and listeners.

In summer 2014, the Science and Medical Journalism Program partnered with students and faculty from the University of Navarra in Pamplona, Spain, to launch a multimedia website documenting how investors in solar energy in Spain have suffered as the government has cut returns to investors.

The site — — offers a possible object lesson to American solar investors, according to Dr. Tom Linden, director of the Science and Medical Journalism Program and co-executive producer of the project.

Pictured: Setting up interview with solar farm investor Juan Antonio Cabrero, third from left, are master's graduate Daniel Lane (back to camera), professor Tom Linden and professor Álvaro Bonet from the University of Navarra's School of Communication. Photo by Courtni Kopietz.

The Sun Can Be Yours

As part of the core master's curriculum, students have partnered with North Carolina Public Television to produce an ongoing series about environmental issues facing N.C. State Parks. In the last year-and-a-half, students have produced six reports ranging from threats to a temperate rain forest in the Blue Ridge Escarpment in western N.C. to efforts to rehydrate the Great Dismal Swamp in eastern N.C. and southern Virginia. In late 2013, science and medical journalism students produced the following reports:

 Chimney Rock State Park

Chimney Rock State Park

In a public/private partnership Chimney Rock State Park is balancing demands of tourism with the need to preserve one of the state’s most famous scenic spots.


Producer, Courtni Kopietz; associate producer, Jagmeet Mac; scriptwriter, Natalie Taylor; videographer/editor, Mike Oniffrey; additional videography, Taylor, Mac; graphic artist, Heather Dollar.

 Pilot Mountain State Park

Pilot Mountain State Park

Officials at Pilot Mountain State Park are monitoring regrowth of plant life one year after a controlled burn spawned new life on this iconic mountain.


Producer, Rachel Tove-White; associate producers, Caleb Cates, Ana Navarina; scriptwriter, Andy Willard; videographer/editor, Mike Oniffrey; additional videography, Tove-White; graphic artist, Heather Dollar.

 Dismal Swamp State Park

Dismal Swamp State Park

State and federal officials are bringing water back to the Great Dismal Swamp, more than 200 years after settlers started draining this unique ecosystem. 


Producer, Brian Walker; associate producer, Abigail Brewer; scriptwriter, Dan Lane; videographer/editor, Mike Oniffrey; additional videography, Lane, Walker; graphic artist, Heather Dollar.

These reports followed earlier stories on Gorges State Park, home to one of the only temperate rain forests in the eastern United States; Eno River State Park, where biologists are trying to control an Asian aquatic plant that is crowding out native species; and Fort Macon State Park, where rangers fight a constant battle to prevent the ocean from washing away this famous landmark. Students have also produced reports for statewide public television examining frackingbiomass and solar as renewable sources, and hybrid electric vehicles.

You can also view our half-hour documentary, "Environmental Heroes," that tells the stories of how one tree lover is on a mission to save the hemlocks from destruction, how two farmers are practicing sustainable agriculture to bring food to the table, and how local citizens are cleaning up a polluted urban creek. To view other award-winning medical, science and environmental TV reports, check out our TV Web page. Students also have published recent articles in The ScientistEndeavors magazine and local publications.

Tom Linden, M.D., is director of the Science and Medical Journalism Program and Glaxo Wellcome Distinguished Professor of Medical Journalism in the school. Faculty from both the J-School and the Gillings School of Global Public Health teach required courses in the master's program. A number of distinguished guest lecturers also work with the program's students.

If you're interested in reading a new book that offers how-to tips for aspiring medical journalists, check out the "The New York Times Reader: Health & Medicine" (2011, CQ Press) by Dr. Linden. For more information about educational opportunities in science and medical journalism, read Dr. Linden's article, "Learning To Be a Medical Journalist," in Nieman Reports. You can also read an essay by Dr. Linden in the journal Electronic News about ethical issues raised by television doctors reporting on the Haitian earthquake.