About the Author

(photo courtesy of Dave Clark)
[Scroll down for a list of published work.]

A brief bio...

I talked for years about about going to journalism school and transitioning from science to science writing.  I was not always convinced that it would happen myself, but I'm finally headed in that direction.  This past December, I finished a Master's degree in journalism through the Pro-Track program in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at UW-Madison.  Now it's all about practice, practice, practice. For the past year now, this blog has been a great outlet for my attempts at analysis, news and feature coverage, humor and a little multimedia. I've had my writing published in Agri-View, a Wisconsin-centric agricultural newspaper, and EARTH Magazine (where I spent last summer interning as a reporter and editor). Recently, some of my work for EARTH (along with work from several fellow UW-Madison science writers) received a nice shout out on Scientific American's Incubator blog.

Pipetting: how I spent the majority of my time in the lab.

Madison has been home since 2003 when I arrived as a new graduate student in the Department of Geoscience (formerly Geology & Geophysics).  Working with Professor Nita Sahai and the Interfacial Biogeochemistry group, I completed an MS in 2005, a PhD in 2009 (both in geology) and a brief stint as a post-doctoral researcher.  The focus of my research was to explain the physical and chemical interactions between phospholipid bilayers, which act as the molecular scaffolding in cell membranes (blood cells, bacteria, etc.), and oxide mineral particles such as quartz and corundum (the latter more commonly known as ruby or sapphire when in gem form).  Such interactions occur commonly in nature and in the human body where living cells meet the inorganic surfaces of rocks, mineral dust, or bone, for example, so the research was relevant to all kinds of applications including biomedical implant devices (think titanium hips!) and trying to explain the early evolution of living cells.  (For those that dare, I've included a list of my scientific publications at the bottom of this page.)

Kind of a strange project for a geology student, right?  Well, yes and no.  I worked with mineral particles...so there's the mineralogy/geology connection.  Our group was a great example, though, of the ever-growing trend of inter- and cross-disciplinary work that, while challenging for students and researchers because of the breadth of knowledge required, continues to unlock new insights and avenues of research.  I had opportunities to collaborate with specialists from many other fields and to work in numerous labs across the UW-Madison campus and beyond.  These experiences continue to color my interest in science occurring at the intersections of established fields, particularly geoscience, chemistry, biochemistry, biology, etc.

November 2008: At the NIST Center for Neutron Research in
Gaithersburg, MD with Dr. Dave Wesolowski of Oak Ridge National Lab
Prior to my time in Wisconsin, I spent four years in Boston (er, Medford/Somerville, MA) at Tufts University, where I received a BS in chemistry in 2001, followed by two years in DC working off-and-on as a purveyor of fine reading materials at a boutique bookshop (I won't mention the name but it rhymes with Narnes & Boble).

In addition to being a science nerd, I travel whenever possible, explore Madison (when travel isn't possible), frequent many of the local coffee shops and watering holes, and partake of the excellent music scene.  I've run a couple marathons (with more sure to come), I'm looking forward to brewing my second batch of beer, I'm a huge Danophile (i.e., obsessed with Denmark), and I'm a total homer for DC/Maryland (born/raised) and Wisconsin (family roots and current home) sports teams.

June 2009: In Davos, Switzerland for the annual
Goldschmidt Conference on geochemistry.

January 2010: Hiking the Takesi Trail in the Yungas,
east of La Paz, Bolivia. (photo courtesy of Dave Clark)
Member of:

- National Association of Science Writers
- American Chemical Society
- Geological Society of America
- Geochemical Society

Selected Published Work:

"Astronomy Under the Ice," January 2012, EARTH Magazine, pp. 26 - 31.
[The magazine's January "Trends" feature, focusing on the IceCube Neutrino Observatory.]

"Down to Earth with Pat Pringle," December 2011, EARTH Magazine, pp. 74 - 75.
[An interview with geologist and dendrochronologist Pat Pringle of Centralia College.]

"November 7, 1940 and November 25, 1990: Washington Suffers a Pair of Debilitating Bridge Failures," November 2011, EARTH Magazine, pp. 56 - 59.
[The magazine's November "Benchmarks" feature, a historical account of the collapses of two bridges--the Tacoma Narrows bridge and the Murrow floating bridge in Washington.]

"Down to Earth with Matt Kuchta," November 2011, EARTH Magazine, pp.60 - 61.
[An interview with paleontologist and blogger Matt Kuchta of the University of Wisconsin - Stout.]

"Combining Art, Science and History in 'NASA/Art: 50 Years of Exploration," October 2011, EARTH Magazine, pp. 56 - 57.
[A review of NASA's touring art exhibit.]

"Diamond Inclusions Hint at Onset of Wilson Cycle," October 2011, EARTH Magazine, p. 10.

"Fires on the Rise in Yellowstone," October 2011, EARTH Magazine, p. 18.

"Mount Rainier's Shrinking Glaciers," September 2011, EARTH Magazine, p. 18.

"Algae: The Miracle Plant?" September 2011, EARTH Magazine, p. 22 - 23.

"Native Son Brings Solar Power to Rural Africa in 'Burning in the Sun'," September 2011, EARTH Magazine, p. 57.
[A review of a DVD documentary following efforts to develop and deploy low-cost solar technology in African villages.]

"Subduction Tremors Reverse Course," August 2011, EARTH Magazine, p. 12.

"Researchers Track Fukushima Fallout in Oceans," August 2011, EARTH Magazine, p. 14.

"Blogging on EARTH: The lighter side of geo-jargon," August 17, 2011, EARTH Magazine Online.
[Blog post for EARTH's website.]

"Blogging on EARTH: Webb Space Telescope ensnared in political drama," July 13, 2011, EARTH Magazine Online.
[Blog post for EARTH's website.]

"Study Finds No Link Between Distant, Big Earthquakes," June 2011, EARTH Magazine, p. 12.

"Blogging on EARTH: Arsenic provides a G#ALA event in the science world," June 23, 2011, EARTH Magazine Online.
[Blog post for EARTH's website.]

"Gray wolf challenges in Wisconsin examined," April 7, 2011, Agri-View.
[A feature story looking at the impacts of gray wolves in Wisconsin and the competing arguments about their status as endangered species in the Great Lakes region.]

Peer-Reviewed Scientific Publications:

Oleson, T.A., Sahai, N., Wesolowski, D.J., Dura, J.A., Majkrzak, C.F., Giuffre, A.J. (2012) Neutron reflectivity study of substrate surface chemistry effects on supported phospholipid bilayer formation on (11-20) sapphire. J. Colloid Interface Sci., 370, 192-200.

Oleson, T.A. and Sahai, N. (2010) Interaction energies between oxide surfaces and multiple phosphatidylcholine bilayers from extended-DLVO theory. J. Colloid Interface Sci., 352, 316-326.

Oleson, T.A., Sahai, N., and Pedersen, J.A. (2010) Electrostatic effects on deposition of multiple phospholipid bilayers at oxide surfaces. J. Colloid Interface Sci., 352, 327-336.

Xu, J., Stevens, M.J., Oleson, T.A., Last, J.A., and Sahai, N. (2009) Role of oxide surface chemistry and phospholipid phase on adsorption and self-assembly: Isotherms and atomic force microscopy. J. Phys. Chem. C, 113, 2187-2196.