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Read Her Work!

Theresa Machemer

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As a total science nerd, spending a summer interning at National Geographic was a dream come true. I wrote about super controversial topics like flu vaccines, climate change, and the moon landing (/s), and I saw firsthand how a media behemoth is adjusting to the digital age.

As an MIT student (a writing major — yes, we have those) from a public school in small-town New Hampshire, I joined the ASME program with approximately zero exposure to the magazine industry. I mean, science and engineering? I’ve got it covered — I live on those acronyms. But “hed” and “dek” and “FOB”? Gesundheit.

I spent my  fall semester of junior year interning at PBS: NOVA making short-form digital videos, and one day I was Googling “how the heck do I intern at Nat Geo,” and the ASME program popped up. I applied. I was interviewed. I was accepted. I was placed at National Geographic. Don’t ask me how that worked out.

So, I came to this summer knowing that I love learning and talking about science, and that I want to create fun, accessible science media. Because the print magazine works on such an extended timeline, I spent my first few weeks writing for the quick-turnaround news desk, like the last few ASME interns … until that desk was dissolved.

Well … okay. Now what?

I did my best to take every opportunity to attend meetings and see different sides of National Geographic’s media strategies. Digital editorial’s multiple verticals, print editorial pitch meetings and coverage plans, video production plans, Explorers Festival, SharkFest, an internal structure reorganization, an acquisition … it was a hectic summer, but I learned to make my own path and I wasn’t afraid to volunteer for anything I found interesting.


For me, that meant finding any excuse to interview incredible people, from National Geographic Explorers to a research scientist at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.

NatGeo has a strong internship program — over 50 interns this year — so I was able to spend many evenings with my editorial co-workers or with interns from across other departments. Everyone is enthusiastic, knowledgeable, happy to help on reporting issues (What do I do when two experts give conflicting advice and I’m on a four hour deadline?), and happy to go out for a coffee and share career advice.


And, maybe I’ve been lucky, but I haven’t walked into a restaurant in D.C. that I didn’t like.

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