St Petersburg University graduate Maria Pazi has become the first writer from Russia to win the European Science Journalist of the Year Award. It is awarded by the European Federation for Science Journalism and the Association of British Science Writers.

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Maria Pazi’s path to achieving recognition and respect in her field has been rather fast. Maria started her science writing in 2015 as an editor of a student newspaper of the University Department of Biology – Biotimes 2.0. In fact, she decided to try her hand at science writing after being inspired by another St Petersburg University graduate and science populariser Asia Kazantseva. According to Ms Pazi, after the presentation of the Kazantseva’s book Someone is wrong on the Internet! Controversial Science Issues she returned home and in a couple of days ‘devoured’ this book, as well as another of Kazantseva’s books – Who could have thought! How the brain makes us do stupid things. ‘Then I realised that I would like to become a science communicator. I started exploring the opportunities to acquire the skills that a science journalist needs to have. Around that time, the Department of Biology took an initiative to revive its student newspaper. Eventually, however, only two issues of the newspaper were published, with an interval of a year between them. In the first issue, I participated as a writer, and in the second as a writer and editor. I also applied for an online course in science journalism taught by Andrei Konstantinov, who is an editor of the science department of Russian Reporter. The course included many practical tasks such as: writing a science news story; writing a review; and conducting an interview. This was a chance to publish a good text. And this is how my first popular science articles were published,’ explains Maria Pazi.

Ms Pazi’s writing was highly appreciated by the professional community. She has won several national awards including: the national contest ‘Debut in Science Journalism’; the national contest of innovative journalism ‘Tech in Media’, nomination ‘Best Publication in Federal Print Media, AI’ (winner, 2019); and national contest Rusnano Russian Sci&Tech Writer of the Year (shortlisted, 2019; winner, 2020). Maria Pazi has been named the 2020 European Science Journalist of the Year for a series of articles on the digitalisation of the world: ‘Cyber-DNA’; ‘Digital Love’; and ‘Evolving Man’, published in the magazine Russian Reporter.

The European Science Journalist of the Year Award was first launched in 2014 by the Association of British Science Writers. Previous winners include writers from the UK, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain and Croatia. Maria Pazi was nominated to the European award by the Russian Association for Science Communication as a winner of the national contest.

Maria Pazi is certain that anyone can become a science communicator: ‘It’s all rather straightforward, I assure you. If you like science and you are interested in science writing, you should practise: write for yourself; for friends on a social networking site; or start a page on a blogging platform. You want to create a science podcast, make science videos, draw cartoons or comics – it’s a no-brainer: go for it! You can make this work. Two of my classmates became science journalists: Irina Bode published a book Hippocrates is Not Happy, and Anastasiya Pashutova co-wrote a children’s popular science book – I want to know everything about the New Year.’

Maria Pazi has not given up science. She is currently engaged in research on sleep deprivation at the Sechenov Institute of Evolutionary Physiology and Biochemistry of the Russian Academy of Sciences.