An interview with Nicoletta Lanese, a polymath at the "fundamental interconnectedness of all things"

At the intersection of science, dance, and writing, Nicoletta Lanese pushes her limits in whatever she can do. With awards for research and writing under her belt, she choreographs every movement and thought on her blog. In this interview, we'll find out Nicoletta's story and understand this value she searches for in life.

Hussain: First things first….how did you get into science writing?

NL: I’ve been writing since I learned to hold a pencil, but I got into science writing a little later on. As a neuroscience major at the University of Florida, I wrote about science constantly in the context of class. In fall of my junior year, my Lab in Cognitive Neuroscience professor was handing back an assignment. Placing mine on my desk, Dr. Keil casually remarked, “Nice work- you’d make a great science writer.” Not knowing what he meant, I did my research. What I found was a line of work that elegantly combined my love of writing, science, and activism. In a rare moment of clarity, I decided I would pursue science writing as a career. So far, it’s working out.

Hussain: Nicoletta, I might call you a writer, researcher, dancer, and many other things. What motivates you through these seemingly different interests? (By this, I mean like, what ties them together? What are you really looking for in what you do, Nicoletta? Feel free to take this answer in whatever direction you want to.)

NL: To quote Dirk Gently, I believe in the “fundamental interconnectedness of all things.” No event, action, or speck of matter exists in isolation; therefore, each event, action, and speck of matter makes some mark on the greater universe. Applying this notion on a smaller scale, I believe each of my interests informs and enriches the next. At a practical level, I find that my varied experience allows me to operate more creatively – to “think outside the box.” Methodologies I’ve learned in scientific research apply easily to artistic pursuits and vice versa. Engaging in various fields gives me a unique edge in each.

Beyond methodology, I find that the content of each field easily relates. In the end, everything relates back to the grander human experience. Via this all-encompassing throughline, I straddle the seemingly disparate worlds of the arts, humanities, and sciences. I am simply interested in how things work - in how people move through and perceive reality. As an artist-writer-researcher-human, I learn every day. Looking forward, I want to remain a perpetual student and share all I learn with others.

Hussain: You've written on science and dance, but also personal topics like your health and daily habits. How has sharing these personal experiences with the world changed or affected your life?

NL: I find catharsis through my writing practice, and many of my more personal essays are borne of a selfish need for release. However, I’m moved to share these writings for a number of reasons. First and foremost, I share them as a show of solidarity. There are many experiences, ideas, and struggles that individuals share but don’t generally discuss. I offer my essays as an opportunity to bring those topics into public forum. The writings provide a platform for others to share their own stories. On the flipside, readers can also gain awareness of experiences they haven’t personally undergone. As their author, I’m inspired by the responses these posts generate, the conversations they spark. While I gain new perspective on the topic at hand, readers inevitably learn something about me as well. Sometimes those readers are my friends and family, and my personal relationships morph to accommodate the new information.

Hussain: Much of your writing is reflective and contemplative in nature. What inspires you to bring forward these meditative thoughts?

NL: I don’t know that I have a good answer for this one. I’ve always been a “thinker,” whiling away the hours chasing thoughts around my head. These thoughts cumulative like storm clouds over time. I let them rain down onto paper occasionally to clear my head.

Hussain: Well, I think that's a good answer.

Hussain: What’s your biggest challenge you currently face as a science writer? How do you approach it?

NL: My main goal as a science writer is to make science accessible and relevant to the average person. Those unversed in science should be able to read one of my articles, understand its contents, and find reason to care about its implications in “real life.” This is no easy task. Namely, it requires careful consideration of how to deliver my message. Poor choice of sharing platform, visual aid, or vocabulary can spell disaster for an otherwise well-written piece.

As a science writer, I try to put myself in the place of my readers. I consider where and when they encounter information. I anticipate the confusion they might face and the questions they might ask. I review my work from the imagined viewpoint of a non-expert newcomer to the topic. That said, I aim to strike a balance; I refuse to “dumb down” any concept for my audience. Instead, I translate it into a vernacular they’re familiar with.

Hussain: Name one book everyone should read.

NL: This is a really difficult question (and I think you knew it would be). At the risk of overlooking twenty of my favorite books, I’ll go with my gut response and name Orwell’s 1984.