Joe Hanson, 31, is a Ph.D. candidate in cellular and molecular biology at the University of Texas at Austin. In his blog It’s Okay to be Smart ( www.itsokaytobesmart.com), he writes about new discoveries and shares interesting bits of science from around the Web. Follow him on Twitter as @jtotheizzoe. Questions and answers have been edited.
Q: Why do you think the idea that “it’s OK to be smart” is something that needs to be underscored?
I’ve always felt there are a lot of people out there who have a strong desire to know what’s going on in science, but maybe they’re intimidated, maybe they aren’t around other people who care about the same things. Maybe they don’t have a place to get information they trust. This site is about showing people that it is OK to be interested in science, that this is a positive thing. You shouldn’t be intimidated or scared or nervous. And if you don’t have friends who are interested in it, go online, where there are thousands of people who are interested in science.
Q: Your blog uses Tumblr, which is built to collect and share all sorts of media from the Web in short posts. How has that approach helped you communicate science concepts?
Every time I sit down and find something I want to talk about, the next question is what is the most interesting way I can hook someone into this story. Using words sometimes works. But a lot of times, a really powerful image collection, a video snippet or a gif file can really be a hook that makes somebody pause and want to know more.
Q: Your posts are pretty diverse. What topics are most likely to catch your eye?
I make it a point not to stick to a theme on purpose. I make a concerted effort to be broad, and I think it’s important to think about how a post is going to latch onto the reader. Particle physics is interesting, but can everybody get it? Probably not. Everybody’s interested in animals. Everyone has access to the sky, so there’s a lot of interest in space stories. A lot of the content naturally goes toward looking up, but I do make it a point to look down. I purposely scatter the content so everybody can find something they care about.