After four years, writer has column down to a science

Robert Starr

Editor’s note: A 30 column is a chance for departing senior staffers to say farewell and reflect on their time spent in The Daily Texan’s basement office. The term comes from the old typesetting mark (–30–) to denote the end of a line.

I walked into The Daily Texan basement in fall 2011 with the intention of writing a weekly science column. That column became Science Scene, and I couldn’t be more proud of it.

Throughout the process, I’ve worked with two amazing co-writers — Paepin Goff and Ellen Airhart — who, in addition to directly contributing to Science Scene, have provided uncredited research, feedback and inspiration for articles with my name on them.

I’ve also had unbelievable editors who supported me even when I pitched ridiculous ideas. 

Kelsey McKinney didn’t flinch when I turned in a pro-marijuana Science Scene. She was also the one who encouraged me to write a piece on how to avoid hangovers.

Hannah Smothers didn’t alter a single word of my headline “Decision to circumcise is far from clear cut,” nor did she bat an eye when I sent her a Science Scene describing an experiment where researchers had subjects watch a pornographic film and reach into a container full of used condoms.

And nobody made me work harder than Kat Sampson, the current Life&Arts editor, who has zero tolerance for lazy writing. She kept me in the basement every week demanding rewrites until whatever complex topic I addressed was clear enough for all of our readers to understand. 

I’ve had many arguments with Kat — which have provided endless entertainment for the rest of The Daily Texan staff — but she’s also one of my favorite people on the planet and makes me laugh harder than anybody else I’ve ever known.

This is just a small fraction of the people that helped shape Science Scene into the column that I’m proud to have written. Part of me wants to continue, but, at some point, you need to let your baby grow up and walk on its own. 

After four years at the Texan, it’s time to completely turn my baby over to Ellen, who has a great eye for finding interesting stories and an imagination that I envy. Her Science Scene articles this semester — covering running injuries, listeria in ice cream and the not-so-albino squirrel, among other topics — give me confidence that the column is in very good hands.

I’m really going to miss recording the Science Scene videos with her.

I’ll still be around campus continuing to work toward my Ph.D. in physics, but I don’t know what the future holds for me after that. I do have a few hopes, though. One of them is to visit UT-Austin some day many years from now, pick up a copy of The Daily Texan and see that Science Scene is still going strong.

A man can dream, can’t he?