National Public Radio science correspondent Richard Harris to speak at UCSC on Wednesday, April 6

Award-winning journalist Richard Harris, science correspondent for National Public Radio, will speak at UC Santa Cruz on Wednesday, April 6, as part of a distinguished lecturer series. Harris, a UCSC alumnus, will give a talk entitled "Telling Tales Out of School: How One Reporter Cracks the World of Science." The event, which is free and open to the public, will begin at 7:30 p.m. in the Stevenson Event Center on the UCSC campus.

Harris, who joined NPR in 1986, reports on science issues for the NPR programs Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition. He has traveled throughout the world to report on stories, including trips to Antarctica, the Galapagos Islands, Beijing during the SARS epidemic, the center of Greenland, and the Amazon rain forest. He has earned numerous awards for his reporting and was elected an honorary member of the scientific research society Sigma Xi in 2002.

Harris will spend three days at UCSC as part of the Cowell College Distinguished Visiting Professor program, funded by a UCSC Alumni Association endowment that supports visiting professors at each of the campus's colleges on a rotating basis. The Cowell College program, focusing on public communication about issues relating to science and technology, includes four public lectures in 2005 and 2006. Harris will meet with a broad range of faculty and students during his visit, including the current class of students in UCSC's Science Communication Program. He will also visit the studios of local public radio station KUSP.

A California native, Harris was valedictorian of his Crown College graduating class at UCSC in 1980. He earned a B.A. in biology, with highest honors, and went straight into journalism, working as a newspaper reporter before joining NPR. Harris had the instincts of a good reporter even as a student, said John Wilkes, who taught a science writing course Harris took. Wilkes, now director of the Science Communication Program, recalled that when a major wildfire erupted on the Big Sur coast, Harris jumped in his car and drove down to get interviews.

"He talked to everyone--firefighters, forestry officials, residents--and he got all sides of the story, from the people who said it was a natural event that wouldn't hurt anything to those who said it was devastating," Wilkes said. "When we published his story in our Science Notes magazine, we got more letters on that story than we'd ever gotten. There were complaints from both sides about the story's balance, but the letters came in from both sides in equal numbers."

Among the many awards Harris has received during his career as a journalist are the Sagan Award for improving the public understanding of science from the Council of Scientific Society Presidents and the Walter C. Alvarez Memorial Award from the American Medical Writers Association, both awarded in 1999. In 1995, he earned the Science Journalism Award from the American Association for the Advancement of Science for his coverage of endocrine disrupters.

Also in 1995, Harris shared a Peabody Award for investigative reporting about the tobacco industry. He also won the 1994 Aviation/Space Writers Association Gold Award for his coverage of the first Hubble Space Telescope repair mission. He received the 1994 Cindy Award from the Association of Visual Communicators for a story on the ecological impact of non-native species coming to North America.

Harris is cofounder of the Washington, D.C., Area Science Writers Association and past president of the National Association of Science Writers.

Harris's public lecture is sponsored by Cowell College and the Alumni Association, with additional support from KUSP. For more information, contact Cathy Shender at (831) 459-2251.