Alumna wins top science writers award

A Leicester graduate has won an Association of British Science Writers (ABSW) award for 'Best News Item' for her story about an ancient shipwreck victim.

Jo Marchant (pictured), a science journalist and author based in London, was honoured for her Nature article about a human skeleton discovered on a famous shipwreck off the coast of the tiny Greek island of Antikythera, and the subsequent DNA extraction and analysis - something that had never been tried before on someone who has been under the sea for 2,000 years.

The ABSW’s awards aim to reward excellence in science journalism and writing and are judged by a panel of credible and respected judges.

Jo, who graduated with a BSc in Biological Sciences (Genetics) at Leicester,  has worked as an editor at New Scientist and at Nature and has written on topics from the future of genetic engineering to underwater archaeology. Her articles have appeared in publications including The New York Times, The Guardian and Smithsonian magazine, and websites such as Mosaic and

Her radio and TV appearances include BBC Radio 4’s Start the Week and Today programmes, NPR’s Fresh Air, CNN and National Geographic. She has lectured around the world, including at the Royal Institution in London, the Hay Festival, the Edinburgh Science Festival, the Getty Villa in Los Angeles, the Aspen Ideas Festival and the Dutch-Flemish Institute in Cairo.

Jo is also the author of Decoding the Heavens: Solving the mystery of the world’s first computer, about a mysterious contraption found on the same shipwreck, and which was shortlisted for the 2009 Royal Society Prize for Science Books; The Shadow King: The bizarre afterlife of King Tut’s mummy (2013); and the New York Times bestseller Cure: A journey into the science of mind over body (2016).

Professor Julian Ketley, Head of the Department of Genetics, said: "Jo has the rare combination of being an excellent scientist and a brilliant writer. She has a talent for telling scientific stories and explaining contentious ideas in a truly accessible way."