Thomas R. O'Donnell

About Thomas R. O’Donnell

I’m a former newspaper reporter and editor who stumbled into science writing and discovered he can do it pretty well. While at The Des Moines Register, Iowa’s largest newspaper, I was sent to the Ames news bureau, where I covered Iowa State University and the Ames Laboratory, a U.S. Department of Energy facility ISU operates. ISU research intrigued me and I started reporting here and there on physics professors, biotechnology pioneers and psychology stars. The editors liked it and, more importantly, the researchers said I got it right.O'Donnell5030.jpg

After six years, I begged my way into the main newsroom as medicine and science reporter. I tromped through virtual reality environments and a former nuclear weapons assembly site, among other things, but I also wrote about insurance a little too much. That, burnout, and a general sense of restlessness led me to quit in 2000 and try my hand at freelancing. (With the way the newspaper industry has tumbled since then, I look like a genius, but it was just chance that led me to bail before layoffs, furloughs and budget cuts.) As a freelancer, I coauthored a book, “Stacking the Deck,” and wrote about biotechnology for ISU’s Plant Sciences Institute. I also got some regular work from Meredith Corp.’s integrated marketing arm and a few other sources. And I shot a pilot for an Iowa science program – my first attempt to highlight Iowa’s largely hidden science infrastructure.

Eventually, however, it was time to find a full-time job and I was lucky enough to get on with the Krell Institute. Our main thrust is computational science: using high-performance computers (like Titan) to attack problems in a range of science realms. That means I get to keep writing about all kinds of fields under the umbrella of computation.

If you have an Iowa-related science idea or observation, drop me a note. If you think I’ve screwed up or scored well, do the same. And remember: Views expressed here are my own and not those of the Krell Institute. Or anyone else, for that matter. Who’d be silly enough to claim them?

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  1. In Iowa Daily Democrat the following paragraph appears.

    “Meanwhile, the infamous Koch Brothers say they and their network of anonymous donors will hedge their bets by spreading a planned $889 billion in contributions among several Republican candidates and organizations.”

    Would be good to have that billion corrected, in order not to scare the innumerate peasants too badly.

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