Communicating science from the bottom of the world and beyond

UND alumnus, TIME writer talks about explaining science to children in annual lecture series


UND alumnus David Bjerklie in Antarctica on a National Science Foundation grant to communicate science. Photo courtesy of

As part one of the annual UND Hagerty Lecture series, UND alumnus David Bjerklie spoke to just under 70 people at the Grand Forks Herald about what he thinks are the right questions to be asking in science today.

“I welcome arguments about science,” Bjerklie said during his speech. “But my position is that we are often having the wrong arguments.”

Bjerklie, a Minot, N.D. native, graduated from UND in 1976 and then went on to write science journalism for TIME magazine. Since starting there, the biology major has been honored as a Knight Science Journalism Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and as a National Science Foundation Media fellow, and he now serves as the editor for TIME for Kids.

In his presentation, Bjerklie touched on many big questions and said writing for an audience of children has challenged him in wonderful ways.

“You can’t be vague with kids,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean you have to be simplistic.”

Bjerklie asked questions such as, “What are facts? What is a belief? Who should we believe and why? What is evidence?” Bjerklie gave these as examples of the fundamental questions he deals with when it comes to helping shape the way kids and young adults view science.

“Questions, not answers, are how science makes progress,” Bjerklie said.

After he was done with his speech, Bjerklie opened up the floor for questions and discussion, and there was no shortage of participation from the audience, which asked questions about the Big Bang theory, GMOs and communicating with children.

UND student Carrie Sandstrom, who has attended several Hagerty Lectures, said she appreciated the variation in Bjerklie’s approach to talking about journalism.

“I thought (his speech) was very good,” Sandstrom said. “It was more philosophical and left more room for questions versus giving definitive answers.”

UND biology lecturer Christopher Felege was also in the audience and said he enjoyed the lecture.

“I thought (Bjerklie) was very well spoken,” he said.

Marie Monson is a staff writer for The Dakota Student. She can be reached at [email protected].