I like this picture because it is from a trip
to Yellowstone, it includes my youngest son,
and my legs look sorta skinny.
Find The Informed Parent: A Science-Based Resources for Your Child's First 4 Years, which I co-authored with Tara Haelle, here and view the book website here.

Nice things people have said about me and some other positive recognition

  • Co-recipient with David Robert Grimes of the 2014 John Maddox Prize for standing up for science. A huge and humbling honor. 
  • A Wikipedia entry with my name on it.
  • "One of the sharpest science writers in the blogosphere." Steve Silberman, science writer, author of upcoming book on neurodiversity
  • "Op/eds are the Wild West of the media, where facts die in gun battles. But Emily Willingham has a sheriff’s badge." Ed Yong, National Geographic Phenomena blog
  • Selected for inclusion in the Open Lab anthology of the best science writing for 2013
  • Finalist for a Shorty Award, 2013, blogging. From some of the nominating tweets: "She has a finely tuned BS detector." "She researches everything." "I learn something new every time I read her." "She's interesting, provocative, and usually right." "She's a truth-seeker and an incredible writer." "She's as sharp as they come." "She's fact-based, frank, funny, and fabulous." (I'd toss my hair with panache at that one, but I have very short hair.)
  • After just over a year of being a Forbes contributor, I've received 2 million page views at my Forbes site. 
You can find my writing at the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, San Francisco Chronicle, Forbes, Slate, Everyday Health, and Discover, among other delightful places. 

About me

The business of my life has been writing and science. My work as a research scientist has led me to many cool things, including ultrasound and surgery on a spotted hyena, plastic casting of the inside of the mammalian penis, chasing tiny blazing-fast lizards around in the desert, and innumerable activities involving gonads. My work as a writer has done the same, from stories about the black bears of Big Bend to one of my all-time favorites, a piece on zombie grasshoppers. There are hundreds of adventures in between, and I wouldn't trade in the science or the writing for anything else.

I have been a dedicated writer since about 1972 and engaged in doing science since 1996. My background, as I say in cover letters, includes a bachelor's degree in English and a PhD in biological sciences, both from The University of Texas at Austin, with a completed postdoctoral fellowship in pediatric urology at the University of California, San Francisco. Throughout, my focus was vertebrate development and genetics, specifically how gonads and penises develop and how the brain might be involved. Talking about my work has always carried a frisson of the risque. 

Every day, in addition to being a research scientist, I combine my degrees by writing about science or editing science writing. I'm also am a university instructor and have taught biology (developmental bio, physiology, genetics, general bio, physics, and chemistry) to thousands of university students in Texas and California, and language arts to a younger crowd. I've worked the health, science, and medicine news beats for a local paper and online health sites, writing hundreds of pieces, and written features for newspapers and magazines. You can find my work at places like the New York Times, Scientific American, Slate, and Discover. My deep past includes serving as a public affairs officer, writer, editor, and media campaign manager at a large state agency for four years, where we produced a 16-page tabloid newspaper for the department's 26,000 employees, and interning at Texas Monthly Magazine. You can find the books that feature my writing listed here, some of my writing samples here, and my ongoing writing and editing gigs here

Conflict of interest statement: I have no fiscally related conflict of interest to declare relative to GMOs, global climate change, autism, parenting, or feminism. One of my family members is autistic, so I have a personal as well as scientific interest in the subject. My children are fully vaccinated, as are the adults and single dog in our home. I am a feminist and also involved in some disability politics. I write and edit on a freelance basis for many outlets that probably have some tangled associations of which I'm not aware because everything does these days, so just make that assumption. I am not on staff anywhere. Regarding current steady freelance/contract work, since November 2016, I have freelanced for Univadis, summarizing cardiology research papers; I am a contributor at Forbes; I have been a university instructor in the clinical and biological sciences; and I am a scientific editor. My areas of research included endocrine disrupting compounds, physiology, endocrinology, genetics, and developmental biology. My sole overriding interest is presenting accurate, evidence-based information as part of a good story that includes broader context. All writing here represents my opinion and is in no way a reflection of the opinions or influence of any of my clients, employers, or associates.

You can follow me on Twitter @ejwillingham, and see my LinkedIn profile here, my Google scholar profile here, and my Google+ profile here


  1. Hi Emily, I'm Colleen Hickey and I have Asperger's Syndrome. I read about your son and his reaction to the shooting. I can understand how he feels.

  2. Dear Emily,

    Your writing, which I am embarrassed to admit I have only recently discovered, is brilliant. Thank you for illuminating so much for so many.

    Best wishes,

    Geoffrey M. Laff, PhD
    New York City

  3. Emily- Thank you very much for your thoughtful article. As the mother of a 9 year old boy who also has autism, I am keenly interested in neuro-typicals getting accurate information about our special children.

    Jennifer www.jennifermccoy.net

  4. I am Curious. How does a person get a PhD in biological sciences without a Master of Science degree or Bsc? Your undergrad degree in English; is that a Bachelor of Arts?

  5. English degree is a BA. PhD is biological sciences. It is common for people who intend to pursue the PhD to not get a master's first.