A surprise, but definitely not a shock

Cynthia Graber’s MATTER story “Electric Shock” scoops science writing prize.

Bobbie Johnson


The best stories about complex ideas usually have three elements at play. First, there’s a groundbreaking concept that makes you sit up and take notice; Second, there’s a character whose story makes that complexity easy to understand; And third, there’s a writer prepared to do the difficult job of bringing all of that to life.

When Cynthia Graber got in touch with us to talk about a story she wanted to write for MATTER, we knew right away that all three bits of the recipe were there. Cynthia had already spent her own time and energy interviewing and drafting a profile of a truly fascinating scientist, Michael Levin. And, at the heart of it, Levin’s work was simply astonishing: his team may be on the verge of being able to regenerate lost limbs using electricity.

It turns out that we’re not the only ones who thought this story was worth telling: today we’re incredibly proud to say that Cynthia has been awarded the Institute of Physics-STFC journalism prize.

The prize (run in conjunction with the UK’s Science and Technology Facilities Council) rewards stories about physics that were published or broadcast in the previous year. And the judges, who were unanimous in their choice, had strong praise for Electric Shock, which they called “a joy to read”.

“Not only does Cynthia tell a highly entertaining story, she takes the reader on a scientific journey and reveals the nature of scientific endeavor – from decades of intricate and laborious research undertaken for the possibility of profoundly exciting discovery.”

So, congratulations to Cynthia for her achievement, and her editor Seth Mnookin for helping her craft a great story, and the rest of the team who put it together. We couldn’t be happier.

It’s the fifth significant award we’ve won in our short history (here are some of the others) and a testament to the hard work that goes on behind the scenes, and a measure of the impact our team is having. To mark the news, we’ve re-released the story on Medium. Enjoy!


MATTER: The best writing, the biggest ideas.

We pull back the veil on our deep journalism at Inside MATTER, but you can find our latest stories by clicking visiting our collection on Medium. Still want more? Sign up for our weekly pick of the finest long-form, find us on Facebook or connect via Twitter.



Bobbie Johnson

Causing trouble since 1978. Former lives at Medium, Matter, MIT Technology Review, the Guardian.