‘I love that there are loads of mysteries waiting to be solve’ – we catch up with New Scientist’s new physics and technology features editor Abigail Beall to find out what she loves most about her subject and some of her favourite features so far…
Congratulations on the new role,
Abigail! How are you settling in so far?
Thank you! I’m settling in really well.
Everyone at New Scientist has been incredibly welcoming, and between them they
have a wealth of knowledge and experience that they’re happy to share with
me. It’s been a dream of mine for a long time now and so far, living up to
What are you most looking forward to
getting stuck into?
I’m really excited to be able to talk to scientists about the
most exciting things happening in their areas. I’m also excited to work with
lots of different writers, to learn from them, and to make some incredible
What new approaches/topics are you
hoping to bring to the New Scientist’s tech and physics content?
As a features editor, I’m looking for
the most exciting new ideas in physics, and working out how to tell those
stories, but I don’t have my eye on any topics in particular at the moment. I’d
love to work with new writers who haven’t written for us before.
How has it been for you working during
the pandemic – what have been the main challenges?
I was a freelancer at the start of the
pandemic and it was quite difficult to find places that were commissioning
freelancers for a while. But luckily that picked up and then I started a full-time
role, so I’ve been very fortunate. Working from home wasn’t new for me, I’ve
been doing it since 2017, but I am looking forward to being able to meet
colleagues in real life soon.
What do you think will be the
long-lasting impacts of the last year or so on the media landscape and how
editorial teams work together?
I really hope media organisations will
continue to embrace working remotely, allowing more people working in the media
to live outside of London.
How did you originally get into journalism?
I was studying a Masters in Physics when
I realised I didn’t want to go down the research route. At the same time, I was
working as part of my university’s online magazine, writing and editing stories
for the science section. I decided that speaking to other people about their
research and writing about it was an incredible job. After graduating I applied
for a science journalism MA course at City University, and I graduated from
that in 2013.
What do you love most about your
I love that there are loads of mysteries
waiting to be solved.
Top three features you’ve worked on
during your career?
After years of sexism in space we
urgently need more female astronauts | New Scientist
What if the diminutive electron isn’t
as small as it gets? | New Scientist
The mystery of how big our Universe really is | BBC Future
Best piece of advice you’ve been given?
The best journalists are good at
listening and not afraid to ask silly questions.
Will you find contributions from PRs
useful for any aspect of your work at New Scientist? If so, what kind of
contributions would you welcome, and how/when would you prefer to receive them?
To be honest, I’m not sure. I can’t
imagine I will be working closely with any PRs because the work we do is very
focused on new academic research. But I’d always be happy to have a chat with
PRs who think their clients are relevant to see if there’s any possibility of
What media have you been seeking out
yourself throughout the pandemic?
I usually have a couple of books on the
go at once, one fiction and one non-fiction. I recently finished No One Is
Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood, and I’m currently reading Move
by Caroline Williams (who I now work with a New Scientist). It’s a really
fascinating book about the science of exercise. I subscribe to Positive News
magazine which I’ve found a great source of happy stories, especially during
the tougher parts of the pandemic.
Lastly, can you give us an interesting
physics/tech fact you learned recently that we might not (probably won’t, if
we’re honest) know?
This isn’t a new one for me but it’s a
favourite – a day on Venus is longer than a year on Venus, because it orbits
the sun in less time than it takes to complete one full rotation.