Interview with Kendall Powell, Editor at Nature Careers

Kendall Powell is a senior editor at the Nature Careers section of Nature. Prior to that she was a freelance science journalist for 20 years writing about biomedical science and scientists’ lives for places such as the Los Angeles TimesThe Washington PostNatureScience, and Knowable.

Listen to editor Kendall Powell in an interview with Viney Kirpal, a health and personal essay writer.

Viney: Hi. How wouldyou describe Nature Careers as a publication? Who are its readers?

Kendall: Nature Careers has an audience mainly made up of early-career researchers around the world, whether they are undergraduate or graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, research technicians, lab managers or junior faculty members—or researchers in equivalent positions in industry-based jobs. We see our mission as preparing those readers for making their next career transition, whatever that might be. Nature Careers covers the career paths, concerns and research lifestyles of global scientists at all career stages.

As such, we publish articles of interest to that audience about trends in the job market, technical and ‘soft’ skills needed to be marketable, news about salary and working conditions, articles on work-life balance, mental health, navigating conflict or discrimination in the workplace, issues of diversity, equity and inclusion in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields, and how to switch fields.  It’s a pretty broad swath of stories. We do a lot of service journalism—that is, articles that convey the best tips, strategies, tools, resources, and practical advice for our readers.

Viney: That must be really interesting, and useful to working people! And what’s your role like as Senior Editor? Or let me ask, what do you do on a daily basis and how does it fit into the larger Nature Careers team?

Kendall: I’m mainly responsible for commissioning and editing features and Q&As. We publish between 3-5 features and 4 or so Q&As per month. My day might start with a weekly video-call team meeting, where we discuss pitches or stories that we want to commission and then answering emails from writers. Next, I’ll spend time addressing copy edits, photo or layout issues to finalize pieces running the next week. In the afternoon, I’ll usually tackle a first or second edit of a piece or talk to writers on the phone about their reporting or drafting.

My other colleagues on the team produce the Career Columns, Career news and the Where I Work photo-essay of a scientist in their ‘native habitat’.

Viney: After freelancing for 20 years what’s your experience as an editor? Do you see any particular difference? Has the switch taught you something special?

Kendall: It’s been really eye-opening to sit on ‘the other side of the desk’ now! I work almost exclusively with freelancers and I’d like to think that all of my experience makes me empathetic to the demands and challenges of freelancing. I try to be a good advocate for my writers and to practice what I call ‘good editor behavior’—that is, being conscientious of their time and work on other projects.  I’ve also learned that the work that you ‘see’ your editor doing as a freelancer is just the tip of the iceberg. So please be patient with us when it takes us a couple of nudges to answer your email. (And DO politely nudge us.)

One thing the switch has taught me is that there are reporters who are more talented than I ever was—and that’s very humbling. Working with a variety of freelancers has reinforced a basic tenet that I held as a freelancer: treat the editor as the customer and provide them with great customer service.  Editors are super busy and we really appreciate freelancers who do even little things that make our jobs easier — even just doing the extra bit to format things correctly and accept the Track Changes!

So far, I don’t miss writing much, but I do miss interviewing scientists about their work. Now I get to start not with the blank page, but rather with someone else’s words and the opportunity to draw out the best in them. I also like working within a team because I’m an extrovert and I like collaboration.

Viney: Which stories appeal to your readers? Do they need extensive research? And do you pay freelance writers?

Kendall: The stories that do well are those that resonate with our researcher audience—so anything concerning or of interest to PhD students, postdocs or junior faculty. In the last few months, some stories that were highly read were: “Stop the peer-review treadmill, I want to get off”, “Heeding the happiness call: why academia needs to take faculty mental health more seriously”, “Six ways to grab your principal investigator’s attention by email,” and “Fed up and burnt out: ‘quiet quitting’ hits academia.”

We also run some fun pieces such as “TikTok’s dancing chemist catalyses joy in students” and upcoming features about music in the workplace and the weird and witty inspirational sayings from group leaders.

For features that run between 1600-3200 words, we expect in-depth reporting, with usually between 6-15 sources interviewed.  We also expect those sources to be diverse voices from around the globe, representing a variety of perspectives. We pay freelancers competitive rates that start around US$1/word for new writers.

Viney: Is there a template for a feature commissioned by Nature Careers?

Kendall: We don’t have a set template, but each one should start with an engaging lead, followed by a nut or billboard paragraph that explains what topics will be explored and what readers will learn.  Features typically have two to four subsections, but the structure can vary. The tone is usually straightforward narrative reporting. Sometimes we run what we call Vox features, which feature interviews with 3 to 6 individual researchers speaking ‘in their own words’, curated by the reporter.

Features are commissioned by the team, so I usually need a formal pitch from new writers to take to those team discussions. By formal pitch, I mean one that shows what the top of the story would read like and includes a source list and reporting plan. Pitches should be specific, with a fresh story angle and they must be well-researched. Do your homework and read several examples of whichever format of article you are pitching.  Also search our archives at to make sure we haven’t covered this story already or a similar story recently.  Try to match Nature’s style and tone.

Viney: Your articles seem to be behind a pay wall. How should writers familiarize themselves with them to be able to write for you?

Kendall: Nature Careers content unfortunately does go behind a pay wall, but only after 30 days have passed. The current content at should be available. In addition, anyone with an institutional subscription, such as through a university, can read all our content.

Writers can pitch to our editors directly by email at (scroll down to Careers). I can be reached at

Viney: Thank you, Kendall for these insights. Your guidelines will open doors to many aspiring writers across the globe.



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