Sruthi S. Balakrishnan, Ph.D.

SciScriber LLC, Santa Barbara, California

I have a Ph.D. in Biology from the National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bangalore. For my Ph.D., I used techniques in molecular biology, electrophysiology, genetics, and mass spectrometry to study molecules that help fruitflies see. Towards the end, however, I realised that I much preferred hovering at the periphery of science to being immersed in it. After a thoroughly enjoyable period of writing and defending my thesis (and not working at the bench any more), I dove into freelance life.

One of my first forays into freelancing was contracting with academic editing companies. Having been the default editor and proofreader for friends and family, I finally got the chance to monetise these skills. Working with these companies taught me the nitty-gritties of editing scientific papers. Over the past 4 years, I have edited over 400 papers, proposals, and dissertations in a variety of scientific fields. I now work with clients independently as well.

While working as an editor, I also wanted to experiment with science writing. I got my start writing articles for the Massive Science Consortium. I enjoyed the process of finding interesting research papers, talking to scientists about their work, and crafting stories. I later wrote features for The Scientist and The Life of Science, which cemented my love for long-form storytelling. Now, I spend my time hunting down and writing science stories that give readers broad perspectives of a field of study. If you’re an academic, think of it as writing a review as opposed to writing a single study.

To bolster my science storytelling skills, I trained in fact-checking through workshops offered by the Knight School of Journalism at MIT. I use this training to vet any new research I come across, and also check information for other people and outlets. In a time rife with misinformation and false leads, fact-checking has often proved a life-saving, or at least sanity-preserving, skill.

I moved to the U.S. in 2022 with my partner. Although the move was planned, I underestimated the difficulty of rebooting my career here. The process has been both frustrating and empowering, but I would never have made it without a strong support system, be it in the form of family, friends, or fellow freelancers. To pay this forward, I’d like to direct new freelancers to my Resources page, where I’ve compiled all the tools and networks that helped me set up and grow my business. This is not an exhaustive list by any means, but a collection that has proven useful to me in some way or the other.

When I’m not working, I’m usually reading a book, walking my dog, or trying to figure out the best egg-replacer for different baking recipes (aquafaba is the reigning champion). Because I clearly don’t get enough science content through my work, one of my favourite book (and movie) genres is science fiction (shout out to writers like Andy Weir and Ted Chiang!). On the fantasy side, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman will forever hold special places in my heart, and I’ve recently discovered (and loved) RF Kuang. Epistolary books will never fail to enchant me (if you’re a literary loon like me, I strongly recommend 84, Charing Cross and Lady Susan) and Stephen King has taught me more about building tension than any writing instructor ever could.

I wear a lot of hats as a freelancer, but each of these jobs makes me happy in different ways. Diving into niche science topics satiates my curiosity, cleaning up a sentence tickles my inner grammar nerd, and digging up original sources scratches my research itch. If you need help doing any of these, or even just want to chat, send me an email!