Former Star-News and SGVN science reporter Elise Kleeman had a going-away bowling bash Friday night at the All Star Lanes in Eagle Rock. She’s heading back to Philadelphia in search of the next step on what I think will be a brilliant career ladder.
Of all the Pasadena science reporters I hired over 13 years of doing so, Elise was the first one who had a crucial insight into the local techno world: She had an undergraduate degree (in geology) from Caltech itself. Two of our science reporters had graduate degrees from the institute — but that’s not the same experience. Older students are not part of the same pressure-cooker culture, with its all-nighters for days on end and its big releases of Ditch Day and student house parties.
That’s two ways good: Just being able to get into, and then graduate from, the best scientific college in the nation means you really get it. You’ve got both the smarts and the know-how to talk to the engineers and scientists in their own language, rather than in the head-scratching, “Gee, could you walk me through that one again?” conversation those of us who are untrained have to go through.
Not only that: There are plenty of Caltech profs and researchers — and to a lesser degree JPL engineers — who do not suffer fools gladly. It makes for a hard interview for the average Jane.
Elise is never that. Brilliant, funny, an excellent translator of high-flying research into stories the rest of us can understand — a perfect science writer. (She also got the no-sidewalks culture of Altadena, where she lived, and did a very good job of covering the Town Council there as well.)
We’ll miss her excited trots through the newsroom, and we’ll miss Elise.