When she was 13 years old, Seneca Professor Misha Gajewski had a face-altering jaw surgery. According to her orthodontist at the time, a woman with a perfect bob, Gajewski’s chin was too petite to support her lower teeth.
“I hate her,” she said in front of a live audience recently. “I still have nightmares about my teeth falling out.”
Now 27 years old, Gajewski is one of the newest and youngest professors in the School of Media. When she’s not teaching at Seneca@York Campus, Gajewski is working as a producer for The Story Collider, a non-profit organization dedicated to sharing true, personal stories about science. Not only has the group worked with universities like Yale, Cornell and Cambridge, but its weekly podcast, featuring stories from the live shows, has generated more than nine million downloads since 2010.
Gajewski’s jaw surgery story, told during a Story Collider show she produced in Toronto, has been selected for an upcoming podcast episode.
From writing and video editing to making live appearances, Gajewski has been living the life of a freelance journalist who dabbles in multiple forms of storytelling. Her work has been featured on BBC, CTV News, Vice, BlogTo and others, and she’s a script writer for the award-winning SciShow, which boasts more than five million subscribers on YouTube.
“Storytelling is a growing art form in today’s media landscape,” said Gajewski, who holds a master’s degree in science journalism and teaches Storytelling for Audio Platforms to first-year Journalism students. “The whole journalism industry is a bit messy right now as we are seeing more and more non-traditional forms of media, such as podcasts, emerge as the preferred sources of information.”
And in the midst of it all, “science is a hopeful topic in journalism in that there’s always something to look forward to,” she added. “Even with global warming, there’s that glimmer of hope that you can do something about it.”
Despite what a newsroom editor once told her that “no one cares about science,” Gajewski has worked to prove otherwise. She spent two years working for Cancer Research UK as a multimedia journalist. She has written about her experience with taking an over-the-counter genome test and an at-home gut bacteria test. Her script for the SciShow, How to Keep Power from Going to Your Head, has helped generate more than 75,000 views on YouTube.
“Science isn’t scary at all,” she said. “Scientists are some of the easiest people to talk to. They are very happy when people want to talk to them about their work or their research, and as a journalist, it’s actually an advantage to be clueless sometimes as it helps you ask the questions your audience would be asking.”
With an undergraduate degree in business and psychology, Gajewski is the first to confess she does not understand physics and had poor marks in chemistry while at school. It was while she was on an exchange in the United Kingdom that she decided to go into journalism.
“I picked science journalism because I wasn’t interested in anything else,” she recalled. “I wasn’t interested in being a political reporter and I wasn’t interesting in covering entertainment or sports, either. I loved learning about science.”
She also loves teaching, something Gajewski said she has always wanted to do.
“I have a unique perspective on the industry as I came into it at a time when everything is changing. When I was in journalism school I was told you had to specialize, be it print, radio or TV, you had to pick one. But that’s quickly becoming untrue, you almost have to be able to do it all,” she said.
“As media continues to move into the digital realm, being a jack of all trades is an advantage and I hope I can teach my students that you don’t have to limit yourself, you just need to make sure the story is good.”