Nicholas St. Fleur intended to follow in the footsteps of his parents and enter the medical field. He planned to study biology and attend medical school.
But during his freshman year at Cornell University, in 2010, a 7.0-magnitude earthquake hit his parents’ home country of Haiti. No one close to him was affected, but the scale of the destruction rattled him.
“That earthquake changed me,” Mr. St. Fleur, 23, said. “It opened my eyes. I thought, I want to be a reporter. I want to be able to captivate people through the stories.”
Mr. St. Fleur, a native of Long Island, N.Y., signed up for a communications class that focused on science, the environment and health. He received an A on his first reporting assignment and that was the moment, he said, when he realized that he could turn writing into a career.
The next summer, Mr. St. Fleur participated in a weeklong science journalism boot camp at Shoals Marine Laboratory on Appledore Island, M.E., led by Carl Zimmer, science columnist at The New York Times.
“This class was tougher than organic chemistry,” he said.
When Mr. St. Fleur returned in the fall, he joined his school newspaper, The Cornell Daily Sun. He went from staff reporter to science editor by his junior year.
He did his first science journalism internship at Science Magazine in Washington during the summer of the Mars Rover landing and the discovery of the Higgs Boson particle.
In 2013, Mr. St. Fleur received his bachelor’s degree in biology with a minor in communications. He also worked on completing a certificate in science communication from the University of California Santa Cruz Science Communication Program.
Mr. St. Fleur’s dream is to become a science editor at a newspaper or science news outlet. After he finishes at The New York Times Student Journalism Institute, he will work at the NPR science desk in Washington.
“I want to be in a position where I am immersed and surrounded by science,” he said. “I like how the things I’m covering are coming from all over the world.”