Monday, July 28, 2014

Like Father, Like Daughter: Emma Weissmann Follows in Dad's Footsteps

Weissmann with her father at Baha'i Temple in Israel. 
You could say that Emma Weissmann was born to intern for National Geographic. The travel bug is in her blood. The daughter of journalist and Travel Weekly Editor-in-Chief Arnie Weissmann, the University of Illinois senior has visited over 20 countries in the past 16 years.  

It started with one of her dad’s work trips to Mexico at age five, and she was hooked.

“I remember it being the most exciting thing in the world to me,” she says. “As I grew older, my dad and I always took a spring break trip — just the two of us — and that would be our special time to spend together.”

But it wasn’t until her freshman year of college that she realized she wanted to follow in her father’s footsteps. When the duo took a father-daughter press trip to Uganda, it hit her.

“We went with other journalists, and I got to see these professionals working, and that was when I thought, ‘This is what I want to do.’”

Today she is one of five ASME interns working in Washington D.C. for the summer and one of about 1,400 employees of the National Geographic Society.

“I was a little intimidated going into it,” she says. “I felt like a very small fish in a sea of more talented, smarter successful people.”

Weissmann realized that to avoid getting lost in the crowd, she couldn’t wait for editors to give her assignments. She started exploring the office and offering help to various departments like the international editions section where she translates writers’ English idioms for foreign translators. (For a front-of-book piece on surfing, she explained “surf’s up” as: “a term that surfers use to say that the conditions are favorable for surfing.”)

One of the projects Weissmann is most proud of is a video piece she co-produced that uses the process of solving mazes as a way to study the brain’s response to navigational challenges. She found interview subjects — one of whom was the production designer of the 2010 reality-bending blockbuster Inception — conducted an expert interview, and even visited laboratories to see mice in action.

Emma and Arnie Weissmann in Dublin, Ireland
But Weissmann’s internship isn’t all fun and (mind) games. Sometimes there are disappointments as well.

“I spent two weeks researching and writing this article that ultimately didn’t work,” says Weissmann. But she notes that this kind of constructive feedback is part of the job, and there are always more opportunities to grow.

“If I try to do something and it’s not really successful, I may feel discouraged,” she says. “But the Society is always doing awesome things, so the next day I’ll go to a lecture from an archaeologist who discovered something new. I feel like I'm learning every day.”

Whether she’s interviewing a neuroscientist for a video piece, writing for National Geographic’s website about plants’ ability to listen, or reporting for a magazine in France (one of her future goals), Weissmann says she knows she can always call her dad for guidance.

“He’s definitely my career role model. I often ask for his advice, and I look at him as a mentor because, ultimately, he is doing what I would like to do,” she says. “He’s my go-to guy.”

— Written by Christina Jedra, Emerson College, Parents
---Edited by Russell Willoughby, University of Alabama, This Old House

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