Elizabeth Finkel

Elizabeth Finkel

Elizabeth Finkel is editor-at-large of Cosmos.

Elizabeth Finkel is a one-time biochemist who took up science journalism. One of the founders of Cosmos Magazine, her work has appeared in publications ranging from the US journal, Science to The Age as well as on ABC radio’s Science Show. She is the author of Stem Cells: Controversy on the Frontiers of Science, which won a Queensland Premier’s Literary Award in 2005; and of The Genome Generation published in 2012. Her work for Cosmos Magazine has snapped up four Publishers Australia Excellence Awards. In 2011 she was named the National Press Club’s Higher Education Journalist of the Year, and in 2013 her Cosmos Magazine story “Fields of Plenty” won the Crawford Prize for agricultural journalism. In the year 2015, Elizabeth won the Department of Industry and Science Eureka Prize for Science Journalism for her article A Statin a day – the first print article to win the award in 11 years, a triumph for long-form journalism. 

  • Tightening the dragnet on Denisovans

    AI tech tries to sniff out hidden signatures of ancient humans in modern DNA.

    Researchers have identified some prime suspects in the biggest ‘who done it’ mystery in human evolution: who were the...

    March 23, 2021
  • The COVID-19 spread: What do we know?

    Cosmos’s Editor-at-Large talks to Australian experts.

    Taking my dog out for a walk, I’ve noticed a new etiquette. As I cross paths with people, they are not making eye con...

    April 7, 2020
  • What Ediacaran fossils might represent

    Do palaeontologists really know what they looked like?

    The Ediacaran fossils are weird-looking things. Estimated to be over 560 million years old, they offer the best answe...

    March 25, 2019
  • Understanding stunting

    In the second part of her investigation into childhood stunting, Elizabeth Finkel looks at how th...

    There’s no getting around the fact that stunting is a controversial and stigmatising term. A stunted plant, for insta...

    December 10, 2018
  • The stunting of Papua New Guinea’s children

    Nearly half of Papua New Guinea’s infants are ‘stunted’.

    Kokopo, East New Britain. Amidst yapping dogs and swaying palms, the nervous young mother sits at the sturdy table s...

    December 9, 2018
  • How the octopus got its smarts

    They may have evolved by playing fast and free with genetic code.

    In 2008 the staff at Sea Star Aquarium in Coburg, Germany, had a mystery on their hands. Two mornings in a row, they ...

    September 16, 2018
  • Parting is sweet sorrow

    In her final editor’s letter, Elizabeth Finkel reflects on the end of an era at Cosmos, and the d...

    Time to hand in my captain’s epaulettes. From 1 September, Cosmos will be under the illustrious stewardship of the R...

    September 4, 2018
  • Life sprang on Earth before the asteroids stopped

    The date for emergence pushes back to 4.5 billion years ago.

    For decades, researchers have bickered about claims to have found the oldest life on Earth – but a new analysis seems...

    August 27, 2018
  • Which species do we put in the ark?

    Family trees guide hard conservation choices.

    Species are going extinct at an alarming rate, leaving conservationists with tough choices. Which species should they...

    July 24, 2018
  • How to make a koala

    The koala genome provides clues to its survival.

    Yes, the koala is cute. But it’s also evolved a bizarre survival strategy. 20 million years ago, when marsupial lions...

    July 2, 2018
  • Editor’s note: Beneath Jupiter’s clouds

    In the latest issue of Cosmos, we celebrate the Juno mission with a look at the valuable informat...

    The ancient Romans named the planet Jupiter after the king of the gods, who sometimes hid himself behind a veil of cl...

    June 19, 2018
  • Student disruptors invent new way to synthesise DNA

    Frustrated at slow pace of coding, researchers took things into their own hands.

    Researchers have borrowed from nature to develop a new way to synthesise DNA. It promises to be faster, cheaper and g...

    June 18, 2018
  • Coral researchers test gene-editing

    International team has succeeded in using CRISPR.

    We’ve just lost about half of the Great Barrier Reef, adding to the global decline of at least 50% of the world’s ree...

    April 23, 2018
  • Researchers find a new DNA shape

    A DNA “knot” breaks several rules thought hard and fast.

    A team of Australian researchers at Sydney’s Garvan Institute has identified a new DNA shape, a knotty version, known...

    April 23, 2018
  • Gene shows sugar is not always a villain

    People with two copies of the FGF21 gene can be quite slim.

    A variant gene may give carriers a sweet tooth but protect them from some of the effects of carbs. John Lamb / Getty ...

    April 10, 2018
  • Stem cell procedures produce macular degeneration results

    Two clinical trials return better-than-predicted results, raising hope.

    For 20 years, we’ve been waiting for human embryonic stem cells to deliver on their promise to provide new body parts...

    April 5, 2018
  • Time to speed up coral evolution?

    Marine scientists have a controversial plan to save them.

    The Australian Institute of Marine Science is a glorious place. From sultry Townsville in far north Queensland, it’s ...

    April 5, 2018
  • We live in interesting times thanks to biological tools

    How the biological tool kit is being deployed to fix planetary problems.

    Two hundred years of industrial-scale technology have made our planet less habitable. We’ve crowded out individual sp...

    April 4, 2018
  • The art of Patricia Piccinini

    Disturbing visions of acclaimed artist Patricia Piccinini.

    I first encountered the art of Patricia Piccinini in 2003. She had shot to global fame representing Australia at that...

    March 22, 2018
  • The art of building artificial humans

    While plenty of scientists are working on humanoid robots, Hiroshi Ishiguro actually wants to bui...

    At first they appear to be twins. The two Japanese men are clad identically in black, wear the same black rectangular...

    January 12, 2018
  • How flowering plants conquered the world

    Researchers suggest a solution to Darwin’s “abominable mystery”.

    The Jurassic era was dominated by dinosaurs, conifers and ferns. But around 140 million years ago, at the start of th...

    January 11, 2018
  • Malaria infection linked to iron in red blood cells

    A new portal used by a malaria parasite, opening a target for vaccines.

    Malaria kills about a million people each year; most are children and most live in Africa. But while Africa is afflic...

    January 4, 2018
  • Brain inflammation sows the seeds of Alzheimer’s

    How the body’s own immune response can trigger Alzheimer’s disease.

    When it comes to the perpetrator of Alzheimer’s disease (AD), the finger of blame has long pointed to hard deposits o...

    December 20, 2017
  • The enthralling space between art & science

    Exploring the space between art and science.

    Science and art sit at opposite ends of the spectrum of human inquiry.  Science is objective, collaborative and conti...

    December 20, 2017
  • Fat fuels liver cancer cells

    Obesity may explain a dramatic rise in liver cancer.

    Cancer cells are bad-ass marathoners, outpacing the growth of surrounding cells and going the distance to colonise fa...

    December 17, 2017
  • Pinpointing autism’s faulty circuitry

    Uncovering a sociability circuit brings a therapeutic remedy for autism closer.

    People diagnosed as residing on the autism spectrum suffer from a fuzzy kind of disorder. It can’t be identified by a...

    December 17, 2017
  • Teen inventors build a better bandage dispenser

    High achievers, Aditi Venkatesh and Xialene Chang.

    Melbourne’s Mac.Robertson Girls’ High school, has a reputation for churning out high achievers. But Aditi Venkatesh a...

    December 7, 2017
  • How human memories are made

    The century-old idea of engrams turns out to be correct.

    What is a memory? In 1904 German biologist Richard Semon came up with the idea of a memory trace held together by the...

    December 6, 2017
  • The bad science of medical cannabis

    Millions of people use cannabis as a medicine. That’s not based on clinical evidence.

    LAST YEAR DEDI MEIRI, a cannabis researcher at the Technion, Israel’s oldest university, received a “before and after...

    October 24, 2017
  • Infographic: how cannabis works

    Receptors in the brain and body, that respond to THC.

    Any medicine, touted for everything from autism to asthma, sounds like snake oil. But there is biological plausibili...

    October 24, 2017
  • Cracking the mystery of human variation, at last

    eGTEx project catalogues how genes are dialled up or down.

    Why does one person suffer from schizophrenia and not another? We know the answer lies in tiny changes in their DNA c...

    October 11, 2017
  • Documentary champions science in GMO fight

    In the film ‘Food Evolution’ the underdog is GM technology.

    In this post-truth era it has never been easier to pick and choose the information that will confirm your own bias. ...

    September 27, 2017
  • Editor’s Note: Looking after we leap

    Cannabis medicine needs a hefty injection of good science.

    It may be one of the world’s oldest drugs, but cannabis has caught the world unprepared. After 80 years of draconian...

    September 20, 2017
  • High dose vitamin B supplements linked to lung cancer in smokers

    New study finds a connection between high doses of vitamin B6 and B12 and lung cancer.

    A report published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology shows that male smokers who took high dose vitamin B6 and B12 ...

    August 24, 2017
  • Shedding old cells rejuvenates the brittle bones of ageing mice

    New osteoporosis drugs that kill off senescent cells and rebuild bone may be a few years away.

    The last few years have seen a novel idea emerge in anti-ageing science. Several studies have shown that pruning away...

    August 23, 2017
  • Should you take anti-ageing supplements?

    Solid clinical evidence is proving hard to come by.

    For those tempted to take supplements that boost levels of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+) – I can’t offer y...

    August 15, 2017
  • Going to trial: anti-ageing pills

    The problems with anti-ageing drug trials.

    The brave new world of anti-ageing medicine will be officially launched when regulatory authorities approve a drug th...

    August 14, 2017
  • Time to pop an anti-ageing pill

    A pipeline full of promising anti-ageing compounds just waiting for human trials.

    "I need to last longer,” the professor tells me. He lets my quizzical look hang for a moment, then quickly explains. ...

    August 13, 2017
  • Insights from genetic autism brain scans

    A novel approach to MRI analysis reveals striking differences.

    Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) all have problems socialising, but beyond that their disorders can be va...

    August 8, 2017
  • The cancer genes that disarm the immune system

    The specific genes that let cancer cells skate past the defences of the immune system.

    Mobilizing the forces of the immune system to the fight has changed the game of cancer treatment in recent years. Th...

    August 7, 2017
  • Error-free editing of human embryos achieved

    Method corrects a heart disease gene and avoids past errors.

    Though the jury is out on whether we should try to modify the genes of human embryos, that hasn’t stopped researchers...

    August 2, 2017
  • Transient gene therapy may help youngsters with premature ageing

    Kick-starting the growth of cells with telomerase messenger RNA may help.

    A rose will bloom, it then will fade.  Alas, not so for those afflicted with Hutchison-Gilford Progeria Syndrome (HGP...

    August 1, 2017
  • Declining sperm counts

    Fertile ground for study but hard results prove slippery.

    In 1992, Danish researcher Elizabeth Carlsen and her colleagues set global alarm bells ringing with a report in the B...

    July 26, 2017
  • What is brown fat?

    Not all fat is bad. New research shows the important role played by healthy brown fat.

    What do Antarctic explorers and newborns have in common? A nice layer of brown fat to keep them from hypothermia. “I...

    July 6, 2017
  • Editor’s Note: The end of one era and dawn of another

    Antibiotics has killed off a lot of microbes, but their antibiotic-resistant relatives thrive.

    We’re nearing the end of the antibiotic era. Ever since penicillin became widely available after 1945, people stopped...

    June 26, 2017
  • Precision gene editing may deliver biofuel promise

    Enzyme has transformed ham-fisted genetic engineering into precision gene-editing.

    Biofuels from algae come with great promise. Credit: Santiago Urquijo/Getty Images For decades now, we’ve been promi...

    June 20, 2017
  • Study sheds light on major killer of pregnant women

    Two tiny DNA code changes have been linked to preeclampsia.

    Credit: Caiaimage/Agnieszka Wozniak Downton Abbey fans will be familiar with the tragedy of preeclampsia. In series ...

    June 20, 2017
  • Mutant microbes could keep you young

    Scientists fed mutant E. Coli to tiny roundworms and discovered it slowed their ageing.

    The humble but medically fascinating roundworm C elegans. Credit: Getty Images Swallow some mutant E. Coli to slow a...

    June 16, 2017
  • Closer to making blood donation redundant

    Trained stem cells to replenish a mouse’s blood supply.

    Illustration showing blood stem and progenitor cells emerging from hemogenic endothelial cells. The left blue cells a...

    May 18, 2017
  • How long-term memories are made

    Brain research shows new insight for long-term storage.

    Engram cells (red and green) in the prefrontal cortex of a mouse. Credit: Takashi Kitamura, Tonegawa lab How do we m...

    April 6, 2017
  • Editor’s Note: Time to rewrite the textbooks

    Editor-in-chief discusses the latest issue of Cosmos Magazine.

    Welcome to the first quarterly issue of Cosmos magazine. I hope you’re sitting down, because there’s a lot of head-s...

    March 30, 2017
  • Australia launches machine-learning centre

    Aims to bring the age of personalised medicine closer.

    A DNA sequence: multiplied by thousands, it may open the door to personalised medicine. Credit: Science Photo Library...

    March 29, 2017
  • Can ageing be held at bay by injections and pills?

    Sounds like science fiction, but it’s not. Just ask NASA.

    Two fast ageing mice. The one on the left was treated with a FOXO4 peptide, which targets senescent cells and leads t...

    March 24, 2017
  • How did our brains get so big?

    A modern human brain is three times larger than a chimp’s.

    The folding on the right side of this mouse embryo’s cortex reflects the increased growth stimulated by the insertion...

    March 9, 2017
  • SKA: Tooling up down under for the world’s most powerful telescope

    The Square Kilometre Array will peer to the edge of the universe and generate more daily data tha...

    SKA will not only take us to the edge of the universe, it will revolutionise computing.Dragonfly Media / CSIROOn a fl...

    February 27, 2017
  • Body clock genes may protect against ageing

    Night-work and disrupted sleep cycles influence how you age.

    Shift workers seem to age faster – they have higher rates of dementia, cancer and heart disease. Now, researchers wor...

    February 23, 2017
  • Roundworms test our progress on anti-ageing

    Elixers of youth are often snake oil, worms could change all that.

    A light micrograph of Caenorhabditis elegans, a soil-dwelling bisexual nematode worm which m ay help us find the secr...

    February 22, 2017
  • Giving us the edge

    An artist’s impression of some of the 130,000 antennae of SKA-low to be assembled on the red plains of Murchison, Wes...

    January 28, 2017
  • Tau tangles damage brain GPS in Alzheimer’s disease

    Early symptoms of Alzheimer’s may be a result of excess protein.

    A coloured transmission electron micrograph of a tau tangle in a nerve cell from the brain of a patient with Alzheime...

    January 20, 2017
  • A cover story on parallel universes?

    Editor-in-chief Elizabeth Finkel discusses latest issue.

    Carl Sagan once admonished that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. We’re certainly not claiming to ...

    November 23, 2016
  • Brad Norman: whale shark warrior

    His quest to unveil the secrets of whale sharks – and protect them.

    Brad Norman keeps an eye out for whale sharks in Ningaloo Marine Park, Western Australia. Credit: Rolex Awards / Kurt...

    November 9, 2016
  • Michelle Simmons: a quantum queen

    Quantum physicist Michelle Simmons, Australian of the Year.

    Building a quantum computer is not for the faint-hearted. These blazingly fast machines could revolutionise computing...

    September 25, 2016
  • Alzheimer’s research: a tentative new hope

    A treatment that seems to slow Alzheimer’s disease.

    Alzheimer’s researchers have taken a beating over the past decade, as drug after drug has failed to halt patients’ me...

    September 6, 2016
  • It’s time to discuss GM babies

    Subject of genetically engineering the next generation.

    Credit: Cosmos magazine Tamper with the DNA of future generations? I had always thought this was a moral line in the...

    August 11, 2016
  • Patenting human genes was always a bad idea

    Quest to put an end to gene patents has been vindicated.

    Luigi Palombi’s desk was stacked high with thick manila folders and surrounded by a forest of them. Their contents mi...

    April 4, 2016
  • The four bugs that protect us from asthma

    Four gut bacteria could prevent the ailment.

    Something about modern living sends asthma rates soaring. In Western countries we saw it happen from the 1960s to the...

    November 30, 2015
  • Solving the asthma riddle

    Part one of our two-part series on asthma.

    The Bavarian hills look like they could be a set from The Sound of Music. The air is crystal clear, cowbells are tink...

    November 23, 2015
  • Alan Trounson: On the right side of history

    Delivered IVF and embryonic stem cells to the clinic.

    Alan Trounson has faced down a charging black rhino. It is not the worst confronation he has experienced during an ev...

    August 24, 2015
  • An ultrasound cure for Alzheimer’s?

    Zapping with ultrasound improved ability to remember.

    Jürgen Götz was happy to escape to France after his report of a breakthrough treatment for Alzheimer’s disease was pu...

    April 6, 2015
  • Life on Mars – the evidence mounts

    Methane plumes of unknown origin and carbon-based molecules in sandstone rocks have recently been...

    A view from the Curiosity mast camera shows the dramatic buttes and layers on the lower flank of Mount Sharp in the m...

    January 12, 2015
  • Gene that doubles risk of lung cancer

    Gene that when misspelt increases risk of lung cancer.

    The world’s longest-lived person, Jeanne Louise Calment, smoked until she was 117 and never got lung cancer. Was she ...

    June 9, 2014
  • Self-powered pacemaker works on a heartbeat

    A new game-changing device would never need replacement batteries. By Elizabeth Finkel.

    A thin, flexible mechanical energy harvester, with rectifier and microbattery, mounted on a bovine heart. – Universit...

    February 24, 2014
  • Time to get to know the ancestors

    Discovery of skulls has the origins of our species in question.

    Ever since Darwin told us that new species derived from older ones – “descent with modification” – the hunt has been ...

    December 2, 2013
  • Grow your own liver

    Researchers have found a way to harness stem cells that could help us replace damaged organs.

    Replacing a diseased organ with a new one seemed on the brink of reality in 1998, when stem cells were first isolated...

    August 19, 2013
  • Michio Kaku: a fish out of water

    Michio Kaku is a superhero of the incomprehensible.

    It was Einstein's unfinished business. The world's best-known and most prolific physicist was driven in his latter ye...

    August 1, 2005

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