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Ellen Ruppel Shell was born in 1952 in Auburn, New York and received a B.A. degree from the University of Rochester in 1974. Since then, she has worked as a visiting scholar at Harvard School of Public Health and a Knight Journalism Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Currently, she is a correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly magazine and writes regularly for The New York Times Magazine, The New York Times Book Review and Smithsonian. Additionally, she is a co-director of the Science Journalism Program at Boston University, where she is an Associate Professor of Journalism.