Erika Hayasaki

picture of Erika  Hayasaki

Associate Professor of Literary Journalism
School of Humanities

Phone: (213) 840-1385

University of California, Irvine
403 Humanities Instructional Building
Mail Code: 2650
Irvine, CA 92697
Research Interests
Narrative journalism, feature writing on health, science, technology, crime, race and the human condition.
Academic Distinctions
Best American Science Writing Notable Selection (2019).

Alicia Patterson Fellow, Cissy Patterson Award for Science and Environmental Reporting (2018).

Society for Features Journalism Narrative Writing Award for "The Girl Who Wouldn't Die," The Big Roundtable. (2014)

University of California, Hellman Fellowship Award. (2013-2014)

University of California, Irvine Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Fostering Undergraduate Research. (2013)

University of California Academic Senate’s Council on Research, Computing and Libraries (CORCL) Grant. (2010)

Finalist for the Livingston Award for Young Journalists for the reconstruction of Virginia Tech shootings inside a French classroom, Los Angeles Times. (2008)

American Association of Sunday and Feature Editors third place Excellence-in-Feature-Writing Contest award in narrative writing category for West magazine profile, Los Angeles Times, “The Daughter.” (2007)

American Society of Newspaper Editors, one of six recipients of Team Breaking News Award for coverage of a train crash in Glendale, Calif. (2006)

Los Angeles Times Best Writing award for stories about a new teacher, a boy's dangerous journey to school, and a cultural divide at a Latino high school, Los Angeles Times. (2004)

Finalist for the Livingston Award for Young Journalists for a three-part series about a first-year teacher, Los Angeles Times. (2004)

Asian American Journalists Association award. (1999)

Society of Professional Journalists & Chicago Headline Club award. (1999)

Northwest Journalists of Color award. (1996)

Seattle Times and Dow Jones Newspaper Fund award. (1995)
Research Abstract
Erika Hayasaki is a journalist who writes feature stories about health, science, crime, psychology, and the human condition. She is a 2018 Alicia Patterson Fellow in science and environmental reporting. Her feature stories and essays have appeared in The Atlantic, Wired, Newsweek, TIME, The New Republic, MIT Technology Review, The California Sunday Magazine, Slate, Pacific Standard, Foreign Policy, Glamour, Marie Claire, The Wall Street Journal, and more. She is a former New York-based national correspondent for the Los Angeles Times, where she spent nine years covering breaking news and writing feature stories, and she is the author of The Death Class: A True Story About Life (Simon & Schuster 2014). Her research, writing and teaching interests include health and science narratives, off-the-news feature storytelling, and digital journalism. She is the author of two Kindle Singles, Dead or Alive (2012), and Drowned by Corn (2014), both Amazon bestsellers.
Selected Feature Articles & Essays

"An Act of Love and Desperation." Chloe Le got a mild case of COVID-19. Her husband, Ted, ended up in the ICU. Chloe spent weeks in a race against a bottlenecked system, trying to donate her plasma to Ted and hopefully save his life. The Atlantic. May 5, 2020.

"The Hollywood Vigilante." Far from the Riverdale set, actress Marisol Nichols performs the role of her lifetime, one that requires a certain kind of courage and crazy: hunting child predators. Marie Claire, May 2020 issue.

"How Japan Squandered Its Early Jump on the Pandemic." The BMJ Medical Journal. April 2020.

"Death Surrounds Her." Emily Rostkowski is an oncology nurse and cancer survivor herself. But now, like so many other healthcare workers, she spends her days in the center of the coronavirus storm. Marie Claire, April 2, 2020.

"Better Living Through CRISPR: Growing Human Organs in Pigs." WIRED. March 2019 issue.

"Has This Scientist Finally Found the Fountain of Youth?" Editing the epigenome, which turns our genes on and off, could be the “elixir of life.” MIT Technology Review. August 2019 issue. (Supported by the Alicia Patterson Foundation Grant for Science and Environmental Reporting).

"American Doctors Are Reconstructing the Youngest Faces of a Brutal War." Narratively. May 2019.

"The Man Who Is Aging Too Fast." Mosaic/Slate. May 21, 2019. (Supported by the Alicia Patterson Foundation Grant for Science and Environmental Reporting).

"The Pathology of Prejudice: What neuroscience tells us about the persistence of hatred." The New Republic. Cover Story. December 2018 issue.

"Secret Life of the Professor Who Lives with Nazis."
Sociologist Peter Simi has spent 20 years embedding with skinheads. As hate crimes spike across America, his intimate insights are more crucial than ever." Narratively. November 7, 2018.

"Could the Experiences of Our Ancestors Be 'Seared Into Our Cells?'" A science journalist responds to Carmen Maria Machado’s short story “A Brief and Fearful Star.” Slate. June 27, 2018. (Supported by the Alicia Patterson Foundation Grant for Science and Environmental Reporting).

"Identical Twins Hint at How Environments Change Gene Expression. Studying twins has long offered insight into the interplay of nature and nurture. Epigenetics is the next frontier. The Atlantic. May 15, 2018.(Supported by the Alicia Patterson Foundation Grant for Science and Environmental Reporting).

"Through Hattie's Eyes." First Hattie Mitchell envisioned a school for homeless students–then she created it. Cal State Los Angeles Magazine. Spring 2018.

"How Motherhood Affects Creativity." Cultural messages tell women that making art and having children are incompatible pursuits. But science suggests that women may become more creative after having kids. The Atlantic. Sept. 13, 2017.

"How a Single Gene Could Become a Volume Knob for Pain."  Her skin is perpetually on fire. He can't even feel a bone break. Together they might hold the key to ending America's opioid epidemic. WIRED magazine. May 2017 cover story.

"Can Your DNA Tell You the Healthiest Way to Live Your Life?" Genetic-sequencing companies are going beyond ancestry and disease risk to offer specific lifestyle recommendations. The Atlantic. June 29, 2017.

"What Ray Zilinskas Knows Will Terrify You." One of the world’s foremost experts on chemical and biological weaponry believes we are at the dawn of a new age of warfare. Middlebury Magazine. Spring 2017 issue.

"Women vs. The Machine." Is AI Sexist? Foreign Policy magazine. January/February 2017 issue.

"The Investigator." Fingerprints. Eyewitness accounts. Bite marks. All suspect? The L.A. public defender’s office decided it needed a scientist. The California Sunday Magazine. December 2016 issue.

"Traces of Times Lost." How childhood memories shape us, even after we've forgotten them. The Atlantic. Nov. 29 2016.

"How Poverty Affects the Brain." New research reveals the connection between stress, poverty and brain development in children. Newsweek. Sept. 2, 2016 cover story.

"How a Self-Taught Hacker Escaped a Cult." Shyama Rose, 36, is one of the country's top cybersecurity specialists. She learned to hack because she had to—it was her only escape from abuse. Glamour. July 2016 issue.

"Teaching Prison Inmates About Their Own Brain Trauma Could Help Them Rehabilitate." A startling number of convicted criminals have a history of traumatic brain injury. Newsweek. July 18, 2016.

"In a Perpetual Present." The strange case of the woman who couldn't remember her past—and can't imagine her future. Wired magazine. April 2016 issue.

"A Criminal Mind." For 40 years, Joel Dreyer was a respected psychiatrist who oversaw a clinic for troubled children, belonged to an exclusive country club, and doted on his four daughters and nine grandchildren. Then, suddenly, he became a major drug dealer. Why? The California Sunday Magazine. October 2015 issue.

"This Doctor Knows Exactly How You Feel." A rare condition causes Joel Salinas to experience other people's emotions and sensations. Is mirror-touch synesthesia a superpower or a curse? Pacific Standard magazine. July/August 2016 issue.

"Sick and Poor in Los Angeles." The ravages of poverty go beyond lack of income. The poor suffer physically as well. Blueprint magazine. Fall 2016 issue.

"Police Racism: A Search for Answers." In Ferguson, Charleston, Baltimore and beyond, the nation confronts charges of police racism. One researcher is breaking new ground. Blueprint magazine (UCLA) Spring Issue

"Cancer Fighting Machine Gets First Human Trial." Newsweek, July 21, 2015. The growth of nanotechnology is revitalizing hope in radio wave cancer cure many thought to be bunk science.

"Living With Being Dead." This terrifying disorder turns people into zombies, into living, breathing ghosts; they believe they died, or never existed. And somewhere in their brains may be the key to human consciousness. Matter. April 28, 2015.

"Buried Alive in a Grain Silo." Grain-bin accidents have become a consequence of our massive corn consumption. (excerpted from the Kindle Single, "Drowned by Corn." April 2015.

"Viola Davis' Personal Story." A young girl grows up hungry but goes on to become an award-winning actress. Glamour. March 11, 2015.

"The Debate Over an Autism Cure Turns Hostile." One activist's search for a cure is drawing a violent backlash. Newsweek. Feb. 18, 2015.

"Batgirl's Psychologist." By applying characters' fictional psyches to real-life problems, a cosplay enthusiast turned a passion for comic books into a mental-health career. The Atlantic. Jan. 17, 2015.

"Somersaulting Into America." As a Top Japanese Gymnast, My Dad’s Future Was Laid Out for Him. He Opted for Adventure in the U.S. Instead. Zocalo Public Square. Jan. 5, 2015/TIME. Jan. 10, 2015.

"Drowned by Corn." A gripping true story that centers on what happened to one courageous and flawed young man who survived a grain bin accident. It is a story about love, unbreakable friendship, and "king" corn. As international dependence on the highly subsidized crop for cattle feed, corn syrup and ethanol has surged—so have deaths by corn. Based on three years of reporting and interviews with the people involved and thousands of pages of court documents, transcripts, police reports, this is a narrative nonfiction tale about the people who sometimes lose their lives for this powerful commodity. Kindle Single. Dec. 1, 2014.

"Drowning in Corn." The story of one teenager's near-death experience inside the grain bin that killed his friends. (Excerpted from the Kindle Single, Drowned by Corn). The Atlantic. Dec. 8, 2014.

"The End of Eyewitness Testimonies." When memory meets the courts. Newsweek. Nov. 19, 2014.

"The First HIV/AIDS Generation Reaches Retirement Age." HIV patients are living longer, but are also aging faster than the rest of the population. Newsweek. Sept. 18, 2014.

"Want to Know When You'll Die? 'Big Data' Could Tell You." Everyone from police departments to insurance companies is scrambling to figure out how long you’ll live. Newsweek. July 24, 2014.

"Gray Matter Anatomy." A scarcity of brains for autopsies could be holding back neuroscience. Newsweek. May 2, 2014.

"Sweaty as Hell, and Staring Down Death." Said to mimic end-of-life experiences, an ancient Native American sweat lodge ceremony has drawn new devotees, all eager to understand what it feels like to die. Narratively. April 7, 2014.

"Life of a Police Officer: Medically and Psychologically Ruinous." The intensely challenging job of law enforcement is linked to many health issues. I met a former officer who tried to protect my high school friend and learned the effect her death had on him. The Atlantic. March 14, 2014.

"Why College Students Are Dying to Get Into 'Death Classes.'" Thousands of college courses on dying and mortality are being held nationwide—and teaching lessons about life. The Wall Street Journal. March 6, 2014.

"Tracking Those Who Can’t Keep Track of Themselves." On GPS trackers, autistic children and privacy. Newsweek. March 5, 2014.

The meaning of life -- in a class on death." Norma Bowe's 'Death in Perspective' course went beyond violence, morbidity and grief, opening the door to insight on one thing that every person shares. Los Angeles Times,. Jan. 12, 2014.

"A Lesser-Known Dementia That Steals Personality." Frontotemporal dementia, unlike Alzheimer's, often hits people in the prime of their lives, and can make them act like a completely different person. The Atlantic. Jan. 9, 2014.

"How Many of Your Memories Are Fake?" Stories color our perceptions of the past — even when the past in question is our own. The Atlantic. Nov. 18, 2013.

“Death is Having a Moment.” Fueled by social networking, the growing “ death movement” is a reaction against the sanitization of death that has persisted in American culture. The Atlantic. Oct. 25, 2013.

“The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die.” On a moonlit ride through L.A. with Mike, Vince, and Eddie, things go bad. The Big Roundtable. August, 13, 2013.

“Dead or Alive.” What happens after we die? Does our consciousness vanish at the moment of death? Or does it continue in some form? Kindle Singles. Feb. 1, 2012.

“March for Survival.” NYC Students Seek Kinship With Puerto Rico's Endangered Leatherbacks. Sierra magazine. .September/October 2009 issue.

“A Gay Muslim, tested by faith and family.” Aliyah Bacchus returns home to offer a choice: Accept her sexuality -- as she has -- or lose her forever. Page: A-1, Column One, Los Angeles Times. Dec. 17, 2008.

“A very dark Black Friday.” Jdimytai Damour died on the floor of a Long Island Wal-Mart, trampled by a mob thinking only of bargains and buying. Page A-1, Column One, Los Angeles Times. Dec. 6, 2008.

“The Koran, Punk and Lots of Questions.” this much Hiba Siddiqui knows: She is a Muslim teenager living in America. But what does that mean for her? Page: A-1, Column One, Los Angeles Times. Nov. 19, 2008.

“Finding Life's Meaning in Death.” students visit the dead, the dying, and convicted murderers. Along the way, they learn to value what they have. Page: A-1, Column One, Los Angeles Times. Sept. 3, 2008.

“Bodega Fights for its Life.” Julio Pimentel is trying not to let his neighborhood shop become one of the many that have been forced to close. Page: A-1, Column One, Los Angeles Times. August 8, 2008.

"Love stories buried no longer." A history buff whose heart has been broken shares Valentines from a Victorian cemetery. Page: A-1, Column One, Los Angeles Times. Feb. 14, 2008.

"A scrapbook career in shreds." Kristina Contes was known in crafting circles for her avant-garde designs, celebrating Converse sneakers and her hairless terrier, Chloe. But with one mistake, her world turned on her. Page: A-1, Column One, Los Angeles Times. Jan. 12, 2008.

“Story of the Scarf Still Waits to Be Told.” stained with the blood of a journalist killed in Iraq, it bonds two women. Page: A-1, Column One, Los Angeles Times. Dec. 19, 2007.

" Sending Cancer a Signal." John Kanzius, sorely weakened by leukemia treatments, drew on his life's work as a radio engineer to come up with his own battle plan. Page: A-1, Column One, Los Angeles Times. Nov. 2, 2007.

“Now the Giant Awakes.” an L.A. gang member and a boy drawn to the streets find refuge in writing, Los Angeles Times. Page: A-1, Column One. Oct. 10, 2007.

“A Mother Never Forgets.” as others talk of moving on, Carol Ashley visits the place where her Janice died. Page: A-1, Los Angeles Times. Sept. 12, 2007.

“A Deadly Hush in Room 211.” bodies lay where only moments before the students were laughing about their French. Page: A-1, Los Angeles Times. April 25, 2007.

"He died in vast isolation." To the world, Vincenzo Riccardi was the `Mummified Man,' found in front of his TV after 13 months. His life was the saddest poetry. Page: A-1, Column One, Los Angeles Times. March 31, 2007.

“The Daughter.” her father shot them all. She was the only one who lived. And she forgave him. Cover Story, West magazine, Los Angeles Times. Oct. 29, 2006.

“A Painful Course to College.” as Betsy Perez realizes her dream of going away to school, her father wakes up to the reality of just how far away. Page: A-1, Column One, Los Angeles Times. August 18, 2006.

“A Time of Heartbreak and Humor.” childhood loosens its grip as a girl readies for a key role in a school play against a backdrop of the kind of humor and pain only a teen knows. Page: A-1, Column One, Los Angeles Times. August 12, 2006.

“15-Year-Old Gets to Be a Daughter.” her mom is in prison for life, so a Mother’s Day visit offers a rare treat. Page: B-1, California section, Los Angeles Times. May 14, 2006.

“Young Love, Old Divisions,” an African-American boy and a Latina, both 14, are unwavering sweethearts at Jefferson High, where racial strife is a fact of life. Page: A-1, Column One, Los Angeles Times. May 13, 2006.

“It’s Like You’re Climbing Everest,” eleven boys thought they’d leave high school as they entered it – together – on graduation day. It wasn’t that simple. Page: A-1, Los Angeles Times. Feb. 3, 2006.

“Required: School Prayer.” Micah Grant begins his day under a clock, its hands pointed at 6:41 a.m., his hands clasped in prayer. Page: A-1, Column One, Los Angeles Times. Dec. 14, 2004.

“A Writer Turns to Teaching,” beginning a new chapter in his life, a three-part series. Page A-1, Los Angeles Times. Dec. 19, 20 & 21, 2004.

“Sketches of Life on the F-train.” artists find a priceless collection of subjects on New York's subways. Page A-1: Column One, Los Angeles Times. July 4 2008.

Work Featured in Books
The Death Class: A True Story About Life, by Erika Hayasaki, Simon & Schuster. (January 2014)

America’s Best Newspaper Writing, a collection of American Society of Newspaper Editors prize-winning journalism. (2006)
“Tragedy on the Rails, Survival is a Matter of Chance,” Page, A-1, Los Angeles Times. (January 27, 2005)
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