Mary Bates

Mary Bates is a freelance science writer based in Boston, Massachusetts. Her work has been published by National Geographic News, New Scientist,, and other print and online publications.

Associated articles

IEEE PULSE, Feature November/December 2017
Gut Feeling
The human gut is home to an abundant and diverse community of microbes—each of us carries roughly 100 trillion, representing more than 1,000 different species. The composition of one’s gut microbiota is individually specific, dynamic, and influenced by genetics, diet,... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Cover Story July/August 2015
Voices for the Voiceless: Rupal Patel is Creating Personalized Prosthetic Voices
Maeve Flack is a spunky, spirited 8-year-old. She also has cerebral palsy and communicates with a speech synthesizer, using her eye gaze to control what she says. Her mother, Kara, is thrilled her daughter can express herself. But the voice that... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Feature January/February 2019
Natural Disasters and Public Health
2018 brought multiple, unprecedented natural disasters, including hurricanes, floods, and in the United States, the deadliest wildfire in California’s history. After the immediate emergency is over and the media attention wanes, communities must deal with the long process of recovering... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Feature November/December 2016
Technological Innovation Comes to Palliative Care
At first, palliative care and technology might seem like strange bedfellows. At its core, palliative care is a very human side of medicine, relying heavily on talking with and listening to people to understand their experiences and goals. Technology, on... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Feature January/February 2018
Tackling an Epidemic
Richard Ries The opioid epidemic is dominating news headlines and inspiring greater calls for political action in the United States. While opioid addiction isn’t a new issue, its devastating consequences are now being felt across the country. “What’s got everybody’s attention... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Feature November/December 2015
The Present and Future of Low-Cost Diagnostics
Imagine you’re in a rural health clinic in a Kenyan village. A child comes in with a fever. It could be any one of a number of life-threatening infectious diseases. There’s no refrigeration, no access to sophisticated laboratory equipment, and... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Feature May/June 2019
Health Care Chatbots Are Here to Help
Say hello to Molly, Florence, and Ada—they’re just a few of the helpful, smart algorithm-powered chatbots taking their place in health care. Chatbots are computer programs designed to carry on a dialogue with people, assisting them via text messages, applications,... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Feature January/February 2017
Tracking Disease
On 19 October 2010, ten months after a devastating earthquake hit Haiti, the Haitian Ministry of Public Health and Population (MSPP) was notified of a sudden surge in patients suffering from watery diarrhea and dehydration. Two days later, the Haiti... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Feature January/February 2018
A New Fight Against Colon Cancer
Although the overall incidence of colon cancer has been falling over the past few decades, a pair of recent studies revealed a startling trend. In February 2017, researchers published a report showing that colon cancer rates were rising among younger... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Feature March/April 2016
The CRISPR Conundrum
We are in the midst of a CRISPR craze. The last five years have seen the publication of over 1,000 scientific papers, the allocation of millions of research dollars, and the establishment of four start-up companies in the United States alone. Internationally, the genome-editing market,... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Feature July/August 2019
Robotic Pets: A Senior’s Best Friend?
We are in the midst of a demographic phenomenon known as the graying of society. In more affluent countries, the population is aging. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of Americans aged 65 and older is projected to... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Feature July/August 2017
New Directions for Treating Bleeding Disorders
Most people don’t worry about small cuts or wounds, because their bodies form clots to stop the bleeding. This process, called coagulation or hemostasis, requires certain blood cells, platelets, and protein clotting factors to interact correctly and form a clot... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Feature July/August 2018
Controlling Seizures with Technology
Mike McKenna was tired of epilepsy controlling his life. For years, he tried different medications and therapies to no avail; his seizures, which occurred every three to six days, dictated what he could do and where he could live. Then,... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Feature March/April 2016
New Trends in Clinical Trials
Technological advances, such as electronic data capture and the prevalence of Wi-Fi connectivity, are driving changes in how clinical trials are conducted and analyzed. As the power to track and analyze data expands, clinical trials are becoming more efficient and... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Feature November/December 2019
Advances in Gene Therapy Offer Hope for Rare Disorders
After decades of promise tempered by setbacks, gene therapies are now bringing new treatment options for a variety of inherited and acquired diseases. Recently, clinical trials at the NIH Clinical Center and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital have shown that gene... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Feature September/October 2017
From Brain to Body
Paralysis, whether caused by spinal cord injury, neurodegenerative disease, or other factors, poses a host of issues for patients. These include not just the inability to move parts of their bodies but potential problems with communication and bladder control as... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Cover Story November/December 2018
Direct-To-Consumer Genetic Testing
Most genetic testing requires a doctor’s prescription. In April 2017, however, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave genetics company 23andMe the go-ahead to sell DNA tests assessing the user’s level of risk for ten health conditions, including Parkinson’s... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Cover Story July/August 2016
Feeling No Pain
As a growing epidemic of opioid abuse in the United States can attest, pain, and how to treat it effectively and without serious side effects, is one of the foremost challenges in medicine today. More than 100 million Americans have pain... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Feature November/December 2019
Drug Overdose Deaths Decline, but Remain Historically High
The good news: Data released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate that drug overdose deaths have dropped for the first time since 1990... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Feature May/June 2020
The Rise of Biometrics in Sports
Athletes—and the cadre of professionals who surround them—are always looking for an edge over their opponents. Advances in technology have now made a whole new class of information readily available to athletes, coaches, trainers, and even fans. It’s called biometrics, the science of measuring and analyzing data collected from the body, such as heart rate or hormone levels... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Feature July/August 2020
The Future of Wound Care
Wounds, especially chronic wounds, represent a significant clinical, social, and economic challenge. A recent retrospective analysis of Medicare beneficiaries in the United States identified that about 8.2 million people had at least one type of wound, with surgical wounds and diabetic ulcers among the most common and expensive to treat... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Feature November/December 2020
Overcoming Challenges in Organ Transplantation
Organ transplantation has become an established and life-saving treatment for patients with end-stage organ failure. However, patients still face constraints when it comes to access to transplantation, as well as its efficacy. One major concern is the global shortage of organs for transplantation... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Feature January/February 2021
A Step Closer to Mind Control for Everyday Life
Brain–computer interface (BCI) technology holds promise for providing functional support systems for people with neurological disorders and other disabilities. In experimental laboratory settings, BCIs have allowed patients to communicate with researchers and control external devices—all by simply imagining the actions of different body parts... Read more
IEEE PULSE, COVID-19 Crisis Response, May/June 2021
Fighting COVID-19 With Lung-Chips
The novel coronavirus is a new kind of enemy. Now, the United States Army has added a cutting-edge tool to its arsenal to better understand this threat: “organs-on-chips” that recapitulate the microarchitecture and function of living human lungs... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Feature July/August 2021
Targeting the Gut to Treat the Brain
Only ten years ago, the idea that bacteria in your gut could affect your brain and behavior was seen as a fringe theory. But today, it is well-established that the trillions of microbes in the gastrointestinal tract—collectively known as the gut microbiome—profoundly influence the brain. Now, researchers are working to harness the power of the gut microbiome to develop new treatments for brain disorders... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Feature September/October 2021
Stem Cell Update: Where Are We Now?
Since stem cells give rise to all the different cell types that make up our bodies, they have the potential to repair or replace cells that are missing or dysfunctional in a wide range of diseases and injuries. In recent years, an explosion of clinical trials involving stem cell therapies has inspired hope that such regenerative strategies may soon cure some of our most vexing diseases. Before that hope is realized, we will need a greater understanding of the fundamentals of stem cell biology as well as the specifics of different disease processes. Although the challenges seem daunting, stem cell research is rapidly advancing and ushering in a new era of regenerative medicine... Read more
IEEE PULSE, Feature November/December 2021
The mRNA Revolution is Coming
A bright spot during this COVID-19 pandemic has been the rapid development of effective vaccines that work by harnessing the power of messenger RNA, or mRNA. mRNA vaccines might seem like a relatively new idea, but researchers have been working on the technology behind them for decades. Now, the success of Moderna and Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccines are highlighting the immense potential for mRNA therapies—not just for infectious diseases, but also to treat cancer and genetic disorders... Read more