Paula Apsell took over the reins at NOVA in 1985, where she retired from her post as Senior Executive Producer and Director of the WGBH Science Unit. As well as overseeing the production of NOVA documentaries and miniseries for TV, she directed the series’ diversification into other media, most notably online, where NOVA is the most-visited site on PBS.org.
Apsell got her start in broadcasting at WGBH-TV Boston, where she was hired fresh out of Brandeis University. Within a year, she found her way to WGBH Radio, where she developed the award-winning children’s drama series, The Spider’s Web, and later became a radio news producer. In 1975, she joined WGBH’s NOVA, a science documentary series that has set the standard for science programming on television. Leaving NOVA in 1981, Apsell went to WCVB, the ABC affiliate in Boston, known for quality content, as senior producer for medical programming, then spent a year at MIT as a Knight Science Journalism Fellow, before returning to NOVA, now in its 42nd season, in 1985. In January 2005, Apsell introduced a NOVA spinoff in NOVA scienceNOW, a critically acclaimed science newsmagazine. Today, NOVA is the most popular science series on American television and online. Under Apsell’s leadership, NOVA has won every major broadcasting award, some many times over. She has overseen production of hundreds of science documentaries, including the distinguished miniseries The Fabric of the Cosmos and Making Stuff.
Apsell has been recognized with numerous individual awards for her work, including the Bradford Washburn Award from the Museum of Science-Boston, the Carl Sagan Award given by the Council of Scientific Society Presidents, and many others. She has served on the board of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, the Brandeis University Sciences Advisory Committee, and the International Documentary Association.