114 episodes

The most interesting people in the world of science and technology.



STEM-Talk is an interview podcast show produced by the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition, a not-for-profit research lab pioneering ground-breaking technologies aimed at leveraging and extending human cognition, perception, locomotion and resilience. Twice a month, we talk to groundbreaking scientists, engineers and technologists. Our interviews focus on the science that our subjects are engaged with, as well as their careers, motivations, education, and passions. Think of them as “profiles in science.” Tune in every other Tuesday to our show—and if you like us, please write a review of STEM-talk on iTunes—and spread the word. 

STEM-Talk Dawn Kernagis and Ken Ford

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The most interesting people in the world of science and technology.



STEM-Talk is an interview podcast show produced by the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition, a not-for-profit research lab pioneering ground-breaking technologies aimed at leveraging and extending human cognition, perception, locomotion and resilience. Twice a month, we talk to groundbreaking scientists, engineers and technologists. Our interviews focus on the science that our subjects are engaged with, as well as their careers, motivations, education, and passions. Think of them as “profiles in science.” Tune in every other Tuesday to our show—and if you like us, please write a review of STEM-talk on iTunes—and spread the word. 

    Episode 114: Lilianne Mujica-Parodi talks about how diet and ketones affect brain aging

    Episode 114: Lilianne Mujica-Parodi talks about how diet and ketones affect brain aging

    Our guest today is Dr. Lilianne Mujica Parodi, the director of the Laboratory for Computational Neurodiagnostics at Stony Brook University.



    We will be talking to Lily about her paper in PNAS last year that revealed neurobiological changes associated with aging can be seen in a person’s late 40s, a much younger age than what was previously thought.  She and her colleagues at Stony Brook also found that this process may be prevented or even reversed based on dietary changes that involve minimizing the consumption of simple carbohydrates. The study’s targeted experiments  showed that the biomarker for brain aging could be reliably modulated with consumption of different fuel sources. The study showed that decreasing  glucose and increasing ketones resulted in the stability of brain networks.



    Much of Lily’s work over the years has been focused on developing neuroimaging tools. In today’s interview, we talk to her about functional magnetic resonance imaging, also known as fMRI, which measures the small changes in blood flow that occur with brain activity. It may be used to examine the brain's functional anatomy, evaluate the effects of stroke or other disease, and even guide brain treatment. Functional magnetic resonance imaging also can detect abnormalities within the brain that cannot be found with other imaging techniques.



    Show notes:



    [00:03:08] Dawn opens the interview asking Lily what she was like as a child.



    [00:04:20] Dawn mentions that Lily grew up in Maryland near the National Institute of Health. Lily talks about her experiences interning at the NIH in her senior year of high school.



    [00:09:41] Dawn asks what brought Lily to Georgetown University.



    [00:10:29] Ken asks about Lily’s experience at Georgetown University, where she majored in physics and philosophy.



    [00:15:16] Lily explains why she went to Columbia University after graduating from Georgetown.



    [00:19:14] Dawn asks about Lily’s research that led to her receiving the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation Young Investigator Award in 2000.



    [00:22:44] Dawn asks about Lily’s experience giving a lecture at the NIH while she was wrapping up her doctorate at Columbia.



    [00:27:00] Dawn asks what brought Lily to Stony Brook.



    [00:30:30] Ken asks Lily what attracted her to biomedical engineering.



    [00:32:58] Dawn mentions that much of Lily’s work at Stony Brook has been focused on developing neuroimaging tools. Dawn goes on to ask why neuroimaging has not provided the anticipated success for psychiatry and neurology that the electrocardiogram provided for cardiovascular medicine.



    [00:39:04] Ken mentions that Lily is the director of the Laboratory for Computational Neurodiagnostics. Lily gives an overview of the lab and the research conducted there.



    [00:44:00] Dawn mentions that Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging, also known as fMRI, measures small changes in blood flow that occur with brain activity, and can be used to examine the brain’s functional anatomy, and evaluate various insults, diseases, and abnormalities, that cannot be found with other imagining techniques. Dawn asks Lily to explain the technology of fMRI and its various applications.



    [00:45:59] Ken asks about Lily’s 2016 paper published in the Frontiers of Neuroscience journal, that ran under the title, “Signal Fluctuation Sensitivity: An Improved Metric for Optimizing Detection of Resting-State fMRI Networks.”



    [00:49:36] Lily discusses her lab’s involvement in the development of a technology called “Near-Infrared Spectroscopy,” which is an attempt to replicate MRI-type imaging in an ambulatory environment such as an emergency room or a rural environment.

    • 1 hr 21 min
    Episode 113: Peter Pirolli discusses information foraging, AI and the future of human interaction with technology

    Episode 113: Peter Pirolli discusses information foraging, AI and the future of human interaction with technology

    Today’s interview features Dr. Peter Pirolli, a colleague and senior research scientist here at IHMC since 2017.  He previously was a fellow at the Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) and is known for his research into human information interaction. Peter’s work on information foraging theory led to his book “Information Foraging Theory: Adaptive Interaction with Information.”



    Peter received his doctorate in cognitive psychology from Carnegie Mellon University in 1985 and throughout his career his research has involved a mix of cognitive science, artificial intelligence, and human-computer interaction. His current interests include disruptive mobile-health technologies for precision behavioral medicine to support healthy behavior.



    Right now, Peter is working closely with IHMC’s Chief Science Officer Tim Broderick on a DARPA project that Tim discussed in his recent STEM-Talk interview, episode 112. Peter also talks about the project and the work that he, Tim and others at IHMC are doing to increase the biologic aptitude of elite warfighters.



    In today’s interview, Peter also discusses his role as the principal investigator of a project that the National Science Foundation recently awarded to IHMC. Peter and his colleagues will be working on improving epidemiological models that will be able to more accurately forecast the rate of infections and deaths related to COVID-19.



    Show notes:



    [00:02:42] Dawn opens the interview by quizzing Peter about how he took up surfing at the age of 40.



    [00:05:48] Ken mentions that Peter grew up in Canada, but that his father, who is Italian, decided to move the family to Italy when Peter was 8 years old. Peter discusses what that was like.



    [00:08:37] Dawn mentions that Peter liked to go camping and canoeing as a kid, and developed a love for astronomy. Dawn asks if it is true that Peter used to keep NASA scrapbooks.



    [00:10:52] Peter tells the story of the role his mother played in his decision to go to Trent University in Ontario.



    [00:12:45] Dawn asks why Peter decided to major in psychology and anthropology despite his childhood fascination with astronomy.



    [00:14:47] Dawn asks what attracted Peter to Pittsburg and Carnegie Mellon University for graduate school.



    [00:16:12] Ken mentions that at Carnegie Mellon, Peter had the opportunity to meet and work with Herb Simon and Alan Newell, who back in the 1950s were the early pioneers of artificial intelligence. They won the Turing Award in 1975 for their contributions to artificial intelligence and the psychology of human cognition. Ken goes on to mention that Simon also won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1978.  Ken asks how Peter, with a background in psychology and anthropology, got to work with these pioneers of the field of AI.



    [00:17:59] Ken mentions that one of his favorite works from Simon and Newell was their physical symbols concept and the papers that arose from that.



    [00:19:54] Ken mentions that Simon and Newell were interested in developing computational models that could mimic and simulate what the human mind was doing. In addition to AI, they also conducted research that looked at information processing, decision-making, problem-solving, organization theory and complex systems. Ken asks Peter how working with these pioneers influence his later research and career.



    [00:22:57] Ken asks Peter to elaborate on the concept that Simon introduced known as “satisficing.” It’s a concept credited with revolutionizing economics by introducing the idea of “bounded rationality” where people have limited time and resources with which to gather data to draw their conclusions, as opposed to the “rational man” concept which assumes that a person making a decision uses all conceivably relevant information to infor...

    • 1 hr 18 min
    Episode 112: Tim Broderick discusses biotechnology and increasing the biological aptitude and careers of elite special forces

    Episode 112: Tim Broderick discusses biotechnology and increasing the biological aptitude and careers of elite special forces

    Our guest today is Dr. Tim Broderick, the chief science officer here at IHMC. Tim is a surgeon and biomedical scientist who joined IHMC last year.



    Tim has had a fascinating career as a researcher, surgeon and aquanaut. He is well-known as a pioneer in laparoscopic, robotic and telerobotic surgery.



    He also has led multiple ground, flight and undersea-based biomedical research projects. As a result, he is an honorary NASA flight surgeon and a NOAA undersea saturation diver.



    Tim spent four years as a DARPA program manager where he conceived and established five high-impact biotechnology projects that included revolutionary programs focused on precision diagnosis and treatment of military-relevant diseases and injuries. Over the years, he  has developed a substantial portfolio of cutting-edge Department of Defense research. In today’s interview, Tim gives an  overview of a fascinating project, called Peerless Operator Biologic Aptitude, which he and his colleagues at IHMC are currently working on.



    Show notes:



    [00:03:09] Dawn opens the interview asking Tim about growing up in in Cincinnati and going to Cincinnati Reds games in the 1970s with his family.



    [00:04:59] Ken asks if growing up in the Apollo era and witnessing the moon landing as a child influenced his interest in science and space.



    [00:06:16] Tim recounts a story about his father saving someone’s life at church when Tim was a child and how that had a profound impact on him.



    [00:07:13] Tim tells another story from his college days when he saved a man who nearly had his arm chopped off by a machete.



    [00:11:22] Dawn asks if it is true that as a teenager Tim would regularly dress up as Scooby-Doo.



    {00:13:39] Dawn asks if Tim always knew he wanted to be a doctor since he grew up in a family full of doctors.



    [00:15:21] Ken asks why Tim decided to attend Xavier University in Cincinnati.



    [00:16:41] Dawn mentions that she has rarely heard of someone heading off to college with the idea of double majoring in chemistry and computer science, and asks how that came about.



    [00:21:17] Dawn mentions that Tim graduated in four years and in 1986 decided to stay in town for medical school at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. Dawn asks what drew him there.



    [00:22:58] Ken asks if Tim knew he wanted to become a surgeon when he started med school.



    [00:26:37] Dawn asks what lead Tim to go to Richmond, Virginia, for his residency as a surgical resident at the Medical College of Virginia.



    [00:28:23] Dawn asks about how Tim’s interest in minimally invasive surgery during his residency, which led to him becoming the director of surgical research at VCU’s Minimally Invasive Surgery Center.



    [00:29:32] Ken mentions that while Tim was working at VCU he became a consulting surgeon for telemedicine and robotics for the NASA Medical Informatics Technology Applications Consortium. Ken asks what that work entailed.



    [00:32:32] Ken asks about Tim’s early work in laparoscopic robotic and telerobotic surgery.



    [00:38:00] Ken asks about how Tim’s experience in remote surgery for astronauts led him to become an aquanaut and a crew member for NASA’s NEEMO 9.



    [00:40:24] Dawn mentions that it was Tim’s support that was one of the reasons that Dawn had the chance to join NEEMO as a crew member. She goes on to mention that Tim logged time underwater as a NEEMO aquanaut when he returned to the project several years after NEEMO 9 for NEEMO 12. Tim describes what his research was focused on for that mission.

    • 1 hr 22 min
    Episode 111: Tommy Wood talks about lifestyle approaches to improve health span and lifespan

    Episode 111: Tommy Wood talks about lifestyle approaches to improve health span and lifespan

    Today we have the second of our two-part interview with Dr. Tommy Wood. Ken and Dawn talk to Tommy about his ongoing research into lifestyle approaches that can improve people’s health span, lifespan and physical performance. Tommy also talks about the physiological and metabolic responses to brain injury and how these injuries can have long-term effects on brain health.



    In part one of our interview, episode 110, Tommy shared his thoughts on the research he has done on the importance of metabolic health as a way to for people to protect themselves from COVID-19. Tommy also talked about his work on developing accessible methods to track human health and longevity and his research on ways to increase the resilience of developing brains.



    Tommy is a UK-trained physician who is also a colleague of ours here at IHMC. In addition to being a research assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington  in the division of neonatology, Tommy occasionally spends time at IHMC as a visiting research assistant. For a more detailed explanation of Tommy’s background, check out the introduction to part one of our interview, episode 110. We also recommend checking out Tommy’s earlier appearances on STEM-Talk, episodes 47 and 48.



    Show notes:



    [00:02:50] Dawn continues our interview with Tommy asking why some people refer to Alzheimer’s as type-3 diabetes.



    [00:05:00] Dawn refers to a chart that Tommy incorporated into his IHMC lecture in February of this year, which was part of a paper that showed how glucose responds with age. Dawn asks Tommy to walk listeners through what the chart details.



    [00:06:38] Dawn asks if Tommy agrees with Art De Vany, who in his most recent appearance on STEM-Talk, said that insulin resistance is associated with nearly every major disease that people worry about today.



    [00:07:38] Tommy talks about the mean amplitude of glycemic excursions and how this is the best predictor of cognitive functions.



    [00:09:31] Dawn asks about the waffle/fast-food study, and what the results of that paper mean for the effect of the modern American diet on health and cognitive ability.



    [00:11:00] Dawn asks about the effects of stress on memory and mood.



    [00:13:39] Dawn posits that we see many a public-service announcement about the dangers of smoking and alcohol consumption, and asks if the case could be made that we should also have public service announcements about the dangers of high blood sugar, as it is even more of a public-health issue than smoking and alcohol consumption.



    [00:15:42] Tommy transitions to talking about the importance of sleep in regards to brain health.



    [00:17:01] Ken mentions that in response to the common advice of getting eight hours of sleep, Tommy has made the point that perhaps more important than the number of hours is the quality of those hours of sleep.



    [00:20:15] Dawn asks Tommy about the use of Tylenol PM, or Ambien before bed for those people who have difficulty getting to, or staying, asleep.



    [00:22:07] Ken asks if it is true that muscle mass and body composition are exceptionally important in regards to brain robusticity.



    [00:24:43] Ken asks about Tommy’s favorite paper, “1,026 Experimental Treatments in Acute Stroke,” and why he loves this paper so much.



    [00:27:31] Tommy gives an overview of what happens as a result of an acute brain injury across the lifespan.



    [00:29:35] Tommy discusses Creatine, which is a compound derived from amino acids that has been shown to be effective in treating brain inj...

    • 1 hr 16 min
    Episode 110 : Tommy Wood talks about nourishing developing brains and the importance of metabolic health

    Episode 110 : Tommy Wood talks about nourishing developing brains and the importance of metabolic health

    Dr. Tommy Wood is a UK-trained physician who is making his third appearance on STEM-Talk. Earlier this year before the COVID-19 outbreak, Tommy gave a well-attended lecture at IHMC about the latest research on building and preserving brain health across people’s lifespans. The lecture was so popular we invited Tommy to join us for another STEM-Talk interview.



    Tommy is a research assistant professor of pediatrics in the University of Washington Division of Neonatology. He was our guest on episodes 47 and 48 of STEM-Talk. Tommy received his undergraduate degree in biochemistry from the University of Cambridge and a medical degree from the University of Oxford. In addition to working with newborn infants who have brain injuries, Tommy also develops performance optimization strategies for athletes such as Formula 1 racecar drivers and Olympians.



    As in our first STEM-Talk interview with Tommy, our conversation was so long and wide-ranging that we have divided it into two parts. In today’s episode, we talk to Tommy about the importance of metabolic health, especially as a way to protect ourselves from COVID-19. We touch on Tommy’s work at developing accessible methods to track human health and longevity, and also his research an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington where he studies ways to increase the resilience of developing brains.



    In part two of our interview, we talk to Tommy about his continuing research into lifestyle approaches to improve health span and lifespan and physical performance. We also have a fascinating discussion about the physiological and metabolic responses to brain injury and their long-term effects on brain health.



     Show notes:



     [00:05:15] Dawn asks about an article Tommy and a colleague recently wrote, in which Tommy points out that it is becoming increasingly clear that underlying conditions associated with suboptimal metabolic health appear to be associated with poor outcomes in patients with COVID-19. Considering the nature of these underlying conditions, such as obesity and hypertension, he argues that lifestyle-based approaches to protecting ourselves from COVID-19 are likely to be one of our best tools in addressing this ongoing pandemic as well as future pandemics. Tommy summarizes his key points from the article.



    [00:09:38] Dawn mentions that when Tommy was last interviewed on STEM-Talk, he had just become a senior fellow at the University of Washington and was in the process of moving permanently to the U.S. She goes on to mention that when she asked Tommy what brought him to the states, he said “a girl,” who he ended up marrying. The girl turned out to be Elizabeth Nance who was interviewed on episode 71 of STEM-Talk. Dawn asks how Elizabeth is doing.



    [00:10:51] Tommy gives an overview of his work as a research assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington in the division of neonatology, where his focus is on ways to increase the resilience of developing brains and also ways to treat neonatal brain injuries.



    [00:12:45] Dawn explains that Tommy gives a disclaimer at the beginning of his talks that “many of my best ideas are stolen.” She asks what are his best sources for ideas.



    [00:14:42] Dawn mentions that when Elizabeth was on STEM-Talk, she mentioned that Tommy was constantly reading paper after paper, to the point that it is dizzying to look at Tommy’s computer screen. Tommy describes his research methods and how he goes about collecting material.



    [00:16:51] Ken mentions that Tommy’s current research interests include the physiological and metabolic responses to brain injury and their long-term effects on brain health. Ken asks about this as well as Tommy’s work to develop easily accessi...

    • 1 hr 17 min
    Episode 109: Robb Wolf discusses whether eating meat is bad for you and the environment … and his new book “Sacred Cow”

    Episode 109: Robb Wolf discusses whether eating meat is bad for you and the environment … and his new book “Sacred Cow”

    Today’s guest is Robb Wolf, who is making his third appearance on STEM-Talk. He has a new book, which is being released today, the same day as our interview with Robb goes live. His new book, “Sacred Cow: Why Well Raised Meat Is Good For You and Good For The Planet,” takes a critical look at the assumptions and also the misinformation about meat and provides contrarian views that are science-based showing that meat and animal fat are essential for our bodies.



    Robb is a former research biochemist who is also the  author of two other New York Times bestsellers, “The Paleo Solution” and “Wired to Eat.” Robb’s career includes a stint as a review editor of the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism,  a consulting role for the Naval Special Warfare Resiliency Program,  and membership on the board of directors and advisors for Specialty Health, Inc. He also is on the board of the Chickasaw Nation's Unconquered Life Initiative and works with a number of innovative startups with the focus on health and sustainability.



    In today’s interview, Robb talks about his move from Reno, Nevada, to the hill country of Texas, the science that supports the importance of meat and fat in a healthy diet, his transition to a ketogenic diet, and how improving our metabolic health is one of the most important things we can do to protect ourselves against COVID-19.



    [00:03:52] Ken opens the interview mentioning that Robb is making his third appearance on STEM-Talk. He was a guest on episode 27 of STEM-Talk, and also helped Ken co-host an interview with Allan Savory, episode 40. Ken then asks Robb about his move from Reno to the hill country of Texas.



    [00:05:57] Dawn mentions that Robb has started a new podcast since his last appearance on STEM-Talk. The new podcast is The Healthy Rebellion Radio, and replaces the Paleo Solution. Dawn explains that this new show follows a Q&A format, and features Robb and his wife, Nicki Violetti, answering listener questions. Dawn asks what prompted Robb and Nicki and to start this new podcast.



    [00:08:12] Dawn asks for an update on a project Robb discussed on episode 27 called the Reno Risk Assessment project, which was a program of diet and lifestyle changes that he and Nicki developed to improve health and performance of police and fire departments.



    [00:14:07] Dawn asks about the motivations and origins of Robb’s work with the Chickasaw Nation and its “Unconquered Life” project.



    [00:18:31] Dawn asks Robb about his comments that improving metabolic health is one of the most important things a person can do to protect themselves during the COVID-19 pandemic.



    [00:20:52] Dawn mentions that researchers at the University of North Carolina published a paper last year that showed only 12% of Americans have optimal metabolic health. The report pointed out that those with poor metabolic health included many people of normal weight. Dawn follows up by asking Robb if he also has found this to be true in his work with people.



    [00:24:09] Ken asks for Robb’s take on BMI, which can often be misleading.



    [00:25:21] Dawn asks if Robb’s personal diet has evolved since his previous appearance on STEM-Talk.



    [00:33:16] Ken mention’s that Robb’s new book, which is scheduled to come out the same day as this episode goes live, is titled, “Sacred Cow.” Ken goes on to say that Robb and his co-author, dietician Diana Rogers,

    • 1 hr 46 min

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