99 episodes

Overhear researchers talk about what they do and why they do it. Hear them obsess, confess and profess - changing the world one experiment, one paper and one interview at a time. Listen in as seasoned eavesdropper Chris Hatzis follows reporters Dr Andi Horvath and Steve Grimwade on their meetings with magnificent minds. Made possible by the University of Melbourne.

Eavesdrop on Experts University of Melbourne

    • Education
    • 4.8 • 17 Ratings

Overhear researchers talk about what they do and why they do it. Hear them obsess, confess and profess - changing the world one experiment, one paper and one interview at a time. Listen in as seasoned eavesdropper Chris Hatzis follows reporters Dr Andi Horvath and Steve Grimwade on their meetings with magnificent minds. Made possible by the University of Melbourne.

    The science of coughing

    The science of coughing

    During COVID-19, many of us have reacted a little more sensitively to seeing someone cough - but coughing is a very important human defensive reflex.
    A cough can help clear our respiratory system and keep our breathing unobstructed, and it actually accompanies more than 100 different conditions of the respiratory tract.
    But about 10 per cent of the population globally experience chronic coughing - a cough that lasts longer than eight weeks in the absence of a respiratory tract infection. For some people, this can last for decades, with them coughing more than 200 times every hour of their waking lives.
    Professor Stuart Mazzone is working to understand the neural networks or nerve circuits that are important for controlling coughing, and shine a light into the role of the brain and the cough.
    Episode recorded: November 9, 2020.
    Interviewer: Dr Andi Horvath.
    Producer, audio engineer and editor: Chris Hatzis.
    Co-producers: Silvi Vann-Wall and Dr Andi Horvath.
    Banner image: Getty Images.

    • 16 min
    What makes super-viral content so shareable?

    What makes super-viral content so shareable?

    Dr Brent Coker collects memes.
    A lecturer in the Department of Management and Marketing, Faculty of Business and Economics at the University of Melbourne, he says "I spend most of my time researching and reading and, of course, watching memes is one of my hobbies."
    Dr Coker has always been fascinated by why certain things get shared more than others.
    "There is a lot of psychology that goes on in marketing nowadays. Quite often we rely on intrigue. But what is intrigue?" he asks.
    "In psychology, there's this idea that people need to finish the story. They don't like it when the story's unfinished."
    He uses the example of lying in bed at night when you hear a bump.
    "You're not going to go to sleep very easily unless you get up out of bed and go see what that bump was, so in other words, you finish the story. We rely on that kind of thing when we're creating content, as well, creating that intrigue," Dr Coker says.
    He notes we see this pattern in super-viral content, that is content that has over one million shares. Dr Coker explains that when looking at how viral something is, the metric is shares, not likes.
    "We find that the pattern very often begins with intrigue and then we have this spike in the story framework where emotions get injected over time and then there's a big resolution at the end of the story."
    Episode recorded: October 16, 2020.
    Interviewer: Dr Andi Horvath.
    Producer, audio engineer and editor: Chris Hatzis.
    Co-producers: Silvi-Vann Wall and Dr Andi Horvath.
    Banner image: Getty Images.

    • 26 min
    The algorithms of art

    The algorithms of art

    "I'm a mathematician by training but lately, I've started to become very interested in how mathematics can help us trust algorithms," says Kate Smith-Miles, professor of Applied Mathematics and Chief Investigator with the ARC Centre of Mathematical and Statistical Frontiers.
    "Algorithms are everywhere, and how we can trust them is becoming a really pressing issue. The good news is that mathematics and statistics offer some really valuable tools for us to be able to develop this trust."
    Professor Smith-Miles' research quest to stress-test optimisation algorithms has led to a large collection of intricate and beautiful 2D images, contour plots of mathematical functions that have been mathematically generated to create challenging landscapes.
    "The research took a direction where we're trying to deliberately generate diverse problems, unique problems [to test the algorithms]", Professor Smith-Miles says.
    "It turns out, we were able to visualise them as beautiful 2D images. We had so many, that it turned into a new motivation to try to create an artwork.
    But mathematics wasn't something Professor Miles-Smith had considered as a career path.
    "During Year 12, I had a mathematics teacher who really helped me understand some beautiful things about mathematics, and it was just scratching the surface," she says.
    "I got to the end of Year 12, and I thought, no, that can't be the end of it; I have to keep going with this because I've just got a little glimpse of what this might actually be."
    Episode recorded: October 13, 2020.
    Interviewer: Dr Andi Horvath.
    Producer, audio engineer and editor: Chris Hatzis.
    Co-producers: Silvi Vann-Wall and Dr Andi Horvath.
    Banner image: Supplied.

    • 19 min
    The tiny world of peptides

    The tiny world of peptides

    "As humans we tend to think in pictures, so using that approach you could think of peptides as segments of protein," says Dr Troy Attard, from the Melbourne Protein Characterisation platform at the Bio21 Institute at the University of Melbourne.
    "You can think of protein like a ball of twine, a long linear string that is all scrunched up into a ball or various shapes. If you took a pair of scissors and snipped little bits of a segment of that string, that would be your peptide," Dr Attard says.
    "They're basically short proteins, which are chains of amino acids that are joined head to tail, a little bit like links in a chain."
    Dr Attard explains that insulin is an example of a peptide, it's two peptide chains that are joined by a couple of bridges. "There are a lot of small proteins that you would consider peptides and they have all manner of functions in the body including metabolism and communication."
    Dr Attard synthesises, or makes, specific peptides for research.
    "You can manipulate peptides for whatever purpose you'd like. If you want to investigate specific parts of a protein, you can make a whole range of peptides that represent that area, and you can test which ones are important for binding in the cell."
    Just by doing this basic research, you can build up a profile, and you get more knowledge about the interactions that are going on in the cell, Dr Attard says.
    "When you come across a problem such as the classic one is cancer of course, the more you know about that mechanism, the better a position you'll be in to develop a therapeutic, for example."
    Episode recorded: September 29, 2020.
    Interviewer: Dr Andi Horvath.
    Producer, audio engineer and editor: Chris Hatzis.
    Co-producers: Silvi Vann-Wall and Dr Andi Horvath.
    Banner image: Shutterstock.

    • 22 min
    The brain benefits of music

    The brain benefits of music

    "The experience of music is really a whole-brain activity," says Professor Sarah Wilson, Head of the Melbourne School of Psychological Sciences at the University of Melbourne.
    "When we're listening to music, what we see when we put people in the scanner is that large areas of their brain light up - both hemispheres. That's because music involves many different networks or systems in the brain," Professor Wilson says.
    "There's all sorts of debate in the research literature as to why we are even musical," she adds.
    "When we think about music, it is something unique to being human. Other species, animals, they don't really use music in the way that we do. They might have song, or calls, but these are more simple, for mating purposes, or the like."
    "No other species uses a complex musical system like we do."
    Professor Wilson explains that while you're listening to music, you're giving your brain a general workout.
    "You're not only exercising the music-related bits, you're also exercising your memory, you're exercising the language system, you're exercising all these other networks. So, that's what, potentially, is protective. It's based on that 'use it or lose it' principle."
    Episode recorded: September 8, 2020.
    Interviewer: Dr Andi Horvath.
    Producer, audio engineer and editor: Chris Hatzis.
    Co-production: Silvi Vann-Wall and Dr Andi Horvath.
    Banner: Getty Images.

    • 28 min
    New targets for epilepsy treatment

    New targets for epilepsy treatment

    Associate Professor Chris Reid was working as a hospital pharmacist when he saw a series of patients in a neurological ward who were not treatable.
    "I thought well I can only do so much as a pharmacist. I would like to actually do something at a more fundamental level," says Associate Professor Reid, Principal Research Fellow, member of Faculty and Head of the Neurophysiology of Excitable Networks Laboratory at the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health.
    "I've been very fortunate to be part of the genetic revolution which was started by Professor Sam Berkovic and Professor Ingrid Scheffer from the University of Melbourne. I joined Professor Steve Petrou's lab at a time when that was very new.
    "Things have moved incredibly quickly over the last 25 years, which is when the first epilepsy gene was discovered, to a point now where gene therapy is becoming a reality."
    Associate Professor Reid is currently developing a new treatment for epilepsy.
    His research project is part of BioCurate, an independently-operated venture catalyst jointly formed by the University of Melbourne and Monash University.
    "We do need alternative approaches as well - which is really the program that I've been driving with BioCurate. What we've done is actually identified a channel in the brain that's in a hotspot that causes seizure generalisation. That's when seizures cause the big tonic-clonic seizure that we mostly associate with epilepsy," says Associate Professor Reid.
    "We have a small molecule program to design drugs to that target with the view of treating a larger population of epilepsy people. So it's a two-pronged approach, both of which have their risks, but both of which are moving forward particularly well."
    Episode recorded: August 6, 2020.
    Interviewer: Dr Andi Horvath.
    Producer, audio engineer and editor: Chris Hatzis.
    Co-production: Silvi Vann-Wall and Dr Andi Horvath.
    Banner image: Shutterstock.

    • 16 min

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5
17 Ratings

17 Ratings

GreenToTheGame ,

Genuine passion

You can here the genuine enthusiasm in these guys, such a wide range of subjects as well. The producers do a good job of getting out the way and letting the experts talk. Good stuff.

Honest Downunder ,

delivers on its promise. thanks.

if you enjoy a cozy Podcast, this one's for you. more enjoyable than most done by the ABC or radio stations.

chrisunimelb ,

Informative, educational, fun

Really liking the Eavesdrop podcasts. Great insights into the academic world in an informative, educational and accessible way. The on-location episodes a joy to listen to (Newell's Paddock and Annie And The Swans especially). A good listen all round.

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