13 episodes

What would it sound like if the scientists producing some of the latest research also produced podcasts about their work? Listen to Caltech Letters Podcasts to find out!

In all our shows, you'll hear Caltech researchers blending science and storytelling to bring you the latest findings in their fields as well as a window into how science works, breaks, and moves forward. We believe communicating our research honestly reveals how scientists view their own work, and helps us all understand how to consume science with the right amount of passion, skepticism, and confidence.

You can find other Caltech Letters content here: https://caltechletters.org/

Caltech Letters is not a publication of the California Institute of Technology.

Caltech Letters Caltech Letters

    • Science
    • 5.0 • 8 Ratings

What would it sound like if the scientists producing some of the latest research also produced podcasts about their work? Listen to Caltech Letters Podcasts to find out!

In all our shows, you'll hear Caltech researchers blending science and storytelling to bring you the latest findings in their fields as well as a window into how science works, breaks, and moves forward. We believe communicating our research honestly reveals how scientists view their own work, and helps us all understand how to consume science with the right amount of passion, skepticism, and confidence.

You can find other Caltech Letters content here: https://caltechletters.org/

Caltech Letters is not a publication of the California Institute of Technology.

    NMT4: Jane Panangaden

    NMT4: Jane Panangaden

    In Chapter 4 of "Not My Thesis," Jane Panangaden explains the abstract world of pure math and the delights of exploring it, as well as her work advocating for tenants' rights in Pasadena. While dividing her time between writing proofs and legislation, Jane grapples with how we apply our skills, technical or otherwise, to bring a different world into existence. She asks us to consider: why do math?

    You can find out more about the Pasadena Tenants Union, including the ordinance they wrote, here (http://pasadenatenantsunion.org/). Read about what the Socialists of Caltech are up to here (https://socialistsofcaltech.com/).

    To learn more about the history of eugenics at Caltech, check out this Caltech Letters viewpoint article (https://caltechletters.org/viewpoints/rename-millikan). In recognition of this history, Caltech recently decided (https://www.caltech.edu/about/news/caltech-to-remove-the-names-of-robert-a-millikan-and-five-other-eugenics-proponents) to remove the names of some of the eugenicists from campus buildings. Hear Jane and others in conversation with the Caltech Archives in this (https://youtu.be/iHF6JEOLFVU?t=2287) video.

    Find Not My Thesis on Caltech Letters or by searching for “Caltech Letters Podcasts” on SoundCloud, Apple Podcasts, and Spotify. The transcript is available here (https://drive.google.com/file/d/17JeOaGmMi286cnNx2m1Cz-uP4DT_WHAK/view?usp=sharing). You can contact us by emailing notmythesis@gmail.com. Music for this episode was provided by Blue Dot Sessions, and our logo is by Usha Lingappa. Find more Caltech Letters content at https://caltechletters.org/podcasts/.

    • 46 min
    NMT 3: Mia de los Reyes

    NMT 3: Mia de los Reyes

    In Chapter 3 of Not My Thesis, Mia de los Reyes discusses the galaxies lurking in the empty parts of space, the constraint of light, and how she’s helped expand the membership of the scientific community. Astronomy, Mia reminds us, may not always be useful. But it is certainly cool.

    You can find more information about galaxies eating each other here (https://www.universetoday.com/108696/vampire-galaxy-sucks-star-forming-gas-from-its-neighbors/) and read about our collision with Andromeda here (https://www.space.com/15949-milkyway-galaxy-crash-andromeda-hubble.html).

    If you want to hear Mia or her fellow astronomers amaze you even more with the wonders of the universe, check out Astronomy on Tap or other online events (https://www.astro.caltech.edu/outreach/). And if you are interested in making your scientific discipline more accepting, check out Mia’s write up on inclusivity (https://astrobites.org/2018/05/25/lgbtq-inclusivity-in-astronomy/).

    To read about mental health in academia, see this Nature article (https://www.nature.com/articles/nbt.4089) or this Caltech Letters one (https://caltechletters.org/viewpoints/mental-health).

    Caltech Letters has a number of articles by other astronomers. Check them out! (https://caltechletters.org/science/stellar-hello, https://caltechletters.org/science/chemical-archaeology, https://caltechletters.org/science/galaxy-simulation, https://caltechletters.org/science/the-cow)

    Find Not My Thesis at https://caltechletters.org/podcasts/not-my-thesis/ or by searching for “Caltech Letters Podcasts” on SoundCloud, Apple Podcasts, and Spotify. You can contact us by emailing notmythesis@gmail.com. Music for this episode was provided by Blue Dot Sessions, and our logo is by Usha Lingappa. Find more Caltech Letters content at https://caltechletters.org/podcasts/.

    • 50 min
    Biosphere 7: Mistakes

    Biosphere 7: Mistakes

    How does evolution give rise to new features of living things? Mistakes drive the vast diversity of life on earth through mutations (random errors in the information carrying molecules of a cell). A core question of evolutionary biology is how hard it is to make useful, new biological components via these random mutations and natural selection. Joined by special guest Heidi Klumpe, Caltech graduate student and host of the Not My Thesis podcast (https://caltechletters.org/podcasts/not-my-thesis/), we explore cases where mutation gives new function shockingly easily (https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-018-04026-w), and others where success is harder to come by (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4476321/). If you are an insect, one change might give you legs where your antenna should be.

    Heidi, Aditi, John, and Julian discuss how they deal with mistakes in professional settings and the disappointment and stress they can cause. Ever needed advice on how to handle a pipetting robot or the escape of a massive colony of vicious ants? We offer some tips, but mistakes may be a necessary, albeit painful, teacher.

    Note: this episode was recorded prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, in October of 2019.

    Find us at https://caltechletters.org/podcasts/
    Contact us at biospherepodcast@gmail.com
    Tweet us @BiospherePod
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    ***Cover image: Don't cry over spilled milk. Photo by Julian Wagner for Caltech Letters.

    • 41 min
    Biosphere 6: Aggression and Fear

    Biosphere 6: Aggression and Fear

    In the current pandemic, many normally harmless activities like grocery shopping are suddenly frightening. But is fear a necessary, or even good, function of our nervous system? Where does it originate from in the brain? Can we directly control emotions like fear, and what consequences would that have for the human experience? Tomás Aquino, a fellow Caltech grad student and neuroscientist friend, joins us this week to discuss these questions and the double-edged role of fear in the graduate school experience.

    This episode was recorded before the pandemic began, so you will hear us all in a room together, but rest assured that right now we are all social-distancing. We could not have predicted how timely this topic would be or how much graver it is given current events. We wish you all the best and hope that this bit of interesting science gives you something fun to think about during such serious times.

    For more neuroscience news and research from Tomás Aquino, check out his Twitter: https://twitter.com/the_technetium

    In the episode we discuss how scientists manipulate aggression through the hypothalamus in mice using an advanced technique called optogenetics. For more details about optogenetics, and viruses like modified rabies that Tomás mentioned, check out this article in Scientific American: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/optogenetics-controlling/

    We also discuss the peculiar case of a patient who does not experience fear in her life due to a missing amygdala (for privacy, the patient’s name is abbreviated as just S.M.) For more on this patient, check out this article in Discover Magazine: https://www.discovermagazine.com/mind/meet-the-woman-without-fear

    Find us at https://caltechletters.org/podcasts/
    Contact us at biospherepodcast@gmail.com
    Tweet Lev @LMT_spoon
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    ***Cover image: The Scream by Edvard Munch, one of the most famous artistic depictions of fear. Did Munch have the amygdala in mind? (bad pun intended) Credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Scream.jpg (public domain)

    • 33 min
    Biosphere 5: Instability

    Biosphere 5: Instability

    As the world grapples with an ongoing pandemic and billions face financial uncertainty to a higher degree than ever before, it’s easy to feel like the rug’s been pulled out from under us. But as we face our own fragility, we can also remember that life itself emerged in an early Earth that was unstable and inhospitable, and it thrived.

    Lev, Julian, John, and Aditi discuss just a couple of the hotly-contested questions around the emergence of life on Earth. What came first? Our genetic code (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK26876/, https://www.forbes.com/sites/quora/2017/05/09/what-is-the-rna-world-hypothesis/#693811e73ac3 ) or our metabolic processes (https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/a-simpler-origin-for-life/, https://www.americanscientist.org/article/the-origin-of-life)? We also ask each other how we adapted to the new challenges and uncertainties of graduate school, not unlike the way life evolved throughout earth’s history.

    On a personal note, we want to send our best wishes to everyone during these trying times. Stay safe, stay healthy, and if you are a healthcare worker, grocery store employee, bank teller, custodian, or anyone else showing us just what it means to perform an “essential service”, you have our profound gratitude.

    For a great summary of the theories surrounding the emergence of life on Earth, check out this article (https://caltechletters.org/science/living-universe) from Caltech Letters by Caltech undergraduate alumna Elise Cutts.

    Find us at https://caltechletters.org/podcasts/
    Contact us at biospherepodcast@gmail.com
    Tweet Lev @LMT_spoon
    Upgoer5 editor: https://splasho.com/upgoer5/

    ***Cover image: An artist’s depiction of early Earth, when life first began to emerge. Credit: The Archaen World, Peter Sawyer, Smithsonian Institution

    • 45 min
    NMT 2: Shyam Saladi

    NMT 2: Shyam Saladi

    Scientific impact can take many forms. Sometimes a highly-cited paper influences the most people, sometimes it’s a nifty website, and sometimes it can be just a few words of kindness.

    In Chapter 2 of Not My Thesis, Shyam Saladi talks about everything from meticulous models of biological molecules to an automated service which literally changes the way we see our science. Reflecting on his work, he provides insight into what meaningful science is.

    You can find Shyam’s paper on modeling membrane protein gene expression here (https://doi.org/10.1074/jbc.RA117.001052), and learn more about the JetFighter here (https://elifesciences.org/labs/c2292989/jetfighter-towards-figure-accuracy-and-accessibility).

    Find Not My Thesis on Caltech Letters or by searching for “Caltech Letters Podcasts” on SoundCloud, Apple Podcasts, and Spotify. You can contact us by emailing notmythesis@gmail.com. Music for this episode was provided by Blue Dot Sessions, and our logo is by Usha Lingappa. Find more Caltech Letters content at https://caltechletters.org/podcasts/.

    • 45 min

Customer Reviews

5.0 out of 5
8 Ratings

8 Ratings

david.miller.p ,

Fantastic and approachable

Biosphere is great! Really interesting discussions on cool science.

HaldirTheGreat ,

Engaging, fun science content!

The Biosphere podcast offers a delightful blend of fascinating, understandable, and conversation worthy science topics with interesting and personal grad student perspectives on the scientific community. Would strongly recommend!

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