Are you searching for great stories to ignite your curiosity, teach you to perform better in life and career, inspire your mind, and make you laugh along the way? In this science podcast, Dr. Marie McNeely introduces you to the brilliant researchers behind the latest scientific discoveries. Join us as they share their greatest failures, most staggering successes, candid career advice, and what drives them forward in life and science.
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Greetings science fans!
We’re elated to welcome you to People Behind the Science where we explore the lives and experiences of the people behind the research and scientific discoveries of today.
People Behind the Science’s mission is to inspire current and future scientists, share the different paths to a successful career in science, educate the general population on what scientists do, and show the human side of science.
In each episode, a different scientist will guide us through their journey by sharing their successes, failures, and passions. We are excited to introduce you to these inspiring academic and industry experts from all fields of science to give you a variety of perspectives on the life and path of a scientist.
Our esteemed guests will tell you:
what motivates them and how they balance their competing responsibilities
how they worked through some of the most challenging times in their careers
advice to help you through your own journey through life and science
People Behind the Science is a podcast focused on the people doing fascinating research through interviews with top scientists. We are proud to have interviewed so many inspiring scientists, including U.S. National Academy scientists like Josh Sanes, Nick Spitzer, Lou Muglia, Jacob Israelachvili, Gene Robinson, Larry Squire, John Dowling, James Berger, and David Spergel, as well as popular scientists in the media like Donna Nelson (science advisor for the TV show Breaking Bad) and Jack Horner (science advisor for the Jurassic park movies). We are honored to have shared their amazing stories with people in all 50 states in the USA and in over 120 countries across the world.
Sizing Up Species’ Brains to Understand Nervous System Diversity and Development - Dr. Suzana Herculano-Houzel
Dr. Suzana Herculano-Houzel is a Professor of Psychology and Biological Sciences at Vanderbilt University. In the lab, she compares brains to find out what they are made of and what difference that makes for the organism in terms of its abilities. She is interested in finding out how many neurons and other cell types brains have, determining whether brain size matters, and examining how numbers of cells correspond to cognitive abilities. Suzana is not only a scientist, but also a musician. From an early age, she received formal training in classical music, including the piano and flute. While Suzana was a graduate student in Cleveland, she decided to learn to play the cello. In addition, Suzana also previously self-taught herself to play classical guitar and just recently started taking formal lessons. She received her B.S. in Biology from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil and completed her M.S. in Neuroscience at Case Western Reserve University. She was awarded her PhD in Neuroscience from Pierre and Marie Curie University in Paris, and conducted part of her graduate work at the Max-Planck Institute for Brain Research. Suzana served on the faculty of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro before joining the faculty at Vanderbilt where she is today. She is the recipient of the Scholar Award in Understanding Human Cognition from the James S. McDonnell Foundation, as well as the José Reis Prize of Science Communication. In addition, Suzana has authored seven books for the general public on neuroscience, including her recently published book The Human Advantage: A New Understanding of How Our Brain Became Remarkable. She has written and presented the TV series Neurológica, has contributed over 260 to the Folha de São Paulo newspaper, and has written for the Scientific American Brazil magazine. In our interview, Suzana shares stories from her life and science.
Expressing His Passion for Science and Bacterial Genetics - Dr. Stanley Maloy
Dr. Stanley Maloy is Dean of the College of Sciences, Associate Director of the Center for Microbial Sciences, and Professor in Biology at San Diego State University. Stanley’s lab is working on a new approach for delivering vaccines that may be beneficial for the development of new types of vaccines. They are also collaborating with colleagues in the biotech industry to investigate new approaches for developing antibiotics. When he's not working, Stanley loves traveling, reading, cooking, hiking, and enjoying the ocean. He received his Ph.D. in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry from the University of California, Irvine and conducted postdoctoral research in Genetics at the University of Utah. Stanley then served on the faculty at the university of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign for about 18 years before accepting a position where he is today at San Diego State University. Stanley is a former President of the American Society for Microbiology, is an elected Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology, has authored several books on microbial genetics, and has been widely recognized for his excellence in teaching. In this episode, Stanley tells us more about his journey through life and science.
Researching how the Brain Changes with Vision Rehabilitation - Dr. Tara Alvarez
Dr. Tara Alvarez is Professor of Bio-Medical Engineering at New Jersey Institute of Technology and Chief Scientific Officer at OculoMotor Technologies. Tara’s research focuses on how we move our eyes, how visual information is brought in through our visual system, and how the brain changes. In particular, she studies a condition called convergence insufficiency. In this condition, people have difficulty and discomfort when reading or maintaining focus on near objects. She is working to better understand convergence insufficiency and how the brain changes during visual therapy, resulting in reduced symptoms. In her free time, Tara loves spending time with her kids, doing renovation projects at home, cooking, and gardening. She was awarded her B.S. in Electrical Engineering and her Ph.D. in Bioengineering and Biomedical Engineering from Rutgers University. Afterwards, she conducted postdoctoral research at Bell Labs before joining the faculty at New Jersey Institute of Technology. She has received numerous awards and honors in her career, including an NSF Career Award, the Founding Members Award for Science from the Neuro-Optometric Rehabilitation Association, an Edison Patent Award, the NJIT Excellence in Research Award, and Augmented World Expo’s Auggie Awards for Women XR Laureate and for Most Innovative Breakthrough. She has also been named an Outstanding Woman Scientist of NJ, a Fellow of the American Academy of Optometry, and a Fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering. In this interview, Tara shares more about her life and science.
Cool Research on Plant Responses to Temperature Stress - Dr. Malia Gehan
Dr. Malia Gehan is an Assistant Member at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center. Her research examines how to improve crops in terms of their response to temperature stress and other abiotic stresses. She is does this through examining natural variation in plants. There are many plants that are highly resilient in different environmental conditions but are not edible. Malia is investigating how to take useful traits from these hardy, weedy plants and incorporate them into crops. Outside of science, Malia spends her free time with her two cats and her husband, who is also a scientist. They enjoy lounging around at home, as well as walking around their neighborhood near the Missouri Botanical Garden. Malia also has fun cooking, going to the movies, and watching TV. She received her undergraduate training in Biology from Willamette University and her PhD in Plant Biology from Michigan State University. Afterwards, Malia was awarded a National Science Foundation Plant Genome Initiative Postdoctoral Fellowship working at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, and she subsequently worked as a Research Scientist there before accepting her new position. Malia is with us today to tell us all about her journey through life and science.
Examining How Environmental Factors Can Impact Our Heart Health - Dr. Aruni Bhatnagar
Dr. Aruni Bhatnagar is the Smith and Lucille Gibson Professor of Medicine, Director of the Christina Lee Brown Envirome Institute, Co-Director of the American Heart Association Tobacco Regulation and Addiction Center, and a Distinguished University Scholar at the University of Louisville. Much of Aruni’s work has focused on understanding how the heart and blood vessels work and how they become diseased. He developed a new field called environmental cardiology where he examines how exposure and environmental conditions may impact heart function and heart health. When he’s not at work, Aruni enjoys exploring his creativity through art, reading, and writing. He has spent a lot of time painting, and lately, he has been writing songs and poems. He was awarded his PhD in Chemistry from the University of Kanpur in India and he conducted postdoctoral research at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston before joining the faculty at the University of Louisville in 1998. Aruni has received numerous awards and honors over the course of his career, including being named a Fellow of the American Heart Association in 2005. He also received the President’s Award for Outstanding Scholarship, Research and Creative Activity from the University of Louisville, the Partner in Healthcare Award, the Outstanding Faculty Mentor of Graduate Students and the Outstanding Mentor Award from the Conference of Southern Graduate Schools, and he was designated Research Exemplar by Washington University in St. Louis. In our interview, Aruni shares more about his life and his science.
Exciting Developments in Our Knowledge of Cortical Circuit Formation in the Mammalian Brain - Dr. Franck Polleux
Dr. Franck Polleux is a Professor of Neuroscience and member of the Zuckerman Mind, Brain, Behavior Institute at Columbia University. Franck’s research focuses on understanding the cellular and molecular mechanisms that underlie brain and neuronal development, how neural connectivity may be different in the human brain compared to other mammals, and signaling pathways affected in the early stages of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease. Outside of his research, Franck is an outdoor enthusiast who enjoys bicycling, playing tennis, and shooting hoops on the basketball court. Franck has two children, and he spends most of his free time with his family riding bikes, going to the theater, and reading together. He completed his undergraduate degree as well as his PhD in Neuroscience at the University of Claude Bernard in Lyon, France. Afterward, he travelled to Johns Hopkins University for his postdoctoral fellowship. Franck served on the faculty at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, CA before joining the faculty at Columbia University where he is today. Franck is here with us today to tell us all about his journey through life and science.
Voyage through the cosmos. 🌌
Dr. Marie McNeely introduces scientists and their stories to the public in a unique and profound manner, she has a logical approach towards crucial conversations. “Einstein was urging us to tear down the walls around science that have excluded and intimidated so many of us — to translate scientific insights from the jargon of its priesthood into the spoken language shared by us all, so that we may take these insights to heart and be changed by a personal encounter with the wonders they reveal.” — COSMOS: Possible Worlds by Ann Druyan.
Absolutely love this show!
Dr. Marie is an excellent host - not only does she have a fabulous “radio voice,” but she asks fantastic questions that allow you to learn about complicated scientific topics in an accessible fashion. Her guests are super interesting, and the information that they cover consistently blows me away. Really grateful for this resource!
Excellent episode with Dr. Weiner
The cancer research (and successes!) that you illustrated in your interview has definitely given me hope, as David wished. If I need to wrestle with cancer yet again, I’m glad he and his colleagues have my back.