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.
Investigating Important Interactions Between Molecules and Membrane Proteins - Dr. Olaf Andersen
Dr. Olaf Andersen is a Professor of Physiology and Biophysics at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University and Director of the Tri-Institutional MD-PhD Program in New York City. His research aims to understand all of the mechanisms by which small molecules can manipulate the functions of cells or whole organisms. How do these molecules work and what are they doing? These questions are particularly relevant for pharmacology and toxicity. When he's not doing science, Olaf keeps busy reading and brewing beer. His ambition as a brewer is to make a beer with a deep beer flavor but really low alcohol percentage. Olaf keeps a brewing diary that holds 20 years worth of notes on each batch he has ever brewed. He was awarded his MD from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark and completed postdoctoral research at the University of Copenhagen and Rockefeller University before joining the faculty at Cornell University. Olaf has received many awards and honors including being named a Foreign Member of The Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters, receipt of the K. S. Cole Medal from the Biophysical Society, being named an Honorary Fellow of the Cornell University Weill Medical College Alumni Association, receipt Distinguished Service Award from the Biophysical Society, and receipt the Inaugural Bruce Ballard Mentoring Award. In this interview, Olaf shares more about his life and science.
Decoding the Genomes of Plants and Plant Pathogens for Key Crops and Medicinal Plants - Dr. Robin Buell
Dr. C. Robin Buell is a Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar Chair in Crop Genomics in the Department of Crop & Soil Sciences and the Center for Applied Genetic Technologies at the University of Georgia. Robin studies the DNA of plants to better understand how plants do things like grow, respond to stress, reproduce, and evolve. Her work spans a wide variety of plants including crop plants (corn, potatoes, and sweet potatoes), medicinal plants (those that make anti-cancer drugs), and other plants with interesting properties (basil, oregano, catnip, and cat mint). In her free time, Robin enjoys tending to the vegetables in her garden, watching college basketball and football games, and spending time with her two rescue dogs. She received her BSc in biology from the University of Maryland, her MSc in plant pathology from Washington State University, and her PhD in biological sciences/molecular biology from Utah State University. Afterwards, she conducted postdoctoral research at Michigan State University and at the Carnegie Institution of Washington (Stanford University). She served on the faculty at Louisiana State University, The Institute for Genomic Research, and Michigan State University before joining the faculty at UGA last year. Robin has been elected as a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement for Science and the American Society of Plant Biologists. In addition, she was awarded the 2022 McClintock Prize for Plant Genetics and Genome Studies by the Maize Genetics Cooperation Advocacy Committee. In our interview, she shares more about her life and science.
Speaking Up About Important Topics in Speech Production and Computer-Assisted Communication - Dr. Rupal Patel
Dr. Rupal Patel is a Professor in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders as well as the College of Computer and Information Science at Northeastern University. She is also Director of the Communication Analysis and Design Laboratory and a Co-Founder and Core Faculty member of the interdisciplinary doctoral program in Personal Health Informatics there. Her research focuses on understanding normal speech production as well as problems that can interfere with speech production. She works to help people with speech impairments communicate better and investigates ways that computers can be used to mediate communication. Rupal likes to spend her free time with her family. Her two kids are a great source of inspiration and ideas, and Rupal loves hearing about how they interpret the world. She received her B.Sc. in Neuropsychology from the University of Calgary and her M.H.Sc. and Ph.D. in Speech Language Pathology from the University of Toronto. Afterwards, Rupal completed postdoctoral research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and served as a faculty member at Columbia University before joining the faculty at Northeastern University where she is today. In this interview, Rupal shares more about her journey through life and science.
Using Genetics to Understand Plant Evolution and Trace back the Roots of Agriculture - Dr. Mike Clegg
Dr. Michael Clegg is a Professor Emeritus of Biological Sciences, Ecology, and Evolutionary Biology at the University of California, Irvine. He is also the past Foreign Secretary of the US National Academy of Sciences, and just recently finished serving in his third consecutive term. Mike studies how genes change through time and uses that information to understand the historical relationships between organisms. When not engrossed in science, Mike likes to likes to read history books. He also has a fascination with airplanes that goes all the way back to his youth. Currently, he owns and flies two different airplanes. Some of Mike's other favorite activities are traveling and spending time with his family. Mike received his PhD in Genetics from the University of California, Davis. He served on the faculty at Brown University, the University of Georgia, and the University of California, Riverside before accepting a position at UC, Irvine. Mike has a long list of career and research accolades. He was elected as a Member of the US National Academy of Sciences, a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a Member of the American Philosophical Society, a Fellow of the Global Academy of Sciences, an Honorary Member of the Palestinian Academy of Sciences, a Foreign Fellow of the Nigerian Academy of Science, and a Corresponding Member of multiple other international Academies. He is also a Senior Fellow of the California Council on Science and Technology and has been awarded the Darwin Prize from Edinburgh University. In this interview, Mike shares more about his life and science.
Conducting Research to Better Understand and Conserve Marine Mammals - Dr. Howard Rosenbaum
Dr. Howard Rosenbaum is a Senior Conservation Scientist and Director of the Wildlife Conservation Society's Ocean Giants Program, which aims to secure the future of whales, dolphins, and other marine species. He is also a Senior Scientist at the American Museum of Natural History, core faculty member at Columbia University in the Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Biology Department, a member of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Cetacean Specialist Group and Important Marine Mammal Areas Task Force, and a member of the International Whaling Commission’s Scientific Committee. In addition, Howard is a member of New York’s (NYSERDA) Environmental Technical Working Group and on the Specialist Committee for Best Management Practices related to Offshore Wind Development. He has also been a subject matter expert for two past BOEM workshops related to marine mammals and Offshore Wind Development, an invited member of the Regional Wildlife Science Entity’s Marine Mammal subcommittee, and he recently served on IUCN’s panel on Mitigating Biodiversity Impacts to Wind Energy Development. When he’s not working, Howard loves spending time outdoors. Some of his favorite outdoor activities are skiing in the winter, cycling, kayaking, sailing, going for walks with his dog, and spending time with his wife and kids out in nature. Howard is a conservation biologist who uses novel scientific approaches and techniques to better understand marine mammals and their environments with the ultimate goal of improving conservation of these animals and environmental practices. Howard received his undergraduate degree from Hamilton College and afterwards spent two years conducting research as a recipient of a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship. Next, he enrolled in graduate school at Yale University where he was awarded his Ph.D. in biology. Upon graduating, Howard began a postdoctoral fellowship with the Wildlife Conservation Society and the American Museum of Natural History where he would ultimately continue working for over 20 years. In this interview, Howard shares more about his life and science.
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.
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.