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 the Mechanics of How Cells Move in Cancer and the Immune System - Dr. Erdem Tabdanov
Dr. Erdem Tabdanov is Assistant Professor in the Department of Pharmacology at Penn State College of Medicine and also a Member of the Penn State Cancer Institute. He studies the mechanical and structural aspects of cells to better understand how cells physically move, sense their environments, and accomplish their various functions. This is very relevant to cancer biology and understanding the immune system. Some of Erdem’s hobbies outside of science include working out at the gym, calligraphy, sketching, digital art, and other visual arts. He is also considering adopting a cat. His interest in digital art emerged from his desire to put the story of his research together in compelling figures and schematics for journal articles. He received his bachelor’s degree in biotechnology and his MSc in chemistry and molecular and cellular biotechnology from Lomonosov Moscow State Academy of Fine Chemical Technology (MITHT). He was awarded his PhD in cancer research from L'Institut Curie in Paris. Afterwards, Erdem conducted postdoctoral research at the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University. He then served in the 82nd Airborne Division of the U.S. army for four years. Erdem completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Minnesota before joining the faculty at Penn State where he is today. In this interview, Erdem shares more about his life and science.
Studying How Food Influences Our Health and Behavior - Dr. Alexis Wood
Dr. Alexis “Lekki” Wood is Associate Professor at USDA/ARS Children's Nutrition Research Center in the Division of Pediatrics-Nutrition at Baylor College of Medicine. Research in Lekki’s lab aims to better understand how food influences our health. She examines the full chain of changes that occur from the moment food is put into our mouths, trough digestion and absorption of particular molecules, to where those molecules go and how they affect our organs. Outside of work, you can find Lekki working out at the gym and spending quality time with her two children and their German shepherd. She is also a Lego builder and a competitive Pokemon card player along with her son. She received her BSc with honors in Psychology and from the University of Warwick. Afterwards, she completed her Postgraduate Certificate in Education at the University of Cambridge. Lekki enrolled in graduate school at King’s College London where she earned her MSc in social, genetic, and developmental psychiatry and her PhD in statistical genetics. Next, she conducted postdoctoral research at the University of Alabama focusing on statistical genetics and epidemiology. Lekki served on the faculty at The University of Texas, Health Sciences Center for about two years before joining the faculty at Baylor College of Medicine where she is today. Lekki has received a variety of awards and honors for her work, including the Young Investigator Award from the International Congress on ADHD and the Young Investigator Award from the Department of Pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine. In addition, she has received the Scott Grundy Award for Excellence in Metabolism Research and the Mark Bieber Award for Excellence in Nutrition Research, both from the American Heart Association. She was also named a Fellow of the American Heart Association in 2015. In our interview, she shares more about her life and science.
Growing Our Understanding of the Development, Regeneration, and Evolution of Teeth - Dr. Gareth Fraser
Dr. Gareth Fraser is an Associate Professor in the Department of Biology at the University of Florida. Gareth is a developmental biologist interested in how things form during development, how they are recreated during regeneration, and how features develop and persist on evolutionary timescales. His lab typically examines these questions looking at oral teeth and dermal denticles (tooth-like structures) in unusual fish like pufferfish, hammerhead sharks, and ghost sharks (chimaera). When he’s not working, Gareth enjoys being outside in nature, playing soccer, scuba diving, and hunting for fossils in the creek near their home. He and his two young daughters have also been having fun exploring the mysterious realm of cryptozoology and reading books about monsters. Gareth received his bachelor’s degree in palaeobiology and evolution from the University of Portsmouth, his master’s degree in evolutionary biology and systematics from the University of Glasgow, and his PhD in evolutionary developmental biology from King’s College London. Afterwards, Gareth conducted postdoctoral research at the Georgia Institute of Technology. He served on the faculty at The University of Sheffield for about nine years before joining the faculty at the University of Florida in 2018. In this interview, he shares more about his life and science.
Examining the Role of Metabolism in Cancer and Response to Cancer Treatment - Dr. Rachel Perry
Dr. Rachel Perry is Assistant Professor of Medicine (Endocrinology) and of Cellular and Molecular Physiology at the Yale University School of Medicine. Rachel’s scientific training focused on how our bodies use nutrients to stay healthy and what goes wrong in diseases like obesity and diabetes. In her current lab, she applies this background to better understand how changes in metabolism (nutrient supply) may affect cancer and how our bodies respond to cancer treatments. In her free time, Rachel enjoys spending time with her family, playing with their Labradoodle puppy, and going on walks in the fantastic fall weather. She is also an avid home chef, and she applies her scientific precision to prepare delicious meals for friends and family. She was awarded her B.S. in Biomedical Engineering and her Ph.D. (with Distinction) in Cellular & Molecular Physiology from Yale University. Afterwards, she remained at Yale for postdoctoral training in internal medicine and endocrinology, and she joined the Yale faculty in 2018. Rachel has received a variety of awards and honors for her research, including the American Physiological Society New Investigator Award, an R37 MERIT Award from the National Institutes of Health, the Translational Science Research Prize from the Yale Cancer Center, the Melanoma Research Alliance Young Investigator Award, the Rising Stars in Cancer Metabolism Award, the Breakthrough of the Year Award from the Yale Cancer Signaling Networks Program, and the Translational Science Research Prize from the Yale Cancer Center. In addition, she was named a Kingsley Fellow of the Yale University School of Medicine. In our interview, she shares more about her life and science.
733: Using Microbes to Sustainably Produce Valuable Chemicals and Degrade Toxic Compounds - Dr. Susie Dai
Dr. Susie Dai is an Associate Professor in the Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology at Texas A&M University. She is also Director of the Biomonitoring Program in the Iowa State Hygienic Laboratory, leading the Iowa Statewide Biomonitoring public health surveillance. Susie works at the interface of chemistry and biology, and her research leverages microorganisms like bacteria and fungus to synthesize chemicals of value or degrade poisonous chemicals. This work has important applications for developing sustainable methods to produce chemicals and breaking down dangerous chemicals that are very stable. In addition, Susie’s work also includes biomonitoring where they examine exposure to toxic chemicals from private wells and other environmental sources. When she’s not at work Susie enjoys reading and hanging out with her family, including her two wonderful daughters. Susie received her BS degree in Chemistry from Fudan University, and her PhD in Chemistry from Duke University. Afterwards, she conducted postdoctoral research with the Scripps Research Institute and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Next Susie began working as a Research Assistant Professor and was promoted to Research Associate Professor at Texas A&M in the Office of the Texas State Chemist. Subsequently, she served as Associate Director of the Iowa State Hygienic Laboratory at the University of Iowa and Director of the Environmental Health Division. She returned to the Texas A&M faculty in 2019. In this interview, Susie shares more about her life and science.
732: Applying Molecular Biology Tools to Characterize Genes and Enhance Crop Species - Dr. Ralph Dewey
Dr. Ralph Dewey is the Philip Morris Professor of Crop and Soil Sciences and Adjunct Professor of Plant and Microbial Biology at North Carolina State University (NCSU). Ralph uses the tools of molecular biology to identify and characterize genes of agronomic importance in crop species. When possible, he and his team alter those genes in ways that add value to the crop above and beyond what can be attained with traditional breeding approaches. Ralph and his team have done important work on the genetics of tobacco plants to decrease the hazards of smoking for people who still smoke. When Ralph has free time, he enjoys hanging out with his wife at their nearby beach condo and also watching college sports (particularly football and basketball). In addition, Ralph is working on writing his first novel. He was awarded his B.S. degree in biology from Utah State University, followed by his M.S. and Ph.D. in Crop Science from North Carolina State University. Afterwards, Ralph received an NSF Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in Plant Biology to conduct postdoctoral research at the Waksman Institute at Rutgers University. Ralph joined the faculty at NCSU in 1991. He has been issued 34 U.S. Patents for his discoveries in plant biotechnology, with several more pending, and he was awarded NCSU's Philip Morris endowed Professorship in 2009 for his research on harm reduction in tobacco. In this interview, Ralph shares more about his 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.