The most interesting people in the world of science and technology.
STEM-Talk is an interview podcast show produced by the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition, a not-for-profit research lab pioneering ground-breaking technologies aimed at leveraging and extending human cognition, perception, locomotion and resilience. Twice a month, we talk to groundbreaking scientists, engineers and technologists. Our interviews focus on the science that our subjects are engaged with, as well as their careers, motivations, education, and passions. Think of them as “profiles in science.” Tune in every other Tuesday to our show—and if you like us, please write a review of STEM-talk on iTunes—and spread the word.
Episode 157: Don Layman discusses the role of dietary protein in muscle, health, and disease
Today we have one of the world’s foremost authorities on dietary protein and amino acids, Dr. Donald Layman. He is known for his extensive research on muscle development as well as his studies of metabolic regulation for obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
Don is a professor emeritus in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. He spent 31 years on the faculty before stepping away in 2012. Much of Don’s research over the years investigated the impact of diet and exercise on adult health problems related to obesity, type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
His lab at Illinois particularly focused on understanding metabolism. He conducted clinical trials for nearly two decades that helped create a new understanding about how to optimize people’s macronutrient balance and metabolism. In addition to his work on metabolism, Don has also conducted extensive research into ways to enhance body composition, increase energy levels and monitor blood sugar.
Today Don works as Director of Research for the American Egg Board and is a nutrition consultant for the National Dairy Council and The National Cattlemen's Beef Association. He also is the Chief Science Officer for Qivana, a natural products marketing company that promotes the weight-loss program that Don developed in his lab at the University of Illinois.
[00:04:02] Marcas asks Don what it was like growing up on a farm in a small town in northern Illinois.
[00:04:29] Marcas asks how small the town was that Don grew up in.
[00:05:16] Don explains how he first became interested in science.
[00:05:39] Don talks about how he realized in college that he wasn’t as good at math as he thought he was. He shares how this shifted his focus away from chemical engineering.
[00:06:27] Marcas asks if Don’s natural intuition and interest for biochemistry stemmed from growing up on a farm.
[00:07:10] Ken mentions that as Don was studying biochemistry, he started looking into protein synthesis with a professor by the name of Arlen Richardson, who was known for his aging research. Ken asks Don to talk about this period and how his interest in protein and muscle evolved.
[00:08:27] Marcas asks Don to explain for listeners the importance of protein as it relates to metabolism and what he means when he talks about protein turnover.
[00:09:36] Marcas mentions that we hear a lot about the need to maintain muscle as we grow older, but that back in the ‘70s and ‘80s when Don was starting his career, there wasn’t much of a focus on muscle, except in terms of athletic performance. Marcas goes on to explain that largely because of Don’s research, we now know that protein is critical in terms of helping people stay healthier as they age. Marcas asks Don to give a sense of just how important protein is for our health span and aging.
[00:12:35] Ken asks if it is true that the inefficiency in muscle protein synthesis begins as early as one’s thirties.
[00:14:11] Ken asks Don to talk about the right amount of protein an individual should consume and mentions that there is much confusion on this issue, largely due to the food pyramid’s recommended daily allowance for protein of 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight.
[00:15:51] Ken mentions that Don has talked in the past about how 40 percent of women who are 60 and older consume less than the RDA for protein, which is likely the bare minimum. Ken asks if it is reasonable to say that a plant-based diet for older women could be risky.
[00:17:13] Ken asks Don to address the claims that high-protein diets are not good for you, and that too much protein can harm your liver and kidney.
[00:18:47] Marcas shifts gears to talk about the quality of protein consumed. Marcas explains that it is much easier for carnivores to get the right amount of protein than vegans, largely because the amino acid leucine is vital for muscle repair and replacement,...
Episode 156: Josh Hagen discusses optimizing performance in athletes and warfighters
Today’s interview is with Dr. Josh Hagen, the director of the Human Performance Collaborative at Ohio State University and an Associate Research Professor in the university’s Department of Integrated Systems Engineering.
Joining co-host Ken Ford for this episode is IHMC’s Chief Strategic Partnership Officer Morley Stone who has a long history with Josh has and been instrumental in his career.
Today we talk with Josh about his work at the Human Performance Collaborate, which brings together multi-disciplinary teams of researchers, sports scientists, data scientists, and practitioners with the goal of optimizing human performance in Ohio State athletes.
Within the human performance research area, Josh leads two areas: Sport and Tactical Performance Science and Recovery Science. At Ohio State, Josh works with other performance-science researchers to evaluate the physical traits and capabilities of athletes. Josh and his colleagues then collaborate with coaches and athletic trainers to make adjustments in the weight room, on the field, and during recovery after training or competitions.
In addition to his work at Ohio State, Josh also is working on federally funded projects in human performance with Special Operations Command, The Air Force Research Laboratory, the Office of Naval Research and several private foundations. Josh joined IHMC in 2022 in a collaborate role as a Visiting Senior Research Scientist.
Josh is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati where he studied and earned a Ph.D. in materials science and engineering. He spent 11 years at the Air Force Research Laboratory, which is where Morley and Josh first worked together. After his stint at the Air Force Research Laboratory, Josh headed for West Virginia University as the director of the Human Performance Innovation Center at the Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute before moving to the Ohio State University.
[00:03:39] Morley starts the interview asking Josh if he played a lot of sports as a kid.
[00:03:54] Morley asks if it is true that in addition to being a bit of a jock, Josh was also a nerd growing up.
[00:04:34] Josh talks about the high school chemistry teacher who got him excited about science.
[00:06:05] Morley asks how Josh ended up at the University of Cincinnati.
[00:07:06] Morley mentions that after Josh earned his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering, he worked for a private company before deciding he did not want to spend his career in chemical engineering. Morley asks about the advice that one of his professors gave Josh at the time.
[00:09:03] Ken mentions that it was at the Materials Directorate at the Air Force Research Lab, where Josh first met Morley. Ken asks Morley what he remembers about the young Josh.
[00:11:19] Ken turns the question to Josh and asks him about his first impressions of Morley.
[00:12:12] Ken mentions that after Josh completed his graduate work, he again went to work in the private sector, and again found it unfulfilling. Josh talks about calling Morley to see if he had a job opening.
[00:13:51] Morley mentions that in 2018, Josh left the Air Force and went to work at West Virginia University, where he became the director of the Human Performance Innovation Center at the Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute. Morley asks Josh how that job came about and what sort of work went on in that lab.
[00:15:46] Ken mentions that after Josh’s time at West Virginia, Morley offered Josh a job at Ohio State University, where Morley was, at the time, the senior vice president for research at Ohio State. Ken asks what this time was like for Josh.
[00:17:17] Morley mentions that in Josh’s role as the director of the Human Performance Collaborative, he works with a multidisciplinary team, and largely worked with two populations, sports athletes and the military. Morley asks Josh to give a sense of how Josh’s lab works with both groups.
Episode 155: Chris McCurdy discusses kratom’s benefits and possible risks
Today we have the world’s foremost authority on kratom returning to STEM-Talk after five years to give us an update on his research. Shortly after his 2018 interview on episode 61, Dr. Christopher McCurdy and his lab at the University of Florida received two major grants from the National Institute of Drug Abuse to investigate the medical efficacy of kratom and its alkaloids, which we discuss in today’s show.
Mitragyna speciosa, or kratom, is an herbal leaf from a tropical evergreen tree in the coffee family. It is native to Southeast Asia where it has been used in herbal medicine for hundreds of years. Kratom has become increasingly popular in the United States and throughout the world for recreational purposes. But kratom is also becoming recognized in the medical and research communities for its treatment for chronic pain as well as its potential to alleviate opioid withdrawal symptoms.
For more than 25 years, McCurdy has studied the design, synthesis, and development of drugs to treat pain, anxiety, and substance-abuse disorders. For the past 15 years, Chris and his lab have turned a lot of their attention toward kratom and its chemical components to better understand its potential to treat a multitude of conditions.
Chris is a professor in the Medicinal Chemistry Department in the College of Pharmacy at the University of Florida. He also is director of the of school’s Translational Drug Development Core and an Associate Dean for Faculty Development.
Our interview with Chris comes on the heels of Florida passing the Kratom Consumer Protection Act, which mandates that kratom products sold in the state meet a high standard of product purity. In today’s interview, we talk to Chris about the protection act as well as:
-- The numerous studies he has been able to conduct thanks to his lab’s two grants from the National Institute of Drug Abuse.
-- The disparity between the traditional use of kratom and the new often highly concentrated manufactured products sold in the U.S.
-- His lab’s study examining the effects of lyophilized kratom tea and its ability to alleviate withdrawal symptoms of opioid-dependence.
-- The potential of kratom alkaloids to serve as treatment of various substance abuse disorders.
-- The benefits and risks associated with CBD usage.
[00:03:21] Dawn opens the interview welcoming Chris back to STEM-Talk and mentions that his last appearance was episode 61 in 2018. Dawn explains that Chris has devoted much of his research to kratom, or Mitragyna speciosa, which is a traditional Southeast Asian medicine. It has been used by indigenous populations for centuries to increase endurance, enhance mood, treat pain, and mitigate opioid withdrawal symptoms. Dawn asks Chris to give a short overview of kratom and why it is attracting so much attention recently.
[00:09:14] Ken mentions that at the time Chris first appeared on STEM-Talk, he was in the process of attracting funding to take a deep dive into kratom, which he has now secured from the National Institute of Drug Abuse. Ken asks Chris to give a general overview of the research they are conducting with this grant and what they are finding.
[00:15:19] Dawn mentions that in Chris’s last interview on STEM-Talk, he mentioned that researching kratom was difficult due to a lack of standardization and asks if this has changed.
[00:21:11] Ken asks about a Thai product that is a freeze-dried leaf, which is coming to the US market, and if this product is more like what is used in Southeast Asia as opposed to the ground leaf material available in the U.S. market.
[00:24:29] Dawn mentions that in 2020, Chris and a colleague published an article in the journal Current Opinion in Psychiatry on the need to address the disparity between the traditional use of kratom and the new often highly concentrated manufactured products sold in the U.S. and other countries. Dawn asks Chris to talk about the points made in this arti...
Episode 154: Orthopedic surgeon Brian Cole discusses advances in the treatment of knee, elbow and shoulder injuries
Today we have Dr. Brian Cole, an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in cartilage restoration, orthobiologics, and advanced surgical techniques for the treatment of knee, elbow, and shoulder injuries. He is the team physician for the NBA’s Chicago Bulls and the co-team physician for the Chicago White Sox. He also is the host of the Sports Medicine Weekly Podcast.
Brian practices orthopedic sports medicine at Midwest Orthopaedics. He also is a professor of Orthopaedics, Anatomy and Cell Biology at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. He is Managing Partner of Midwest Orthopaedics and is the department’s Associate Chairman and the Section Head of the Cartilage Research and Restoration Center. In addition to this work, he also serves as the Chairman of Surgery at Rush Oak Park Hospital.
In today’s interview, we talk to Brian about his cutting-edge research into ways to treat knee, shoulder, and elbow injuries. Brian shares his novel approach to dealing with ACL tears, one of the most common sports injuries, and his investigations of methods to enhance the healing and recovery time following ACL reconstructions. He also talks about new advances in minimally invasive surgical techniques for many common injuries. We have a particularly interesting conversation with Brian about exciting developments in the use of stem-cell treatments as well as the use of bone marrow aspirate to treat injuries.
[00:03:53] Marcas opens the interview mentioning that Brian was in the eighth grade when he fell in love with a popular sit-com from the 1970s, “The Bob Newhart Show.” Marcas asks Brain what he loved about the show and what impact it had on him.
[00:05:07] Brian enrolled in the University of Illinois after graduating from high school. Marcas asks Brian if knew he wanted to major in biology and psychology when he arrived on campus.
[00:05:58] Ken mentions that after Brian’s undergrad, he travelled upstate to the University of Chicago, where he earned an MD and an MBA. Ken asks what led Brian to pursue both an MD and MBA.
[00:09:52] Ken explains that after the University of Chicago, Brian moved to New York City for an orthopaedic research fellowship in metabolic bone disease at the Hospital for Special Surgery. Brian also decided to do his residency there as well. Ken asks how that came about.
[00:11:31] Marcas mentions that after Brian finished his fellowship and residency, he went to the University of Pittsburgh for a sports medicine fellowship. Marcas asks what led Brian there and what drove his interest in sports medicine.
[00:13:10] Marcas asks Brian about a fortuitous phone call he received when he was a fourth-year resident.
[00:14:34] Ken explains that Midwest Orthopaedics is one of the nation’s most respected private orthopaedic practices. Ken notes that through a partnership with Rush University Medical Center, Midwest has developed a national reputation as a leader in sports medicine; hip, knee, spine, and cartilage restoration; as well as shoulder care and pain management. Rush also is an academic medical center that includes a 671-bed hospital and is a center for basic and clinical research. Ken asks Brian to describe the scope of the work that goes on at Midwest and Rush.
[00:17:20] Marcas comments that Brian is also the head team physician for the Chicago Bulls and the co-team physician for the Chicago White Sox, and asks Brian to describe some of the work that he does in that capacity.
[00:20:09] Marcas explains that Brian treats a wide range of patients with injuries and pain, from athletes to non-athletes, and from children to senior citizens, and that he has performed more than 20,000 surgeries over the course of his career. Marcas asks Brian to give a sense of the patients he sees and what his average day at the office is like.
[00:24:00] Ken points out that Brian is known for focusing on treating the patient and not the x-ray or MRI.
Episode 153: Dominic D’Agostino discusses new advances in the study of nutritional ketosis
Today we have our good friend and colleague Dr. Dominic D’Agostino returning for his third appearance on STEM-Talk. Dom, as most of our longtime listeners know, is well-known for his research into the ketogenic diet and the physiological benefits of nutritional ketosis. Since our last conversation with Dom in 2019, a tremendous body of research has been added to the literature about the therapeutic potential of ketosis. The high-fat, low-carb ketogenic diet has been linked to advances in the treatment of Alzheimer’s, cancer, migraines, type-2 diabetes, psoriasis, sleep apnea, psychiatric disorders, traumatic brain injuries as well as a host of other diseases and disorders, which we cover in today’s interview.
In episode 14 of STEM-Talk, we talked to Dom about his development and testing of metabolic therapies involving the ketogenic diet for a wide range of diseases and conditions. In episode 87, Dom returned to reflect on his 10 years of research focused on the high-fat/low-carbohydrate diet.
In today’s interview, we talk to Dom about this latest work as well as his extensive research on hyperbaric oxygen. Dom is a tenured Associate Professor in the Department of Molecular Pharmacology and Physiology at the University of South Florida Morsani. He specializes in neuroscience, molecular pharmacology, nutrition, and physiology. Dom also is our colleague and a research scientist here at the IHMC.
[00:02:50] Dawn opens the interview mentioning Dom’s recent IHMC Evening Lecture, in which he mentions the film “First Do No Harm” starring Meryl Streep. The film is based on the true story of a four-year-old boy diagnosed with severe epilepsy, whose extreme seizures continued despite extensive medical treatments. The boy’s mother reached to Dr. John Freeman, a physician who had successfully treated patients with a ketogenic diet. Dawn asks Dom to give some context about this fictional film based on a true story.
[00:05:05] Dawn asks Dom to discuss the many evidence-based applications of the ketogenic diet that he highlighted in his IHMC evening lecture.
[00:07:11] Ken asks Dom about another story involving Russell Winwood, a man with severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, also known as COPD. Russell reached out to Dom with respect to treating his COPD with a ketogenic diet.
[00:11:21] Ken asks if Russell only engaged in the ketogenic diet or if also used exogenous ketones.
[00:12:10] Ken mentions that the ketogenic diet has the broad potential to be an anti-inflammatory diet. Ken goes on to mention that COPD is an inflammatory disease. As Dom’s case report suggested, Ken wonders if the ketogenic diet has the potential to have strong therapeutic effects for other inflammatory conditions as well. Ken asks what other conditions Dom thinks might benefit from therapeutic ketosis.
[00:14:02] Dawn mentions that Dom has been busy since his last appearance on STEM-Talk, having authored or collaborated on more than 40 papers, one of which garnered a lot of attention and was published in Frontiers in Neuroscience. This paper investigated whether therapeutic ketosis via ketone esters could represent a viable way to treat epilepsy and other seizure disorders. Dawn asks Dom to elaborate on this paper’s findings and their significance.
[00:16:26] Ken mentions that those listeners who are unfamiliar with ketone esters may want to check out our interview with Dr. Brianna Stubbs. Ken asks Dom to give a quick primer on ketone esters and why so many researchers in the field are excited about their potential.
[00:19:20] Ken mentions that in addition to ketone salts and ketone esters, there are other product formulations out now, like the one from a company called Kenetik. Ken asks Dom what he thinks about this formulation.
[00:23:33] Dawn mentions that Dom has had a number of animal studies published since 2019 looking at ketone induced neuroprotection and asks Dom to give an overview of some of this...
Episode 152: Mark Shelhamer talks about the effects of spaceflight on humans and NASA’s Planned Mars Mission
Today we have the former chief scientist of NASA’s Human Research Program, Dr. Mark Shelhamer. Mark specializes in neurovestibular adaptation to spaceflight.
He is an otolaryngology professor at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and the director of the school’s Human Spaceflight Lab. He also the director and founder of the Bioastronautics at Hopkins initiative.
In addition to his work with NASA, Mark is an advisor to the commercial and consumer spaceflight industry. In today’s interview, we talk to Mark about some of this work, as well as the research he conducted on the first all-civilian crew that successfully orbited the Earth for three days in a SpaceX capsule.
We mostly talk to Mark, however, about how the harsh conditions of space imperil humans. We have a fascinating discussion about Mark’s role in NASA’s planned human mission to Mars and how he is investigating ways to maintain the health and performance of astronauts on such a long-duration spaceflight. We also discuss how the lessons Mark is learning about how the lessons of human spaceflight can be applied to healthcare on Earth.
[00:02:42] Dawn starts the interview mentioning that Mark grew up in Philadelphia in the ‘70s. She asks Mark what he was like as a kid.
[00:03:32] Dawn asks if it is true that Mark played drums in a band in school.
[00:03:54] Ken asks Mark to talk about an uncle who was key in fostering Mark’s interest in math and science.
[00:05:31] Ken mentions that Mark was only 10 years old when he took up an interest in electronics and asks what sparked that and what electronics he specifically found interesting.
[00:08:14] Dawn mentions that Mark attended Drexel University and initially wanted to become an electrical engineer but changed his mind somewhere along the way. Dawn asks what caused this shift.
[00:10:20] Ken asks Mark why he selected to attend MIT after Drexel.
[00:13:52] Ken asks Mark how he ended up at Johns Hopkins after finishing his studies at MIT.
[00:15:52] Dawn mentions that when Mark arrived at Johns Hopkins as a postdoc fellow in 1990, he continued the research he had been doing at MIT on sensory motor physiology and modeling, including astronaut adaptation to space flight. Dawn asks Mark to give an overview of this research as well as how he tracked back into studying astronauts.
[00:17:15] Ken mentions Mark’s 2007 book “Nonlinear Dynamics in Physiology: A State-Space Approach,” which provides mathematical-computational tools for analyzing experimental data. Ken asks Mark to talk about the book and its goals.
[00:20:43] Ken mentions that Mark has done quite a bit of research into motion sickness and vestibular issues, and asks about his more recent work on Space Motion Sickness.
[00:24:53] Dawn explains that on Mark’s Wikipedia page, there’s a reference to his pioneering work on a multidisciplinary approach to human space flight research. She asks Mark to give an overview of this work.
[00:29:17] Dawn explains that spaceflight has widespread effects on many different body systems at the same time, and that Mark has been an advocate for developing approaches to examining all these interactions in a rigorous way. Dawn asks if Mark feels that we should be taking this rigorous multidisciplinary approach and applying it to terrestrial medicine as well.
[00:34:08] Ken asks Mark to talk about some of the progress he has made in convincing certain groups that they need to embrace a multidisciplinary approach to their research.
[00:38:37] Dawn mentions that getting people, especially groups, to change their approach to research can be a daunting task. She goes on to mention that Mark has been quoted as saying “If there’s one thing I’m known for, it’s banging my head against the wall trying to convince people to do integrative research.” Dawn asks Mark how many scars he has on his forehead from these efforts.
[00:43:00] Dawn asks Mark to talk about his informal experti...
One Pod to rule them all
This is a high quality podcast in that bright curious hosts interview the top minds in science and research regarding human performance and making a brighter future. They find ways to make STEM interesting to everyone and you see the personal side of the researcher. I am always impressed w the top level science that is underway and how much it applies to every aspect of our lives. The multidisciplinary nature of this high end work often provides consilience to much of my studies in medicine and wellness, but could serve to better inform any professional. Listening is like grand rounds for the sciences.
Great podcast even for science dummies
I have an MFA in glass sculpture, in other words zero science background. This podcast is amazing even for lay person without an iota of science or math like me. The interviews on cutting edge research is refreshingly knowledge based and listening to the nuanced discussions give me an opening to comprehend these important topics, like how exercise really does affect aging. No gimmicks, no sales, im not prompted to think the presenters are attractive, (not that they arent, lol!). Ok n depth discussion of what people who work incredibly hard can discover, and the implications for the rest of us who are
concerned about living a long healthy life, or just curious.
I've learned so much from Stem-Talk. I especially appreciate how nutrition science is presented as a science and not as a religion. After listening to the episodes on exogenous ketone esters, your guests so piqued my interest that I am now in a human trial investigating their safety in subjects over 65 years old.