Monday, August 10, 2009

Audio Entertainment

Sorry for the lack of blogging. (I'm starting to sound like The Least Interesting Man in the World!) I've been ramping up for my qualifying exam, which occurs this Thursday. After that I've got an intensive TA prep course and our program retreat to deal with, not to mention classes, teaching, working in the lab, and participating in a few student organization... but I do hope to step up the blogging as well.

In the meantime, I thought I'd share a few of my favorite science podcasts. Scientists spend many not-so-glamorous hours on boring, repetitive tasks. Whether you're photographing things with a microscope, quantifying cells, sectioning tissue, or just pipetting the same solutions into a hundred little tubes, it helps to have an mp3 player handy. When I tire of listening to "The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars" (okay, I never tire of it...), I put on some science talk. Then listening to my iPod becomes work-related, and I'm less tempted to yell "Wham, bam, thank you ma'am!" in the middle of the lab.

Many of your favorite science journals have podcasts nowadays. Nature Podcast summarizes top stories from the journal each week and offers other specialized audio programming as well (including my favorite, NeuroPod). Not to be outdone by Nature, Science has a weekly podcast of its own. Cell rounds out the big three, although those slackers only produce a new podcast once a month.

Science podcasts targeted to the general public include NPR's Science Friday and NPR: On Science podcasts. The Naked Scientists also covers a broad range of topics, including science experiments you can do at home, and answers to listeners' science questions.

For more neuroscience-specific discussion, I really love All in the Mind by Australia's ABC Radio National. They bring a human angle to stories about mental health, psychology, and neurology, often interviewing patients and their families as well as scientific experts. Finally, I recently discovered the Brain Science Podcast, which recently featured an hour-long interview with my first scientific mentor, Dr. Eve Marder. I've only listened to a few podcasts so far, but the host, Dr. Ginger Campbell, is great at getting the scientists she meets to talk about their lives and careers as well as the details of their research. For example, I really enjoyed hearing Eve discuss what it was like to be a female graduate student during the Vietnam War era (when the number of American women in science jumped suddenly, as men stopped being able to defer the draft for graduate school).

Once you download some of these great science podcasts, you probably won't even miss my lackluster blogging! I hope you enjoy them as much as I do, and I'll see you on the other side of this crazy August.

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