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Audio Interviews

MTS64 - Martin Blaser - Save Our Endangered Germs

In this podcast, I speak to Martin Blaser, Frederick H. King Professor of Internal Medicine and Chairman of the Department of Medicine and Professor of Microbiology at the New York School of Medicine.

Blaser studies Helicobacter pylori, bacteria that live in the stomachs of billions of people. Blaser has shown that H. pylori has a strange double life inside of us. On the one hand, it can cause ulcers and gastric cancer. On the other hand, it can protect us from diseases of the esophagus, allergies, asthma, and perhaps even obesity.

We're now eradicating H. pylori with antibiotics and other luxuries of modern life; Blaser thinks we ought to bring it back--but keep it on a tight leash.

Additional Reading:

Download the interview: mp3 (39 min | 35.5 megs)

MTS63 - Jeff Gralnick - I Sing the Microbe Electric

All life hums with electricity, from our heartbeats to the electrons that flow to the oxygen we breathe. But some bacteria are electricians par excellence, generating electric currents in the soil and water.

In this podcast, I talk to microbe-electricity expert Jeff Gralnick of the University of Minnesota about the biology behind these currents, and how engineers may be able to harness it to power technology.

Additional Reading:

Download the interview: mp3 (28 min | 26 megs)

MTS62 - Jessica Green - The Living Air

In this podcast I talk to Jessica Green of the University of Oregon about aerobiology: the science of life in the air.

We live in an invisible ocean of life, with millions of microbes swarming around us. Microbes can live many miles high in the upper atmosphere, and they may actually be able to feed and grow in clouds. Green and I talk not just about high-altitude aerobiology, but about the microbes we share our homes and offices with, and how better understanding them can help our health.

Additional Reading:

Download the interview: mp3 (36 min | 33 megs)

 

MTS61 - Charles Bamforth - Beer: Eight Thousand Years of Biotechnology

In this podcast, I talk to Charles Bamforth of the University of California, Davis, about the surprisingly complex chemistry of beer, and the pivotal role microbes play in making it happen.

Dr. Bamforth is the Anheuser-Busch Edowed Professor, selected after an international search, specializing in the science of malting and brewing. His current research program focuses primarily on the wholesomeness of beer, including studies on the psychophysics of beer perception, on polyphenols and on the residues from non-starchy polysaccharide digestion that constitute soluble fiber and potential prebiotics in beer. Research in the laboratory also embraces the enzymology of the brewing process, foam stability, preventing oxidation in wort and beer and alternative paradigms for beer production.

Beer: Tap into the Art and Science of Brewing- Charles Bamforth (Author)

Download the interview: mp3 (39.5 min | 36 megs)

MTS60 - Thomas Scott - The Bone-Breaking Virus

In this podcast I talk to Thomas Scott of the University of California, Davis, about dengue fever, a disease that's on the rise.

Spread by mosquitoes, it can make you feel as if your bones are broken and leave you exhausted for months. In more serious cases, people suffer uncontrollable bleeding and sometimes die. Dengue is expanding its range, and is even making incursions into the United States. Scott and I talk about what scientists know and don't know yet about dengue, and what the best strategy will be to drive the virus down.

Download the interview: mp3 (29.5 min | 27 megs)

MTS59 - Charles Ofria - Digital Life

In this podcast I talk to Charles Ofria, a computer scientist at Michigan State University.

Ofria and his colleagues have created a program called Avida in which digital organisms can multiply and evolve. They are studying many of evolution's deepest questions, such as how complexity evolves from simplicity and why individuals make sacrifices for each other. The evolution unfolding in Avida is also yielded new software that can run robots and sensors in the real world.

Additional Resources:

  • Avida Digital Life Platform
  • Beacon Bio/computational Evolution in Action CONsortium.

Download the interview: mp3 (45.5 min | 41.5 megs)

Read more: MTS59 - Charles Ofria - Digital Life

MTS58 - David Baker - Crowdsourcing Biology

In this podcast I spoke to David Baker, a professor of biochemistry at the University of Washington. Baker and his colleagues study how proteins fold, taking on the complex shapes that make our lives possible.

It turns out that protein folding is a fiendishly hard problem to solve, and even the  most sophisticated computers do a poor job of solving it. So Baker and his colleagues have enlisted tens of thousands of people to play a protein-folding game called Foldit. I talked to David Baker about the discoveries they've made through crowdsourcing, and the challenges of getting 57,000 co-authors listed on a paper.

Additional Resources:

Download: mp3 (24 min | 22 megs)

MTS57 - Forest Rohwer - Curing the Corals

It never occurred to me that the human body and a coral reef have a lot in common--until I spoke to Forest Rohwer for this podcast.

Rohwer is a microbiologist at San Diego State University, and he studies how microbes make coral reefs both healthy and sick. Just as we are home to a vast number of microbes, coral reefs depend on their own invisible menagerie of algae and bacteria to get food, recycle waste, and fend off invaders. But as Rohwer writes in his new book, Coral Reefs in the Microbial Seas, we humans have thrown this delicate balance out of kilter, driving the spread of coral-killing microbes instead.

Coral Reefs in the Microbial Seas [Paperback] by Forest Rohwer and Merry Youle

Additional Reading:

Download: mp3 (24 min | 22 megs)

MTS56 - Susan Golden - Clocks for Life

In this podcast, I talk to Susan Golden, the co-director of the Center for Chronobiology at the University of California at San Diego.

We talked about Golden's research into time--in particular, how living things know what time it is. While you may have heard of our own "body clock" that tracks the 24-hour cycle of the day, it turns out that some bacteria can tell time, too. Golden has discovered how evolution has produced a molecular clock inside microbes far more elegant than any manmade timepiece.

Additional Reading:

 

Download: mp3 (28 min | 26 megs)

Human Circadian Clock Diagram in Cover Art by: Yassine Mrabet

MTS55 - Nancy Moran - The Incredible Shrinking Microbe

How many genes can a species lose and still stay alive? It turns out, bacteria can lose just about all of them!

In this podcast, I talk to Nancy Moran of Yale University about her fascinating work on the microbes that live inside insects such as aphids and cicadas. After millions of years, they have become stripped down creatures that are revealing some profound lessons about how superfluous most genes are--at least if you live inside a host

Recent Publications:

 

Download: mp3 (52 min | 42 megs)

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