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MTS23 - Jo Handelsman - The Science of Bug Guts


Jo Handelsman is a professor at the University of Wisconsin, where she’s a member of the Department of Plant Pathology and chair of the Department of Bacteriology. Dr. Handelsman’s research focuses on microbial communities – their composition, how they’re structured, and how they work. Thanks to her work to improve the quality of undergraduate education, Dr. Handelsman is this year’s recipient of the American Society for Microbiology’s Carski Foundation Undergraduate Teaching Award.

Dr. Handelsman has been at the cutting edge of microbial science for years. After a long time spent studying the teeming communities of microorganisms that dwell in soil, Handelsman has pared down her focus to some arguably simpler neighborhoods: the guts of insects. Handelsman applies molecular methods to identify the strains and genes present in bug guts and combines this knowledge with other information about these environments to learn what these communities might be doing.

Handelsman also takes a particular interest in science education, and along with her colleagues Sarah Miller and Christine Pfund, she recently co-authored Scientific Teaching, a book that outlines a dynamic research- and results-driven approach to teaching college-level science.

In Dr. Merry Buckley's interview with Dr. Handelsman, they discuss about why microbiologists have a responsibility to educate almost everyone, why bacterial communities in the guts of gypsy moths might need genes for antibiotic resistance, and why and how bacteria inside of insects communicate. They also talk about the underrepresentation of women in academic research appointments and about how universities need to change to make these jobs both more available and attractive for all those brainy women who won’t (or can’t) make the jump from graduate school to academic research.

To listen, click the play button below. You can subscribe for free to Dr. Merry Buckley's Meet the Scientist podcast via iTunes, through the RSS feed with a podcast aggregator or feed reader, or by email alert.

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Direct Download:   MTS23


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