November 26, 2019
Dr. David Rabin is the chief innovation officer and co-founder of Apollo Neuroscience. He also is the co-inventor of Apollo, a wearable device designed to improve focus, sleep and access to meditative states by gently delivering layered vibrations to the skin. Dave is a board-certified psychiatrist and translational neuroscientist who for the past decade has been studying resilience and the impact of chronic stress on humans. He received his MD in medicine and Ph.D. in neuroscience from Albany Medical College in Albany, New York. He trained in psychiatry at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Dave also has organized the world’s largest controlled study of psychedelic medicines and is well-known for his research into MDMA and its potential to treat posttraumatic stress disorder along with other disorders.
November 5, 2019
Our guest today is Dr. Steven Austad who studies  virtually every aspect of aging. He is a distinguished professor and chair of the Department of Biology at the University of Alabama, Birmingham. In addition to being recognized for his aging and longevity research, Steve is also well-known for his background as a New York City cab driver, newspaper reporter and a lion trainer who then decided to become a biologist. His research today involves developing lifestyle and pharmacological approaches to improving and preserving human health. He is particularly focused on figuring out why different species age at different rates. Steve is the author of more than 190 scientific articles. His book, "Why We Age: What Science Is Discovering about the Body’s Journey Through Life," has been translated into nine languages. He also writes newspaper columns and has written for publications like Natural History magazine, Scientific American and International Wildlife.
October 15, 2019
Our guest today is Francesca Rossi,  who for the past three years has been an AI Ethics Global Leader at IBM Research as well as an IBM Distinguished Research Staff Member. Prior to her time at IBM, she was a professor of computer science at the University of Padova, Italy. Francesca’s AI research interests include constraint reasoning, preferences, multi-agent systems, computational social choice, and collective decision making. Much of her research today is focused on the future of artificial intelligence and the ethical issues surrounding the development and behavior of AI systems. She is a fellow of both the worldwide association of AI (AAAI) and of the European Association of AI. She also has been president of the International Joint Conference on AI and the editor in chief of the Journal of AI Research. Sitting in for Dawn during today’s interview is IHMC colleague Brent Venable, who recently was named the inaugural director of a new Ph.D. program in Intelligent Systems and Robotics that is a partnership between IHMC and the University of West Florida. Brent is a graduate of the University of Padova and had Francesca as her academic advisor.
September 24, 2019
Today we have part two of our interview with Dr. Dickson Despommier, a microbiologist and ecologist who is the emeritus professor of public and environmental health at Columbia University. Today’s episode focuses on vertical farming, a concept that Dick and his students came up with in 1999. When Dick’s book “Vertical Farms: Feeding the World in the 21st Century” came out in 2010, there were no vertical farms in the world. Today, there are vertical farms throughout the U.S. and around the globe. Part one of our interview, episode 95, covered Dick’s nearly 30 years of research into intracellular parasitism and his focus onTrichinella spiralis, one of the world’s largest intracellular parasites. Dick is the author of five books, including “People, Parasites and Plowshares.” His most recent book, “Waist Deep in Water,” is a memoir of his life-long love of fly fishing, a topic we had so much fun discussing with Dick that we touch on it in today’s episode as well as in part one of our interview with Dick.
September 11, 2019
Our guest today is Dr. Dickson Despommier, a microbiologist and ecologist who is the emeritus professor of Public and Environmental Heath at Columbia University.  Our conversation with Dick covered a variety of topics and ran so long that we divided his interview into two parts. Part one covers the nearly 30 years Dick spent conducting research on intracellular parasitism, especially Trichinella spiralis, one of the world’s largest intracellular parasites. Part two of our interview with Dick focuses on vertical farming. In 1999, Dick and his students came up with the idea of raising crops in tall buildings. When his book, “The Vertical Farm: Feeding the World in the 21stCentury,” came out in 2010, there were no vertical farms in the world. Today, there are commercial vertical farms not only throughout the United States, but also in Korea, Japan, China, England, Scotland, The Netherlands, France, Russia, Dubai, Canada and a host of other countries. Dick is the author of five books, including “People, Parasites and Plowshares.” His most recent book, “Waist Deep in Water,” is a memoir of his life-long love of fly fishing, a topic we had so much fun discussing that we touch on it in part one and part two of our interview with Dick.
August 27, 2019
Our guest today is Dr. John Newman, a geriatrician and researcher who is well-known for a 2017 study that found a ketogenic diet reduced the mid-life mortality of aging mice while also improving their memory and healthspan. John is an assistant professor at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging and a geriatrician in the Division of Geriatrics at the University of California, San Francisco. He also is a physician who works with older adults in the San Francisco VA Medical Center. At Buck, John studies the molecular details of how diet and fasting regulate the genes and pathways that control aging. He particularly focuses on the ketone body beta-hydroxybutyrate and how its molecular signaling activities involving epigenetics and inflammation regulate aging and memory in mice.
August 6, 2019
Our guest today is Dr. Emma Wilson, a researcher who has spent the past 15 years studying Toxoplasma gondii, a protozoan parasite that infects about a third of the world’s population. She is a native of Scotland and a professor of biomedical science at the University of California. Toxoplasma gondii is a single-celled organism found in all mammals. The primary focus of Emma’s research is the immune response in the brain following Toxoplasma gondii infection. Her 2016 research paper in the online journal PLOS Pathogens connected the Toxoplasma gondii to brain dysfunction.
July 16, 2019
Our guest today is Megan Roberts, a research scientist who conducted an interesting study that showeda ketogenic diet extended the longevity and healthspan of adult mice.  This study has been discussed in several earlier episodes of STEM-Talk. Megan conducted her research while earning a master’s degree in nutritional biology at the University of California, Davis. Today, she is the scientific director at Nourish Balance Thrive, an online health-coaching company where Megan helps people optimize their heath and performance.
July 2, 2019
Our guests today are Drs. Irina and Michael Conboy of the Department of Bioengineering at the University of California Berkeley. In their lab at Berkeley, the Conboys investigate the process of tissue repair in the body in an effort to determine why damaged tissues do not productively repair as the body ages. In today’s interview, you will hear the Conboys talk about their early research and a fascinating technique they pioneered called heterochronic parabiosis, where the couple took a young mouse and an older mouse and sutured them together so the animals blood and organs. The Conboys found that the older mouse benefited from this fusion, its aged stem cells becoming rejuvenated and its muscle tissues becoming functionally younger. Since then, the Conboys’ follow-up research has provided fascinating insights into stem-cell niche engineering, tissue repair, and stem-cell aging and rejuvenation. In 2015, they published an important study showing that high levels of the protein TGF-β1 impaired the ability of stem cells to repair tissues. While their experiments also showed that giving old animals young blood appeared to have some benefit to old stem cells, the Conboys’ most recent work provides compelling evidence suggesting the more interesting benefits are instead produced by a dilution of harmful signals in old blood. The research coming out of the Conboy lab has profound implications in terms of postponing the onset of age-related diseases as well as the prevention of such degenerative conditions such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, osteoporosis and sarcopenia.
June 12, 2019
Ken and Dawn return in today’s podcast to answer more listener questions. Back at the beginning year, Ken and Dawn hosted their first Ask Me Anything episode. In that episode, they promised not to wait another three years and 83 episodes before once again addressing listeners’ questions. A steady stream of new questions have poured in since that first Ask Me Anything episode. Today, Ken and Dawn take turns answering questions about exogenous ketones, daily allowances of protein, healthy fats, black holes, long-duration space flights, decompression sickness, the future of AI, sloppy science, and much, much more.
May 21, 2019
Our guest today is Dr. Robert Epstein, a psychologist, professor and journalist who is the former editor of Psychology Today.Robert is currently a co-founder and the senior research psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology in Vista, California. He has had a distinguished career as a scientist and journalist researching and writing about advances in mental health, the behavioral sciences, and, most recently, the invisible influence that technology companies have on consumer and political behavior.Robert is the author of 15 books and has written more than 300 scientific and popular articles. He is the founder of the Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies. He became well known early in his career for his work on creativity. Since then, he has conducted research on a diverse range of topics such as adolescent-and-adult competency, arranged marriages, sexual orientation, self-control and voter manipulation. He also has also developed a number of unique online competency tests which are annually taken by more than a million people.
May 7, 2019
Our guest today is Dr. Duane Mitchell, the Phyllis Kottler Friedman Professor in the Department of Neurosurgery at the University of Florida College of Medicine.He’s also the co-director of the university’s Preston A. Wells Jr. Center for Brain Tumor Therapy and Director of the Brain Tumor Immunotherapy Program.Duane and Dawn have been friends since their days at Duke University where they served on the Institutional Review Board together. Duane got his medical degree and doctorate at Duke and then joined the faculty, where he spent the next decade before moving to the University of Florida in 2013.Duane and his team at Florida are among the world leaders in the uphill battle to find ways to treat glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer that affects about 13,000 Americans annually. It’s the disease that recently took the life of Senator John McCain.  People who are diagnosed with glioblastoma typically live for less than two years.
April 23, 2019
Dr. Dominic D’Agostino returns to STEM-Talk to give Ken and Dawn an update on his research into ketogenic nutrition. Dom was the guest on episode 14 back in 2016 when ketogenic diets didn’t even show up on a list of the top-10 diets that people Googled. Since then, the search term “ketogenic diet” has risen to the top of the list.In today’s episode, Dom talks about his past 10 years of research into ketogenic diets and what he is learning about the physiological benefits of nutritional ketosis.Dom is tenured associate professor in the Department of Molecular Pharmacology and Physiology at the University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine.He also is a research scientist here at IHMC.Throughout his career, Dom has been a researcher with a diverse background in neuroscience, molecular pharmacology, nutrition and physiology.
April 9, 2019
Our guest today is Dr. Matt Johnson, another colleague who works with Ken and Dawn at IHMC. Matt is a research scientist who joined the institute in 2002 after a 20-year career as Naval aviator. He focuses on human-machine teaming as it relates to technologies such as robotics, software agents and autonomous vehicles. These technologies are used in military responses and help first responders with disaster responses. They are used in space and aviation work as well.  He also is part of an IHMC team developing humanoid behaviors and advanced interface concepts that will enable Boston Dynamics’ Atlas robot and NASA’s Valkyrie robot to do complex work. Matt was in the news recently for a project he’s doing with the police department here in Pensacola.  He’s leading a team to develop specialized drones that police officers will be able to use in a number of areas ranging from search and rescue operations to disaster response. AI Magazineis running an article in its spring issue that Matt co-wrote with Alonso H. Vera, the chief of the Human Systems Integration Division at NASA Ames Research Center.  Titled,“No AI Is An Island: The Case For Teaming Intelligence,”the article argues that artificial intelligence will only reach its full potential if it has enough teaming intelligence to work well with humans. Show notes: [00:02:52] Matt begins by discussing his upbringing in Long Island, New York, and his unusual family dynamics. [00:03:25] Dawn asks what lead Matt to attend the University of Notre Dame in Indiana and work on undergraduate degree in aerospace engineering. [00:03:59] Ken brings up that after obtaining his undergraduate degree, Matt went into the Navy as an aviator, and asks what motivated that transition. [00:04:44] Matt explains how he ended up at Texas A&M in Corpus Christi where he obtained his master’s degree in computer science. [00:05:45] Matt talks about his transition out of the Navy and how he came to live in Pensacola and work at IHMC. [00:07:02] Matt touches on how after a few years at IHMC, he began working on his Ph.D. through Delft University in the Netherlands. [00:10:03] Ken mentions that Matt’s research focuses on making technology more flexible and resilient through human-machine teamwork. He asks Matt to define what he means by human-machine teamwork. [00:11:51] Dawn brings up that Matt’s human-machine teamwork endeavors have led to a number of different projects in various fields, one of which is a partnership with the Pensacola Police Department to develop specialized drones for police use in a number of operations including search and rescue and disaster response. [00:14:05] Matt discusses his ongoing project to help develop humanoid behaviors and advanced interface concepts for robots. [00:15:53] Ken asks Matt to talk about an article Matt has with Alonso Vera of NASA Ames that’s appearing in the spring issue of AI Magazine. [00:17:03] Dawn talks about how machine intelligence is making inroads into our everyday world, citing a few examples such as self-driving cars and digital assistants like Siri and Alexa. Dawn asks Matt if he can use self-driving cars as a way to explain the gaps and challenges that intelligent technologies still face. [00:18:52] Matt talks about how humans are still far better at driving cars and that the technology for self-driving cars still has a long way to go before matching the safety record of humans. [00:20:11] Dawn describes how Elon Musk told a grou...
March 26, 2019
Today’s guest is Dr. David Geary, a cognitive developmental scientist whose wide-ranging interests are particularly focused on evolutionary psychology, sex differences and children’s mathematical development.He is a Curators' Distinguished Professor and a Thomas Jefferson Fellow in the Department of Psychological Sciences and Interdisciplinary Neuroscience Program at the University of Missouri Columbia.David’s book, “Male, Female: The Evolution of Human Sex Differences,” has been described as a landmark text that provides a comprehensive evolutionary model to explain sex differences. His research on children’s mathematical development resulted in a MERIT award from the National Institutes of Health. In addition to authoring four books, he has published more than 300 articles and chapters across a diverse range of topics.David has served as a member of the President’s National Mathematics Advisory Panel and was appointed by President George W. Bush to the National Board of Directors for the Institute for Education Sciences.
March 12, 2019
Today’s guest is Joe Gomes, the former head strength and conditioning coach for the NFL’s Oakland Raiders, who today is  IHMC’s new High Performance Director. Joe came to IHMC a little more than a year ago to be part of a new biological team that is searching for innovative ways to extend the capabilities and resilience of high-performing humans who operate in extreme environments. In today’s interview, you’ll hear Joe talk about a number of projects he’s working on, including his work with IHMC’s engineers and NASA to develop an exercise machine for long-duration space missions. Joe was with the Raiders for the 2016 season when Oakland won 12 games and went to the playoffs for the first time in 14 years. Although Joe has spent most of his career helping professional and amateur athletes, he also spent five years in North Carolina as a senior advisor and performance director for the United States Army Special Operations Command.
February 19, 2019
It has only taken us nearly three years to get around to it, but we’re finally doing our first “Ask Me Anything” episode. It’s hard to believe, but Ken and Dawn sat down to interview their first STEM-Talk guest back in 2016. And during that time, listeners have been emailing us questions. So, in this episode, Dawn and Ken will be asking each other questions that listeners have directed their way. The show turned out to be a lot of fun and the chairman of the double-secret selection committee who chooses all the guests who appear on STEM-talk promises not to wait three years before getting around to do another Ask Me Anything episode. If you want to check out Kenand Dawn’sbios before you listen to today’s show, be sure to click on the links above,  which will take you to their profile pages at Also, links to papers mentioned in this episode can be found at the bottom of the show notes.
February 5, 2019
Our guest today Dr. Stuart Phillips, a professor of kinesiology at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, who is best known for his research into muscle health and the benefits of dietary protein. Stu is the director of the McMaster Physical Activity Centre of Excellence, a state-of-the-art exercise research and training center. It is devoted to studying and improving the health and well-being of older adults as well as people with chronic diseases and disabilities. In addition to his work in the kinesiology department at McMaster, Stu is adjunct professor in the university’s School of Medicine. He is a fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine and the American College of Nutrition. He received the New Investigator Award from the Canadian Institutes for Health Research, the Ontario Premier's Research Excellence Award, and the Young Investigator Award from Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology.  In today’s interview we discuss:  [00:08:19] Dawn introduces the importance of dietary protein and its role in muscle health, and tissue regeneration more generally, which makes it one of the only macro nutrients we need on a daily basis. [00:10:59] A recent study (2017) showed that whole eggs promoted a greater amount of muscle protein synthesis than egg whites, suggesting that there may be benefits to the extra nutrients found in the egg yolk. [00:12:53] Why Stu believes the recommended daily allowance for protein is too low. [00:14:06] The differences between animal and plant-based protein. [00:16:31] The phenomenon of muscle synthesis (anabolism) and catabolism. [00:17:54] Highlights of the recent findings coming out of Kevin Tipton’s group which indicates that the dose-response relationship may depend on the amount of muscle tissue that was recruited during exercise, with the ingestion of 40 g protein further increasing muscle protein. [00:20:43]A 2013 paper from Stu’s group titled, “Dose-dependent responses of myofibrillar protein synthesis with beef ingestion are enhanced with resistance exercise in middle-aged men.” [00:27:52] Stu’s thoughts on the recommendation of pre-sleep protein feeding. [00:37:52] An overview of the Physical Activity Centre of Excellence, a state-of-the-art, exercise research and training lab at McMaster. [00:43:37] The importance of maintaining healthy functional muscle mass and function as we move into middle and later life. [00:46:56] Stu’s paper,  “Muscle Disuse as a Pivotal Problem in Sarcopenia-Related Muscle Loss and Dysfunction.” [00:50:25] The need to add more protein to our diets as we get older, which is something that Dr. Valter Longo discussed on episode 64 of STEM-Talk. [00:56:24 How fasting affects muscle protein turnover, which were topics covered in episode 7 of STEM-Talk, an interview with Mark Mattson, and episode 79, which was an interview with Satchin Panda, author of the “The Circadian Code.” [00:57:32] Whether a ketogenic diet with sufficient protein would in any way be detrimental to muscle mass. [01:05:47] Stu’s thoughts on a study that was conducted on behalf of the American College of Sports Medicine that found supplementation with HMB failed to enhance body composition to a greater extent than a placebo.
January 22, 2019
Our guest today is Dr. Charles Brenner, the Roy J. Carver Chair of Biochemistry at the University of Iowa. Charles is one of the world’s leading experts on nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, commonly referred to as NAD, which is an essential molecule found in every living cell.  In 2004, he discovered the nicotinamide riboside kinase pathway, which leads to a special form of vitamin B3. We talk to Charles about his research into NAD and why he believes supplementation with NR could help people age better. In addition to his work at the University of Iowa, he is also the chief scientific advisor for ChromaDex,which markets the NR supplement Tru Niagen. In today’s interview, we cover: [00:06:29] How Charles became the first cancer biology graduate student in the biology department at Stanford University. [00:07:51] Charles’ research into nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) during his time on the faculty at Thomas Jefferson University. [00:09:15] Charles’ discovery that nicotinamide riboside (NR) is a precursor of NAD. [00:19:47] Why Charles doesn’t use the term “anti-aging.” [00:25:52] The importance of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADPH) and its role as the central regulator of reactive oxygen species toxicity. [00:34:56] The circadian rhythms of NAD and the potential benefit of diurnal dosing. [00:38:45] Why skeletal muscle is one of the most sensitive target tissues for the anti-aging effects of NMN. [00:45:42] How the benefits of a ketogenic diet, intermittent fasting, time restricted eating could be related to NAD. [00:47:02] A recent human trial conducted by the University of Coloradothat found Niagen increased NAD+ by 60 percent in healthy middle-aged and older adults after just six weeks. [00:49:19] The optimal dose of NR for humans.
January 1, 2019
Our guest today is Dr. Butler Hine, the Flight Project Manager and Chief Technologist for Engineering at the NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California. Butler is also a senior research scientist and a colleague of Ken and Dawn at IHMC. Butler is currently the project manager for NASA’s Arcus mission, which is an X-ray observatory that has a possible launch date of 2023. The mission will include a high-resolution X-ray grating spectrometer that will study the hot gas that is the dominant component of the normal matter in the Universe, much of which has not yet been directly seen. In today’s interview, we discuss: [00:03:57] How Butler became interested in astronomy and started building telescopes as a youth. [00:08:37] How Butler wound up managing the robotics lab at NASA. [00:11:55] The challenges of trying to change the thinking of the science community about ways to adapt technology to science. [00:17:34] Artificial intelligence and data mining. [00:26:59] The Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer mission, also known as LADEE. [00:30:07] The concept of modularity in spacecraft design. [00:41:58] The scientific goals of NASA’s Arcus mission, which Butler is currently managing. [00:45:58 The complexity of developing a robotic platform for space or lunar exploration [00:51:24] The future of robotic space exploration.
December 18, 2018
Dr. Satchin Panda is a professor and researcher at the Salk Institutewho has become recognized as one of the world’s leading experts on circadian rhythm. In today’s wide-ranging interview, he discusses how the body’s natural day-night cycle can help us improve our health, get a better night’s sleep and lose weight. He also shares how adopting a lifestyle that is aligned with the body’s natural internal clock can even help us prevent and reverse disease. Satchin also has been generating significant attention for his research into the health benefits of time-restricted eating. He is the author of “The Circadian Code”and in today’s interview he shares how listeners can become involved in a research project he and his colleagues are conducting through a smartphone app called My Circadian Clock. In addition to his work at the Salk Institute, Satchin is also a founding executive member of the Center for Circadian Biology at the University of California, San Diego.  Key topics covered in today’s interview include: [00:03:46] How a rapidly evolving modern society disrupts the interconnectedness of our biological rhythms. [00:13:41] How Satchin became interested in circadian rhythms and metabolism. [00:17:11] Satchin’s first mouse study on time-restricting feeding, which so surprised him that he ended up repeating the study three times. [00:21:37] The role of ketosis in time-restricted eating, particularly in regard to weight loss and potential health benefits. [00:25:01] Whether having black coffee signals the beginning of a person’s eating window. [00:27:31] The potential use of caffeine to treat jet lag induced by international time-zone travel. [00:29:31] Satchin’s mouse studies that looked at obesity and type-2 diabetes. [00:30:58] The dangers of shift work and the importance of sleep. [00:45:39] Satchin talks about the importance of darkness when it comes to sleep and our circadian rhythms. [00:48:42] Satchin’s 2017 paper in Aging Research Reviews titled “ Circadian rhythms, time-restricted feeding, and healthy aging.“ [00:51:59] Satchin’s recent paper in Cell Metabolism, “Time-Restricted Feeding Prevents Obesity and Metabolic Syndrome in Mice Lacking a Circadian Clock.” [01:00:19] The role of diet in people who lost weight during time-restricted feeding. [01:06:30] “My Circadian Clock,”an app Satchin and his lab at Salk Institute have developed. [01:20:02] Satchin discusses how he convinced his mother to try time-restricted eating. [01:25:32] What Satchin’s diet and eating window looks like on a typical day.
December 5, 2018
Today’s interview is with IHMC Research Scientist Dr. Jeff Phillips. Jeff joined IHMC a year ago after spending six years as a research psychologist at the Naval Medical Research Unit in Dayton, Ohio. He worked almost exclusively on hypoxia in tactical aviation and was part of team that was instrumental in getting the F-22 Raptors back into operation after a series of hypoxia-related episodes among jet pilots. In 2012, Jeff won the Dolores Etter Award, which the Department of Navy annually awards to its top performing scientists and engineers. Jeff is a University of Alabama graduate who earned his Ph.D. in experimental psychology. At IHMC, he works on research that ranges from physical and cognitive performance in extreme conditions to the role that ketone esters can play in protecting special operators from hypoxia, fatigue and other issues. Because Dawn Kernagis was in London giving a presentation when we conducted our interview with Jeff, IHMC Senior Researcher Jon Clark joined Ken Ford to co-host the episode. In today’s episode, we discuss: [00:15:45] Jeff’s participation on a team that investigated hypoxia-like episodes F-22 pilots in the Air Force were having. [00:17:02] The problems with aircraft oxygen systems (OBOGs) and the related physiologic episodes (PE) that extend beyond the F-22 to virtually all frontline tactical jet aircraft. [00:18:19] The physiological effects of hypoxia on the brain and the associated cognitive and perceptual performance deficits. [00:19:54] The most promising technologies for detecting a hypoxia event. [00:29:10] The challenge of understanding what may be a multifaceted phenomenon like OBOGS-related PE events. [00:32:30] Studies that have shown pure oxygen in the lungs causes the alveolar cells to collapse. [00:37:10] The possibility that increased breathing (hyperventilation) may be occurring in aircrew involved in PE events who develop rapid onset hypoxia-like symptoms. [00:48:36] The role that mindfulness plays in elite performance as well as day-to-day life.
November 20, 2018
Our guest today is Dr. John Ioannidis, a Stanford professor who has been described by “BMJ” as “the scourge of sloppy science.” Atlantic magazine has gone so far as to refer to him as one of the world’s most influential scientists. John is renowned for his 2005 paper, “Why Most Published Research Findings Are False,” which has been viewed more than 2.5 million times and is the most citied article in the history of the journal PLoS Medicine. He has authored nearly a thousand academic papers and has served on the editorial board of 30 top-tier journals. At Stanford, John is a professor of medicine, of health research and policy, and of biomedical data science in the school of medicine as well as a professor of statistics in the school of humanities and sciences. He is the co-director of the university’s Meta-Research Innovation Center and the former director of the Stanford Prevention Research Center. In today’s wide-ranging interview, John talks about: [00:07:43] What led him to begin questioning the reliability of medical research during his residency at Harvard. [00:12:03] His 2005 paper, “Why Most Published Research Findings Are False.” [00:26:27] How a major issue facing science is a lack of replication. [00:30:51] Which studies are worse, nutritional studies or drug studies. [00:38:25] If it’s possible to remove sampling biases like the healthy user bias. [00:46:50] The need for scientists to disclose their personal dietary biases as well as their personal diets when publishing research findings. [00:52:40] His recent paper, “Evidence Based Medicine Has Been Hijacked,” which argues that vested interests have transformed clinical medicine into something that resembles finance-based medicine. [00:55:36] The impact that funding pressure is having on the veracity of research being done today.   [01:08:42] The need for future research to be designed by scientists without vested interests. [01:14:58] The ways John would fix the system if he had magic wand. [01:18:42] And as a bonus, John reads an excerpt from his latest book.
November 8, 2018
Today’s episode features Dr. Dava Newman, the first female engineer to serve as NASA’s deputy administrator. Dava  is currently the Apollo Professor of Astronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. For more than 20 years, she has worked passionately to figure out what it will take to put humans on Mars. She is perhaps best known, however, for developing a next-generation spacesuit called the BioSuit, a slim-fitting compression suit that’s designed to make it easier for astronauts to move around on lunar surfaces. Dava joined the faculty at MIT in 1993 and served as NASA’s deputy administrator from 2015 to 2017. She also is on the faculty of the Harvard–MIT Health, Sciences, and Technology department. As the director of MIT’s Technology and Policy Program from 2003 to 2015, she led the institute’s largest multidisciplinary graduate research program with more 1,200 alumni. She is the author of “Interactive Aerospace Engineering and Design,” an introductory engineering textbook, and has published more than 300 papers. Links to Dava’s book, papers and bio, as well as videos of the BioSuit, are included at the bottom of the show notes. In today’s interview with Dava, we discuss: [00:03:01] Her memories of watching the Apollo Moon landings as a child. [00:06:36] How Dava made the Notre Dame women’s varsity basketball team as a walk-on. [00:09:49] Her work over the past 20 years to get people on Mars. [00:11:19] Dava’s thinking behind the design of a slim-fitting spacesuit. 00:15:12] The physiological monitoring systems she would like to see incorporated into next-generation spacesuits. [00:26:00] How she thought the call from the White House about the NASA position was a prank. [00:27:06] Dava’s takeaways from her four space missions to measure astronaut performance in microgravity. [00:28:41] Her transition back to MIT after her stint as NASA deputy administrator. [00:38:42] Dava’s advice for today’s young aspiring scientists and engineers, a group she says will become known as the Mars generation.
October 26, 2018
Today’s guest today is Rob Mueller, one of NASA’s senior technologists who is leading an effort to establish a base station on the Moon, and eventually Mars, as well as other destinations in the solar system. Rob is the senior technologist for the Advanced Projects Development at NASA Kennedy Space Center and a co-founder of Swamp Works, an innovation lab that has brought together NASA engineers, researchers and scientists to work on creating Spaceports across the solar system. As most of our listeners know, NASA has been working toward an eventual mission to Mars. But before venturing to Mars, NASA first plans to build a lunar base on the Moon. In announcing the agency’s decision to return to the Moon, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said that this time the agency isn’t interested in just leaving flags and footprints on the lunar surface. “This time when we go, we’re going to go to stay,” he said. As part of this mission, Rob’s work is particularly focused on ways to excavate and mine the resources of space so that astronauts and eventually others will be able to live off the land in space. In today’s interview, Rob talks about his nearly 30-year career with NASA as well as the future of space exploration. Topics we cover include: [00:12:40] In order to survive and thrive in space, we need to be able to build things in space. [00:14:51] Rob’s lab at NASA called Swamp Works. [00:18:44] Swamp Works’ goal of expanding civilization into the solar system. [00:20:33] The Regolith Advanced Surface Systems Operations Robot project. [00:24:59] How there are billions and billions of times the resources in outer space than here on Earth, and our potential to excavate these materials. [00:30:41] The Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway. [00:35:29] NASA’s decision to return to the Moon before venturing to Mars. [00:37:33] How new technologies being developed for Spaceflight could eventually have applications on Earth as well. [00:40:29] How to survive and thrive on the Moon and Mars, we will need to be able to build landing pads, habitats and roads. [00:49:03] A partnership Swamp Works has with Astrobotic to develop a micro-rover. [00:51:11] How the regolith of the Moon, Mars and other planets as well as asteroids contain valuable resources. [00:54:12] The future of space exploration. [00:57:16] How Rob responds to people who question the cost and relevance of going to the Moon and beyond. [01:02:13] And if people are a little less likely to take Rob’s phone call given that there’s a Robert Mueller in Washington who’s conducting a Russian investigation.
October 9, 2018
Today’s guest is a science journalist and author who has written extensively about the pharmaceutical industry. Robert Whitaker is also the founder of Mad in America, a nonprofit organization that focuses on getting people to rethink psychiatric care in the United States. As you will learn in today’s episode, one in six Americans takes a psychiatric drug. More than 130,000 children under the age of five are taking addictive anti-anxiety drugs prescribed by doctors. Whitaker has spent most of his career focused on changing the current drug-based paradigm of psychiatric care in the U.S. He has written three booksabout the pharmaceutical industry and the psychiatric profession. He has looked at how drugs used for depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia are causing a spike in America’s disability numbers. He also has investigated the history of medications prescribed for these disorders, how they are marketed, and why they’ve grown in popularity. Discover magazine named Whitaker’s first book, “Mad in America,”one of the best science books of 2002. His second book, “Anatomy of an Epidemic,”won the 2010 Investigative Reporters and Editors book award for best investigative journalism. His third book, “Psychiatry Under the Influence,”is a textbook used in university classrooms around the country. In today’s interview, we discuss: [00:11:08] When Robert first became disillusioned with the pharmaceutical industry [00:16:53] How Robert’s investigation into schizophrenia in the U.S. led him to write his first book,  “Mad In America.” [00:26:58] Why the U.S. has seen such a sharp increase in the number of disabled, mentally ill people since the advent of psychotropic medications. [00:45:10] How many drugs may have efficacy in clinical trials over the short term, but overwhelming evidence shows over the long term many medications actually increase a person’s risk of becoming chronically ill and functionally impaired. [01:00:43] Robert’s investigation into the FDA’s review of studies that looked at Prozac [01:03:38] Antidepressants and their side effects. [01:08:40] How concerns over ADHD have led to an alarming percentage of children, especially boys, being drugged for exhibiting what once considered normal or at least acceptable behavior. And much more.
September 25, 2018
Nearly 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease every year in the U.S. The disease is an incredibly complex disorder that affects more than 10 million people worldwide. Our guest today is Dr. Michael Okun, who is considered the world’s foremost authority on the treatment of Parkinson’s.He is the Adelaide Lackner Professor and Chair of Neurology at the University of Florida Health College of Medicine as well as the co-director of the university’s Fixel Center for Neurological Diseases. The center is known for its interdisciplinary faculty that provides a one-stop, patient-centered clinical research experience that attracts patients from around the world. Since 2006, Michael has been the National Medical Director for the Parkinson’s Foundation and works very closely with a wide range of organizations such as the Michael J. Fox Foundation. The American Society for Experimental Nuerotherapeutics recently awarded Michael the 2018 Presidential Award.  In 2015, he was recognized during a White House ceremony by the Obama administration as a “Champion for Parkinson’s Disease.” Michael also is an accomplished writer with more than 400 peer-reviewed articles and even a book of poetry. In today’s episode, we discuss: * [00:17:56]What Parkinson’s disease is and the wide range of symptoms that can arise as a result of the disease. * [00:29:19] How Parkinson’s disease is diagnosed since there is no specific test that can diagnose the disease. * [00:32:11] The common risk factors associated with neurodegenerative disease. * [00:38:20] The actor Alan Alda’s recent announcement that he has been living with Parkinson’s for more than a year. * [00:41:04] A UCSF study that looked at the prevalence of Parkinson’s among veterans who had experienced traumatic brain injury. * [00:46:32] Treatments that are available for Parkinson’s. * [00:55:57] The cognitive, behavioral and mood effects of deep-brain stimulation. * [01:17:11] The potential use of brain prosthetics or orthotics in patients with neurological disease. * [01:29:26] Whether Parkinson’s therapy is moving toward local, systemic or a combination of the therapies. * [01:31:48] The relationship between metabolism and nutrition and the progression of Parkinson’s disease. * And much more.  Show notes: [00:02:53] Michael begins the interview taking about growing up in West Palm Beach, Florida, and his love of baseball and collecting baseball cards. [00:03:39] After high school, Michael decided to attend Florida State University and focus on a liberal arts education. Dawn asks Michael if it’s safe to assume he wasn’t thinking about medical school when he started college. [00:04:53] Dawn asks Michael how a history major ultimately decides to become an MD. [00:06:18] Ken asks Michael to elaborate on a funny story about how he ended up going to the University of Florida for medical school. [00:10:10] Michael talks about how went to med school thinking he wanted to be a black-back family practitioner, but became so interested in neurology that he changed his mind. [00:13:06] Ken mentions that during Michael’s time at Florida, he became fascinated by what was going on in the brain of people who had tremors. Ken asks Michael if that is what led him to focus on Parkinson’s disease during his postdoc at Emory? [00:17:56] Even though most people are familiar with images of people like Michael J. Fox and Mohammed Ali who have tremors, most people aren’t aware that Parkinson’s has a wide range of symptoms, which makes it an incredibly complex disease. Michael gives an overview of Parkinson’s and the various symptoms that can arise as result of the disease.
September 11, 2018
Today’s episode features a timely interview with Google’s Director of Research, Peter Norvig.  He is also the co-author of “Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach,” which is in its third edition and is a leading AI textbook. In today’s interview, we talk to Peter about fake news, trolls, self-driving cars, killer robots, the future of artificial intelligence, and a lot more. We also talk to Peter about digital privacy. Tech companies such as Google, Facebook, Twitter and others have been facing heavy criticism recently over the way they handle people’s digital data. In May, Europe began enforcing a new law that restricts how people’s online data is obtained and used. In June, California passed a privacy law that requires tech and information companies to share how they’re collecting people’s data and how they’re sharing that information.  At the moment, Congress is considering a federal privacy law that also covers how personal digital data is handled. Ken and Peter have a history that goes back to their days at the NASA Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley. Ken was the center’s associate director at the time and recruited Peter to become the center’s chief of the Computational Sciences Division. In today’s episode, we discuss: How artificial intelligence has changed since the days when Peter first became a practicing AI professional. [00:19:20] How AI research is now increasingly driven by commercial interests rather than government grants. [00:23:39] What deep learning is and what the word “deep” means in this context. [00:27:48] The philosophical questions that surround AI, such as: “What does it mean to be intelligent?” and “Can a machine be conscious?” [00:36:58] Search function and privacy. [00:44:32] Google’s responsibility for the content posted on their platforms. [00:50:06] The problems that arise when tech companies police content. [00:51:17] Peter’s thoughts about a meeting Elon Musk had with U.S. governors where he urged them to adopt AI legislation before “robots start going down the street killing people.” [00:56:18] The meaning of “singularity” and whether Peter believes in it. [01:03:19] Peter’s advice for listeners who are interested in going to work for Google someday. [01:12:10]
August 28, 2018
Our guest today has been described by Forbes magazine as one of the “most disruptive, game-changing and innovating young personalities in science.” Dr. Elizabeth Nance is known for her passionate search to find ways to more efficiently connect resources and information across multiple scientific and engineering disciplines. Her research focuses on using nanotechnology to understand the movement of molecules in the brain. She is particularly focused on better ways to treat brain diseases like autism, stroke, traumatic brain injury and epilepsy. Elizabeth is the Clare Boothe Luce Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering at the University of Washington. She also has an adjunct appointment in the school’s radiology department. Elizabeth and her lab, the Nance Lab, recently was awarded a $1.8-million-dollar grant from the National Institutes of Health to develop quantitative, high resolution imaging and analysis platforms to understand nanoparticle behavior, with a specific focus on the brain. In today’s episode, we discuss: The pushback Elizabeth received in college when she tried to apply chemical engineering to neurological diseases. [00:11:33] How Elizabeth developed the first nanoparticles that could penetrate deep within the brain. [00:13:52] The many potential applications of nanoparticle technology in the treatment of neurological disorders, diseases and injuries. [00:17:10] The structure, and unique functions of the blood-brain barrier. [00:28:11] The dendrimer-NAC conjugates, and how they increase intracellular glutathione to reduce injury in the inflamed brain. [00:35:01] How “disease directing engineering” has the potential to allow for the leveraging of common hallmarks of neurological disease to better deliver therapies. [00:40:19] How change in brain metabolism affects targeted therapeutic deliveries to a specific region of the brain. [00:52:14]
August 14, 2018
Peter Attia, who was our very first guest on STEM-Talk, describes David Sabatini’s discovery of mTOR as one of his two favorite science stories. Today, Dr. David Sabatini joins us and gives us a first-hand account of how his research into rapamycin in 1994 as a graduate student led him to the discovery of mTOR, which we now know is a critical regulator of cellular growth. Our interview with David delves into his continuing research into mTOR, which has led to promising opportunities for the development of new treatments for debilitating diseases such as cancer, diabetes and neurological disorders. He also discusses mTOR’s role in healthspan and lifespan. David is a molecular cell biologist who, according to Reuters News Service, is on the short list for a Nobel Prize. David is on the faculty at MIT and heads up the Sabatini Lab at the Whitehead Institute. In today’s episode, we discuss: Rapamycin, a macrolide antibiotic discovered in the soil of Easter Island David’s discovery of mTOR while a grad student at Johns Hopkins mTOR’s role as one of the major growth pathways in the body mTOR’s role as a nutrient sensor How mTOR inhibiton has become one of the hottest topics in longevity research mTOR’s role in diseases, especially its connection to cancer The role of RAG GTPases as key mTOR mediators Protein intake and downstream mTOR activation Research into ketogenic diets effect on longevity and healthspan Whether David would take rapamycin as a means to enhance his longevity And much, much more
July 31, 2018
Dr. David LeMay is a sports medicine and rehabilitation physician who is a consultant for the NBA’s Washington Wizards, the NFL’s Oakland Raiders and the National Hockey League’s Washington Capitals, which won the Stanley Cup this year, their first in the franchise history. Dave is also a neighbor of ours in Pensacola who has a practice called Lifestyle and Performance Medicine that is located just a few blocks from IHMC. Dave and his practice partner provide personalized preventative care that helps people reduce the effects of stress on the body and mind to maximize function and health. In his practice, Dave works with a lot of athletes as well as retired and active military members, particularly people in special-ops, who have inflammation as a result of persistent injuries and traumas. Dave often recommends specialized pro-resolving mediators, also known as SPMs, which help promote the natural termination of the inflammation process and allow a person to avoid anti-inflammatory drugs. We will especially be talking with Dave about this rather new way of treatment in today’s interview. Some other topics we cover in Dave’s interview: Neuroendocrine dysfunction, especially among military veterans. The role of inflammation in concussions and traumatic brain injuries. Dave’s work with the NFL Players Association Trust. The role of specialized pro-resolving mediators in an aging population. The proper dosage of SPMs for subacute inflammation. Dave’s efforts to improve the diets of former NFL players. The key components of keeping athletes healthy through an entire season. The correlation between heath-rate variability and athletic performance. Proper sideline protocols for players who sustain head injuries. Optimal treatment for people who suffer TBI and concussions. Establishing baselines for a person’s neuroendocrine function. The role of DHA and EPA consumption for maintaining optimal brain health. And much, much more.
July 17, 2018
What’s the best way to eat and the right way to exercise to ensure a healthy lifespan? Our guest today is Dr. Stephen Anton, a psychologist who has spent his career researching how lifestyle factors can influence not only obesity, but also cardiovascular disease and other metabolic conditions. Steve is an associate professor and the chief of the Clinical Research Division in the Department of Aging and Geriatric Research at the University of Florida. In today’s episode, we talk to Steve about his work in developing lifestyle interventions designed to modify people’s eating and exercise behaviors in an effort to improve their healthspan and lifespan. One of Steve’s best-known papers appeared in the Obesity Journal titled “Flipping the Metabolic Switch.” The study looked at intermittent fasting and suggested that the metabolic switch into ketosis represents an evolutionary conserved trigger point that has the potential to improve body composition in overweight individuals. Topics we cover in today’s interview include: - The increasing prevalence of metabolic syndrome associated with aging. - Why so many hospital health and wellness programs fail. - How fasting and intermittent energy restriction promote autophagy. - The relationship between muscle quality, body fat and health. - How age-related loss of muscle function and mass leads to sarcopenia. - Effects, risks and benefits of testosterone supplementation in older men. - Optimal exercise methods for long-term health. - Therapeutic approaches that potentially can help avert systemic inflammation associated with aging. - Steve’s study that looked at the effects of popular diets on weight loss. - Controversies surrounded calorie restriction as a strategy to enhance longevity.
July 3, 2018
Today’s guest is Dr. Douglas Wallace, the director of the Center for Mitochondrial and Epigenomic Medicine at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. He is internationally known as the founder of mitochondrial genetics. Mitochondria are tiny structures within cells that produce 90 percent of a person’s energy and play an essential role in health and disease. Dr. Wallace's groundbreaking research in the 1970s defined the genetics of DNA within the mitochondria, as distinct from DNA in a cell's nucleus. His research has shown that mitochondrial DNA is inherited exclusively from the mother and that genetic alterations in the mitochondrial DNA can result in a wide range of metabolic and degenerative diseases. One of Dr. Wallace’s seminal contributions has been to use a mitochondrial DNA variation to reconstruct human origins and the ancient migrations of women. These studies revealed that humans arose in Africa approximately 200,000 years ago, and that women as well as men left Africa about 65,000 years ago to colonize Eurasia. Dr. Wallace was inducted last year into the Italian Academy of Sciences during the academy’s 234th annual meeting in Rome. Founded in 1782, membership in the academy is limited to 40 Italian scientists and 25 foreign members. Over the years, the academy has seen such notable members as Albert Einstein, Benjamin Franklin, Louis Pasteur and Rita Levi-Montalcini.
June 19, 2018
In today’s episode, Ken and Dawn interview their colleague Dr. Peter Neuhaus, a senior research scientist here at IHMC. Peter is an engineer well-known for his work on wearable robotic devices. In particular, Peter has focused on lower extremity exoskeleton devices and their applications for mobility assistance for paraplegics and other people with disabilities or partial paralysis. In 2016, Peter lead an IHMC team that won a silver medal in the international Cybathlon, a competition conducted in Zurich in which people with disabilities used advanced assistive devices, including robotic technologies, to compete against each other. In today’s interview, Peter talks about IHMC’s humanoid robotic efforts as well as his work with NASA designing an exercise machine for a human mission to Mars or other missions beyond low earth orbit. Peter also describes the work he is doing with IHMC High-Performance Director Joe Gomes, the former Oakland Raiders strength and conditioning coach. Peter and Joe as well as others at IHMC are designing exercise technologies to extend the resilience of high-performing humans, such as astronauts and elite warfighters. Many of these technologies will eventually be able to be utilized by the general public.
June 5, 2018
Dr. Brendan Egan is an Associate Professor of Sport and  Exercise Physiology at Dublin City University who is well known for research that shows resistance training can improve strength, muscle mass, reduce falls in older people, and perhaps even extend lifespans. In addition to being a first-class researcher, Brendan is also a stand-out player in Ireland’s national sport, Gaelic football. His current research is exploring the synergy between nutrition and exercise interventions to optimize performance in athletes and the elderly. Current projects also involve protein hydrolysates in recovery and glycemic management; leucine and n-3 PUFAs in the elderly; and exogenous ketones and athletic performance.
May 22, 2018
Today’s episode features Dr. Valter Longo, director of the Longevity Institute at the University of Southern California. Valter is best known for his research on stem cells and aging as well as his fasting-mimicking diet. Often referred to as FMD, the diet is intended to avoid the downsides of fasting while reaping the health benefits of a calorie-restrictive diet. Over a 25-year career, Valter has published numerous papers about the ways specific diets can activate stem cells and promote regeneration and rejuvenation in multiple organs to reduce the risk for diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s and heart disease. He writes about this research and diet in a book that was released earlier this year, “The Longevity Diet: Discover the New Science Behind Stem Cell Activation and Regeneration to Slow Aging, Fight Disease and Optimizer Weight.” The book details an easy-to-follow everyday diet that is combined with short periods of the fasting-mimicking diet. Valter says the diet has the potential to help people live healthier and longer lives. Valter is a native of Genoa, Italy and moved Chicago when he was 16. He received his bachelor’s of science degree at the University of North Texas in 1992 and his Ph.D. at UCLA in 1997.
May 8, 2018
Dr. Keith Baar joins Ken and Dawn today for the second of his two-part interview for STEM-Talk. Keith is a renowned scientist in the emerging field of molecular exercise physiology who has made fundamental discoveries on how muscles grow bigger, stronger, and more fatigue resistant. He is the head of the Functional Molecular Biology Laboratory in the Department of Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior at the University of California, Davis. In his lab, he leads a team of researchers attempting to develop ways to improve muscle, tendon and ligament function. Part one of our interview, episode 62, covered Keith’s childhood in Canada and his undergrad years at the University of Michigan as well as his time at the University of California, Berkeley, where he earned a master’s degree in human biophysics. We talked about Keith’s work at the University of Illinois, where he received a doctorate in physiology and biophysics. We also covered Keith’s time in the lab of John Holloszy, who is known as the father of exercise research in the United States, as well as the five years Keith spent at the University of Dundee in Scotland. Episode 63 picks up with Keith explaining his decision to return to the states and join the faculty at the University of California, Davis.  Ken and Dawn then talk to Keith about his most recent research, some of which is looking at how to determine the best way to train, as well as what types of foods compliment training to decrease tendon and ligament injury and accelerate return to play. This work has the potential to improve muscle function not only in athletes, but also improve people’s quality of life as they age. Another key topic covered in part two of our interview is the research Keith is doing on a ketogenic diet and its potential to reduce cancer rates and improve cognition. Keith also provides his thoughts on what optimal workouts and nutrition should look like.
April 24, 2018
Today’s episode is the first of a two-part interview with Dr. Keith Baar, the head of the Functional Molecular Biology Laboratory in the Department of Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior at the University of California, Davis. In his capacity as a researcher, Keith has made fundamental discoveries on how muscle grows bigger, stronger, and more fatigue resistant. He is a renowned scientist in the emerging field of molecular exercise physiology, and is leading a team of researchers attempting to develop ways to improve muscle, tendon and ligament function. Part one of our interview features our conversation with Keith about his background and his time time in the lab of John Holloszy, who is known as the father of exercise research in the United States. Episode 63 of STEM-Talk has Dawn and Ken talking to Keith about his most recent research, which is looking at how to determine the best way to train, as well as what types of foods compliment training to decrease tendon and ligament injury and accelerate return to play. This work has the potential to improve muscle function and people’s quality of life, especially as they age. Ken and Dawn also have a conversation with Keith about the research he is doing on a ketogenic diet and its potential to reduce cancer rates and improve cognition. Links: UC Davis physiology department bio: UC Davis biology department bio” Functional Molecular Biology Lab website: Molecular brakes regulating mTORC1 activation in skeletal muscle paper: Age-related Differences in Dystrophin article:
April 10, 2018
More than 90 Americans a day are dying from opioid abuse. Today’s guest, Dr. Christopher McCurdy, is at the forefront of research designed to help the U.S. deal with this drug overdose crisis. Chris is a medicinal chemist and behavioral pharmacologist at the University of Florida who is internationally known as an expert on kratom, a botanical mixture that has been shown to help people struggling with addiction. He recently became president of the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists, and has spent his career focusing on the design, synthesis and development of drugs to treat pain and drug abuse. Chris earned his bachelor of science degree in pharmacy from Ohio Northern University, and a Ph.D. in medicinal chemistry from the University of Georgia College of Pharmacy in 1998. He did his postdoctoral work at the University of Minnesota where he focused on opiate chemistry in relation to drug abuse and drug addiction. He joined the faculty at the University of Mississippi in 2001 where much of his research was successful in discovering unique and selective tools for sigma receptors, NPFF receptors and opioid receptors. Dr. McCurdy accepted a post as a professor of medicinal chemistry at Florida in 2017 and became the director of the university’s Translational Drug Development Core.  Links:  Christopher McCurdy UF faculty page: American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists: Translational Drug Development Core:  Suspected Adulteration of Commercial Kratom Products with Hydroxymitragyine: Self-treatment of Opioid Withdrawal Using Kratom: Herbal Medicines for the Management of Opioid Addiction:
March 27, 2018
Why is it that modern marine concrete structures crumble and corrode within decades, but 2,000-year-old Roman piers and breakwaters endure to this day? Episode 60 of STEM-Talk features Dr. Marie Jackson, a scientist who has spent the past two decades figuring out the answer to that and other questions about the durability of ancient Roman mortars and concretes. Marie is a research associate professor in the department of geology and geophysics at the University of Utah. She is known for her investigations in pyroclastic volcanism, mineralogy, materials science, and archaeological science that are breaking new ground in understanding the durability and specialty properties in ancient Roman mortars and concretes. She is particularly focused on deciphering Roman methods and materials in the hope of producing innovative, environmentally friendly cementitious masonry products and nuclear waste storage materials that would benefit the modern world. She was the lead principal investigator of a drilling project in the summer of 2017 on the Surtsey Volcano, which is on a small isolated island off the coast of Iceland. The volcano is growing the same mineral cements as Roman marine cement and the drilling project is helping provide extraordinary insights into the materials and processes the Romans used. She is particularly focused on deciphering Roman methods and materials in the hope of producing innovative, environmentally friendly cementitious masonry products and nuclear waste storage materials that would benefit the modern world. She was the lead principle investigator of a drilling project in the summer of 2017 on the Surtsey Volcano, which is on a small isolated island off the coast of Iceland. The volcano is growing the same mineral cements as Roman marine cement and the drilling project is helping provide extraordinary insights into the materials and processes the Romans used. After receiving her bachelor of science in earth sciences from the University of California Santa Cruz, Marie traveled overseas and received a doctorate from the Universite de Nantes in France. She returned stateside and received a doctor of philosophy from John Hopkins University as well as a Ph.D. in earth and planetary sciences. Marie then went to work as a research geoscientist for the U.S. Geological Survey. After taking time off to raise a family, Marie joined the department of civil and environmental engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, as a project scientist. She stepped into her current position at the University of Utah in 2016.
March 13, 2018
Nearly five million people in the United States have Alzheimer’s disease. In 30 years, that number is estimated to be 16 million In today’s episode, Ken and Dawn interview Dr. Stephen Cunnane, a Canadian physiologist whose extensive research into Alzheimer’s disease is showing how ketones can be used as part of a prevention approach that helps delay or slow down the onset of Alzheimer’s. Cunnane is a metabolic physiologist at the University of Sherbrooke in Sherbrooke, Quebec. He is the author of five books, including” Survival of the Fattest: The Key to Human Brain Evolution,” which was published in 2005, and “Human Brain Evolution: Influence of Fresh and Coastal Food Resources,” which was published in 2010. He earned his Ph.D. in Physiology at McGill University in 1980 and did post-doctoral research on nutrition and brain development in Aberdeen, Scotland, London, and Nova Scotia. From 1986 to 2003, he was a faculty member in the Department of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Toronto where his research focused on the role of omega-3 fatty acids in brain development and human health. He also did research on the relation between ketones and a high-fat ketogenic diet on brain development. In 2003, Dr. Cunnane was awarded a senior Canada Research Chair at the Research Center on Aging and became a full professor at the University of Sherbrooke. He has published more than 280 peer-reviewed research papers and was elected to the French National Academy of Medicine in 2009.
February 27, 2018
Today’s episode features one of the nation’s leading physicians and researchers who has spent years studying and treating traumatic brain injuries. Dr. Flora Hammond is a professor and chair of the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Indiana University School of Medicine. She also is the Chief of Medical Affairs and Medical Director at the Rehabilitation Hospital of Indiana. She has been a project director for the Traumatic Brain Injury Model System since 1998. Shortly before we conducted this interview with Dr. Hammond, she and a team of physicians and scientists at Indiana University received a $2.1 million grant to continue research into people who suffer traumatic brain injuries and how these injuries affect the lives of patients as well as their families. Dr. Hammond is a Pensacola, Florida, native who graduated from the Tulane University School of Medicine in 1990 and completed her residency in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. She also completed a brain injury medicine fellowship at Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit. Her research in the area of brain injury includes studying the prediction of outcome, aging with brain injury, causes of and treatments for irritability, and quality of relationships. In 2016 she received the Robert L. Moody Prize, which is the nation’s highest honor reserved for individuals who had made exceptional and sustained contributions to the lives of individuals with brain injuries. Prior to the 2016 Robert L. Moody Prize, Dr. Hammond received local and national awards for her teaching, clinical care and research, including the 2001 Association of Academic Physiatrists Young Academician Award, the 2011 Brain Injury Association of America William Caveness Award, and the 2013 Baylor College of Medicine Distinguished Alumnus Award. In 2011, 2012, and 2013, Dr. Hammond led the Galveston Brain Injury Conferences which focused on changing the view of brain injury as an incident with limited short-term treatment to a chronic condition that must be proactively managed over the course of life. She co-chairs the American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine Chronic Brain Injury Task Force, and serves on Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation editorial board. She has authored more than 140 peer-reviewed publications. Links: Flora Hamond faculty profile: "Potential Impact of Amantadine on Aggression" paper
February 13, 2018
Today’s interview features Dr. Lauren Jackson, a nationally known expert in the field of tumor and normal-tissue radiobiology. She is especially recognized for her expertise in medical countermeasure development for acute radiation sickness and delayed effects of acute radiation exposure. Lauren is the deputy director of the Division of Translational Radiation Sciences within the Department of Radiation Oncology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. Lauren, who also goes by Isabel, received her bachelors of science in microbiology from North Carolina State University in 2006, and her Ph.D. in pathology from Duke University in 2012. She currently is a principal or collaborating investigator on a number of industry and federally sponsored contracts and research grants. She has published extensively on the characterization and refinement of animal models of radiation-induced normal tissue injury that recapitulate the response in humans. Models developed in Lauren’s laboratory have gone on to receive FDA concurrence as appropriate for use in medical countermeasure screens. Lauren is a senior associate editor for Advances in Radiation Oncology, a journal of the American Society of Therapeutic Radiation Oncology, and serves as an ad hoc reviewer for several peer-reviewed journals. She also is the author of several book chapters on normal tissue tolerance to radiation, mechanisms of injury, and potential therapeutic interventions. Links: Jackson’s University of Maryland web page: Radiation Emergency Medical Management website: ( Centers for Disease Control website: ( BARDA website: NIAID website:
January 30, 2018
Today’s episode is the second of a two-part interview with IHMC Senior Scientist Dr. Jonathan Clark, a six-time Space Shuttle crew surgeon who has served in numerous roles for both NASA and the Navy. Part one of our interview, episode 55, ended with Jon talking about the tragic death of his wife, astronaut Laurel Clark. She died along with six fellow crew members in the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster in 2003. February marks the 15th anniversary of the disaster. Today’s episode picks up with Jon talking about becoming part of a NASA team that investigated the Columbia disaster. Ken and Dawn also talk to Jon about the extensive research he has been doing on the neurologic effects of extreme environments, and also about the instrumental work he has been doing in developing new protocols to benefit future aviators and astronauts. Jon received his Bachelor of Science from Texas A&M University, and medical degree from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland. He is board certified in neurology and aerospace medicine. Jon headed the Spatial Orientation Systems Department at the Naval Aerospace Medical Research Laboratory in Pensacola. He also held other top positions in the Navy and qualified as a Naval flight officer, Naval flight surgeon, Navy diver and Special Forces freefall parachutist. Jon's service as a Space Shuttle crew surgeon was part of an eight-year tenure at NASA, where he was also chief of the Medical Operations Branch and an FAA senior aviation medical examiner for the NASA Johnson Space Center Flight Medicine Clinic. He additionally served as a Department of Defense Space Shuttle Support flight surgeon covering two shuttle missions. In addition to his new role as a senior research scientist at IHMC, Jon is an associate professor of Neurology and Space Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine and teaches operation space medicine at Baylor’s Center for Space Medicine. He also is the space medicine advisor for the National Space Biomedical Research Institute, and is a clinical assistant professor at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston where he teaches at the Aerospace Medicine Residency. Links: Jon Clark’s NASA bio: Jon Clark You Tube Channel: Jon Clark Red Bull Stratos page: Part one of Jon Clark STEM-Talk interview: Show Notes: 4:07: Ken comments that Jon was part of the NASA team that studied every detail of the Columbia disaster. When the team’s report came out, Jon said, “You have to find ways to turn badness into goodness. You have to. It’s the only way you get through this.” Ken then asks Jon to talk about some of the lessons NASA learned. 7:27: Dawn says that on October 14, 2012, Jon was part of a team that successfully accomplished the highest stratospheric free fall jump from 128,100 feet. Dawn asks Jon how he became involved in this record-breaking jump. 9:37: Dawn asks Jon what his support team looked like for the jump. 11:15: Ken asks Jon what kind of preparation he and the team went through for the jump, and how long the preparatory period was. 12:46: Dawn asks Jon what the medical concerns for the jump were.
January 16, 2018
Today’s episode is the first of two-part interview with IHMC Senior Scientist Dr. Jonathan Clark, a six-time Space Shuttle crew surgeon who has served in numerous roles for both NASA and the Navy. In a wide-ranging conversation with Ken and Dawn, Jon talks about his 26-year career in the Navy, his extensive research on the neurologic effects of extreme environments on humans, and the tragic death of his wife, astronaut Laurel Clark, who died along with six fellow crew members in the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster in 2003. Jon received his Bachelor of Science from Texas A&M University, and medical degree from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland. He is board certified in neurology and aerospace medicine. Jon headed the Spatial Orientation Systems Department at the Naval Aerospace Medical Research Laboratory in Pensacola. He also held other top positions in the Navy and qualified as a Naval flight officer, Naval flight surgeon, Navy diver and Special Forces freefall parachutist. Jon's service as a Space Shuttle crew surgeon was part of an eight-year tenure at NASA, where he was also chief of the Medical Operations Branch and an FAA senior aviation medical examiner for the NASA Johnson Space Center Flight Medicine Clinic. He additionally served as a Department of Defense Space Shuttle Support flight surgeon covering two shuttle missions. In addition to his new role as a senior research scientist at IHMC, Jon is an associate professor of Neurology and Space Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine and teaches operation space medicine at Baylor’s Center for Space Medicine. He also is the space medicine advisor for the National Space Biomedical Research Institute, and is a clinical assistant professor at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston where he teaches at the Aerospace Medicine Residency.
January 2, 2018
Late in 2017, a San Francisco startup company brought one of the commercial ketone esters to market. Today’s episode features an interview with a scientist and world-class athlete who has spent the past year helping develop and rollout HVMN Ketone, an FDA-approved drink that promises increased athletic ability as well as heightened focus and energy. Dr. Brianna Stubbs earned her PhD in biochemical physiology from Oxford University in 2016 where she researched the effects of ketone drinks on elite athletes. During Brianna’s collegiate athletic career, she won two gold medals while representing Great Britain at the World Rowing Championships. She first made international news when as a 12-year-old she became the youngest person ever to row across the British Channel. Brianna graduated from Oxford’s Pembroke College with a BA in preclinical sciences with the idea of becoming an MD.  But after spending a year working as a research assistant helping to investigate the effect of exogenous ketones on human performance, she decided instead to pursue her doctorate in biochemical physiology and investigate how ketone compounds might be applied in a sporting and healthcare setting in the future. While at Oxford, she worked alongside Dr. Kieran Clarke to develop a novel ketone monoester that has been shown to improve exercise performance in endurance athletes. She also was a member of the Great Britain Rowing Team and in 2016 become the World Champion in the lightweight guadruple sculls. Brianna’s time at Oxford gave her a unique opportunity to combine her scientific interest in sports physiology and metabolism while also competing at an international level. Brianna moved to the United States in June of 2017 to work at HVMN and help bring the company’s ketone ester to market.
December 19, 2017
Today’s interview is with Dr. Brian Caulfield, the dean of physiotherapy at the University College Dublin, where he also is one of the directors of Ireland’s largest research center, the INSIGHT Center for Data Analytics. Brian is especially known for the work he is doing with wearable and mobile sensing technologies and how their use is opening new avenues for human performance evaluation and enhancement in areas like elite sports to rehabilitation medicine to gerontology. He also is a leader in the use of electrical muscle stimulation, also known as EMS, which is being used in health and sports. Brian also is the principal investigator in Ireland’s industry-led Connected Health Technology Center and is the overall project coordinator for the Connected Health Early Stage Researcher Support System, which is Europe’s first networked Connected Health PhD training program. Brian graduated with a bachelor’s Degree in Physiotherapy, a master’s in Medical Science, and a PhD in Medicine from the University College of Dublin. He has co-authored more than 180 research publications and six patents. He also has supervised more than 30 master’s of science graduate research and PhD projects to completion. Brian was the recent recipient of the prestigious 2017 University College Dublin Innovation Award, which recognized his work in the development of a connected health ecosystem in Ireland.
December 5, 2017
Investigative journalist Nina Teicholz joined Ken and Dawn remotely from a studio in New York City in mid-September for a fascinating discussion about the history and pitfalls of nutrition science. Teicholz is the author of the international bestseller, “The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat & Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet.” The Economist named it the number one science book of 2014 and the Journal of Clinical Nutrition wrote, “This book should be read by every scientist and every nutritional science professional.” Nina began her journalism career as a reporter for National Public Radio. She went on to write for many publications, including the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post, The New Yorker, and The Economist. She attended Yale University and Stanford University where she studied biology and majored in American Studies. She has a master’s degree from Oxford University and served as associate director of the Center for Globalization and Sustainable Development at Columbia University. “The Big Fat Surprise” is credited with upending the conventional wisdom on dietary fat. It challenged the very core of America’s nutrition policy by explaining the politics, personalities, and history of how we came to believe that dietary fat is bad for health.  Her book was the first mainstream publication to make the full argument for why saturated fats – the kind found in dairy, meat and eggs – belong in a healthy diet. The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Mother Jones, the Library Journal and Kirkus Review named “The Big Fat Surprise” one of the best books of 2014. The Economist described Nina’s book as a “nutrition thriller.”
November 21, 2017
Today’s episode features field biologist Roger Smith, the founder and chair of the Teton Raptor Center, a rehabilitation facility in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, that annually cares for more than 130 injured birds. Roger and his wife, Margaret Creel, who also is a field biologist, established the Teton Raptor Center in 1997 as a facility committed to rehabilitating birds of prey. Both Ken and Dawn have visited the center, which has an education outreach program that reached nearly 37,000 people in 2016. “For our listeners who have never been to the Teton Raptor Center, I can honestly say that a visit to the center and the Grand Teton National Park would be well worth your time,” says Ken at the end of episode 51. Roger has spent his entire professional career in the natural sciences and environmental education. After high school, he headed off to the University of Montana and started his life as a field biologist researching grizzly bears in northwestern Montana in 1977. He continued to study grizzly and black bears in Alaska, Maine and Colorado before completing his secondary science degree in 1984. After teaching high school science in Montana, he moved to Jackson Hole in 1985 and joined the resident faculty at the Teton Science School. At the school, he designed and implemented a field-oriented natural science curriculum for adults and children. In 1987, he joined the field staff at the National Outdoor Leadership School and led courses in Wyoming, Texas, Mexico and Kenya. In 1994, Roger completed his Master’s degree in Wildlife Biology and Physiology at the University of Wyoming. Roger’s research has focused on raptors and ravens of the Grand Teton National Park. His research and papers have been published in a number of peer-reviewed professional journals. In 1994, he helped initiate and manage the professional residency in environmental education program at the Teton Science School, and was on the faculty there until 1999. He managed all aspects of independent research, including grant and proposal writing. Roger founded the Teton Raptor Center in 1996 and became the Resident Naturalist at 3Creek Ranch in 2002. Links: Teton Raptor Center: Raptor Center video: Roger's IHMC Ocala lecture: Show Notes: 4:26: Ken and Dawn welcome Roger to the show. 4:40: Dawn asks Roger where he grew up and what kind of childhood he had. 6:56: Dawn discusses how Roger went to the University of Montana to study wildlife biology and as a freshman volunteered for a grizzly bear project, where he spent time in the wild analyzing grizzly bear scat. 8:54: Ken recalls a story Roger told him about him working on a black-bear project in 1979, which involved trapping and tagging bears in northern Maine. Ken comments on how this was an interesting time to be in the Maine woods as a young person. Ken then asks Roger if there are any adventures he would like to share from his time in northern Maine. 12:46: Ken comments on how bears are also found in the Tetons and throughout the Yellowstone ecosystem. He discusses how we often see warning signs posted to alert hikers and campers in areas where bears have been active. Ken then asks Roger if we have seen changes in activity in recent times, and if so, what drives those changes. 15:15: Ken discusses how he read a story about a grizzly bear breaking into someone’s garage to eat an elk carcass. 16:22: Dawn says that the grizzly bear is a reclusive animal and asks Roger what ...
November 7, 2017
Today’s episode features the second of Dawn Kernagis’ two-part interview with her STEM-Talk co-host and IHMC Director Ken Ford. This episode marks a milestone for STEM-Talk. It’s our 50th episode and follows Ken’s formal induction into the Florida Inventor’s Hall of Fame. In part-1 of Dawn’s interview, listeners learned about Ken’s childhood and his years as a rock and roll promoter back in the ‘70s. Ken even shared an interesting story about how he went from being a philosophy major to a computer scientist. He also talked about his work in AI and the creation of IHMC and the pioneering work underway at the institute. If you missed episode 49, be sure to check it out. Part two of Ken’s interview focuses more on his research and personal experience with the ketogenic diet, ketone esters, exercise and ways to extend health span and perhaps longevity. Dawn and Ken also discuss the nature of technical progress As listeners learned in part one, Ken has a varied background. He is a co-founder of IHMC, which has grown into one of the nation’s premier research organizations with world-class scientists and engineers investigating a broad range of topics. He also is the author of hundreds of scientific papers and six books. He received his Ph.D. in Computer Science from Tulane University. He is a Fellow of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence, a charter Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors, and a member of the Association for Computing Machinery, the IEEE Computer Society, and the National Association of Scholars. In 2012, Tulane University named Ford its Outstanding Alumnus in the School of Science and Engineering. The Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence named Dr. Ford the recipient of the 2015 Distinguished Service Award. Also in 2015, Dr. Ford was elected as Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In January 1997, Dr. Ford was asked by NASA to develop and direct its new Center of Excellence in Information Technology at the Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, where he also served as Associate Center Director. In July 1999, Dr. Ford was awarded the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal. That same year, Ford returned to private life in Florida and to IHMC. In October 2002, President George W. Bush nominated Dr. Ford to serve on the National Science Board (NSB). In 2005, Dr. Ford was appointed and sworn in as a member of the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board. In 2007, he became a member of the NASA Advisory Council and on October 16, 2008, Dr. Ford was named as chairman – a capacity in which he served until October 201l. In August 2010, Dr. Ford was awarded NASA’s Distinguished Public Service Medal – the highest honor the agency confers. In February 2012, Dr. Ford was named to a two-year term on the Defense Science Board and in 2013, he became a member of the Advanced Technology Board which supports the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
October 24, 2017
On the eve of Ken Ford’s induction into the Florida Inventor’s Hall of Fame, co-host Dawn Kernagis convinced IHMC’s director and CEO that it was the perfect time to have the chairman of STEM-Talk’s double secret selection committee take a turn as a guest on the podcast. Today’s show features part one of Dawn’s two-part interview with her STEM-Talk co-host Ken Ford. Listeners will learn about Ken’s childhood and background; his early work in computer science and research into AI; as well as the creation of IHMC, which, as our regular listeners know, is a “not-for-profit research lab pioneering groundbreaking technologies aimed at leveraging and extending human cognition, perception, locomotion and resilience.” In this episode, Ken will share some of the pioneering work underway at IHMC. Dawn also asks Ken about highly vocal critics of AI such as Elon Musk. Episode 50, the second part of Dawn’s interview with Ken, will transition to a conversation about Ken and IHMC’s research into human performance. Their conversation will cover exercise, the ketogenic diet and ketone esters with the goal of extending health span and perhaps longevity. In terms of background, Dr. Ken Ford is a co-founder of IHMC, which has grown into one of the nation’s premier research organizations with world-class scientists and engineers investigating a broad range of topics. Ken is the author of hundreds of scientific papers and six books. He received his Ph.D. in Computer Science from Tulane University. He is a Fellow of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence, a charter Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors, and a member of the Association for Computing Machinery, the IEEE Computer Society, and the National Association of Scholars. In 2012, Tulane University named Ford its Outstanding Alumnus in the School of Science and Engineering. The Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence named Dr. Ford the recipient of the 2015 Distinguished Service Award. Also in 2015, Dr. Ford was elected as  a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In January 1997, Dr. Ford was asked by NASA to develop and direct its new Center of Excellence in Information Technology at the Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, where he also served as Associate Center Director. In July 1999, Dr. Ford was awarded the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal. That same year, Ford returned to private life in Florida and to IHMC. In October 2002, President George W. Bush nominated Dr. Ford to serve on the National Science Board (NSB). In 2005, Dr. Ford was appointed and sworn in as a member of the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board. In 2007, he became a member of the NASA Advisory Council and on October 16, 2008, Dr. Ford was named as chairman – a capacity in which he served until October 201l. In August 2010, Dr. Ford was awarded NASA’s Distinguished Public Service Medal – the highest honor the agency confers. In February 2012, Dr. Ford was named to a two-year term on the Defense Science Board and in 2013, he became a member of the Advanced Technology Board which supports the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Links: IHMC website: Ken Ford web page: Florida Inventors Hall of Fame website: Outside magazine story on Ken Ford and ketogenic diet:
October 10, 2017
Today’s episode features the second of our two-part interview with Dr. Tommy Wood, a U.K. trained MD/PhD who now lives in the U.S. Part one covered Tommy’ background and education and what led him spend most of his academic career studying multiple sclerosis and ways to treat babies with brain injuries. Part two of our interview focuses on Tommy’s other passions: nutritional approaches to sports performance and metabolic disease. But before we get into Tommy’s background, we want to take a moment to thank our listeners for helping STEM-Talk win first place in the science category of the 12th Annual People’s Choice Podcast Awards. The international competition featured more than 2,000 nominees in 20 categories. STEM-Talk also was a runner-up in the People’s Choice Award, the grand prize of the competition. As we mentioned earlier, Tommy is U.K. trained MD/PhD who received an undergraduate degree in biochemistry from the University of Cambridge before attending medical school at the University of Oxford. He recently completed a PhD in physiology and neonatal brain metabolism at the University of Washington. He is now a senior fellow at the university researching neonatal brain injury. In part one of his STEM-Talk interview, Tommy also talked about how he is the incoming president of the Physicians for Ancestral Health, an international organization of physicians, healthcare professionals and medical students that specializes in ancestral health principles for the prevention and treatment of illness. Tommy’s interest sports performance stems from his background as an experienced rowing, endurance, and strength coach who combines evolutionary principles with modern biochemical techniques to optimize performance. He primarily performs this work with Nourish Balance Thrive, a functional medicine clinic based in California that works largely with athletes, where he is the chief medical officer. Links: Physicians for Ancestral Health - Physicians for Ancestral Health – Nourish Balance Thrive – NBT automated performance analysis: Primal Endurance podcast (ketogenic diets, athletic longevity, etc.): 2) High Intensity Health podcast (ketogenic diets and gut health):
September 26, 2017
Dr. Tommy Wood is a U.K. trained MD/PhD who now lives in the U.S. He has spent most of his academic career studying ways to treat babies with brain injuries, but has also published papers on multiple sclerosis, as well as nutritional approaches to sports performance and metabolic disease. Today’s conversation is the first of a two-part interview we did with Tommy. Part two will upload to iTunes on Oct. 10. Tommy received an undergraduate degree in biochemistry from the University of Cambridge before attending medical school at the University of Oxford. He recently completed a PhD in physiology and neonatal brain metabolism at the University of Washington. He is now a Senior Fellow at the university researching neonatal brain injury. He also is the incoming president of the Physicians for Ancestral Health, an international organization of physicians, healthcare professionals and medical students that specializes in ancestral health principles for the prevention and treatment of illness. Tommy is also an experienced rowing, endurance, and strength coach who combines evolutionary principles with modern biochemical techniques to optimize performance. He primarily performs this work with Nourish Balance Thrive, a functional medicine clinic based in California that works largely with athletes, where he is the Chief Medical Officer.
September 12, 2017
Today’s guest on STEM-Talk is Dr. Chris McKay, a leading astrobiologist and planetary scientist with the Space Science Division of the NASA Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley. Chris’s interview covers a diverse range of topics ranging from the origins of life to the possibility of manned missions to Mars. For the past 30 years, Chris has been advancing our understanding of planetary science. He graduated from Florida Atlantic University in 1975 with a degree in physics and earned a doctorate in astrogeophysics at the University of Colorado in 1982. He was a co-investigator on the Huygens probe to Saturn’s moon Titan in 2005, the Mars Phoenix lander mission in 2008, and the current Mars Science Laboratory mission. His research at NASA has focused on the evolution of the solar system and the origin of life. He also has been heavily involved in NASA’s Mars missions including the current Mars rover — Curiosity.  In addition, Chris has thought deeply about the human exploration of Mars. He has spent considerable time studying polar and desert environments to better understand how humans might survive in Mars-like environments. His research has taken him to the Antarctic Dry Valleys, the Atacama Desert, the Arctic, and the Namib Desert. In 2015, the Desert Research Institute named Chris the Nevada Medalist, which is the highest scientific honor in the state. Links: STEM-Talk Episode 33, interview with NASA’s Natalie Batalha - Chris McKay’s NASA profile page - Show Notes 3:53: Ken and Dawn welcome Chris to the show. 4:05: Dawn asks Chris if it is true that the television series Star Trek inspired him to take up science and start studying planets as a kid. 4:34: Dawn comments on how Apollo happened almost 50 years ago when Chris was a teenager and asks him where he was for Apollo 11 and what it meant to him. 5:24: Ken asks Chris how he learned about Florida Atlantic University, as it was a relatively new university at the time, and asks Chris why he chose it. 6:54: Dawn asks Chris if he was thinking about becoming an astronaut when he decided to major in physics. 7:27: Ken asks Chris what it was like to be a summer intern in the Planetary Biology program at the NASA Ames Research Center around 1980. 8:52: Dawn asks Chris how he chose the University of Colorado, where he earned a PhD in astrogeophysics. 10:42: Dawn asks Chris to discuss his transition from mechanical engineering to astrogeophysics. 12:11: Ken discusses how Chris ended up back at NASA Ames as an astrobiologist and planetary scientist after graduate school. 13:53: Dawn comments how Chris’s research is taking him to extreme places, and asks him to explain what extremophiles are and what their relevance is in the search for life beyond Earth. 17:26: Dawn comments on her experiences searching for extremophiles while working on cave diving projects. 18:12: Dawn asks Chris what his most recent search experience for extremophiles on our planet was. 19:49: Dawn asks Chris what he takes to be the most exciting extremophile discovery out of all of the work he has done. 22:40: Dawn asks Chris to talk about his favorite and least favorite aspects of field research. 24:06: Ken asks Chris to define some terms related to the search for life beyond Earth. Specifically,  whether we have a definition for life itself and if not, what exactly we are searching for when we say we are searching for life.
August 29, 2017
Today’s interview features one of the nation’s foremost hypnotists who is also the associate chair of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Stanford University Medical School. In this episode, Dr. David Spiegel talks about how hypnosis can help people not only quit smoking and lose weight, but also relieve chronic pain and reduce people’s dependency on medications. David earned his Bachelor’s at Yale College and graduated from Harvard Medical School in 1971. His mother and father were psychiatrists and his father started practicing hypnosis just before World War II. David now has more than 45 years of clinical and research experience studying psycho-oncology, stress and health, pain control and hypnosis. In addition to his role as the Willson Professor and associate chair of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Stanford, he is also the director of the Center on Stress and Health and the medical director of the Center for Integrative Medicine at the Stanford University School of Medicine. David has published 12 books, including one with his father. He has written more than 380 scientific journal articles and 167 book chapters on topics ranging from hypnosis to psychosocial oncology to trauma to psychotherapy. Last year David was featured in Time magazine about the therapeutic uses of hypnosis. In terms of the nation’s escalating opiate problem, David has gone on record saying that hypnosis can and should be used instead of painkillers in many cases. “There are things we could be doing that are a lot safer, cheaper and more effective,” said David, “but we’re not because as a society we have the prejudice that hypnosis is voodoo and pharmacology is science.” David’s research has been supported by the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Cancer Institute, the National Institute on Aging, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Dana Foundation for Brain Sciences. David is the past president of the American College of Psychiatrists and the Society for Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, and is a member of the National Academy of Medicine.
August 15, 2017
Today’s podcast features Ken Ford and Dawn Kernagis interviewing their colleague, Dr. Jerry Pratt, a senior research scientist at IHMC who heads up the institute’s robotics group. In 2015, Jerry led an IHMC team that placed second out of 23 teams from around the world in the first-ever DARPA Robotics Challenge. IHMC also placed first in the competition which featured humanoid robots that primarily walked bipedally and first among all U.S. teams. Jerry is a graduate of MIT, where he earned a doctorate in electrical engineering and computer science in 2000. As a graduate student at MIT, Jerry built his first robot which was also one of the first bipedal robots that could compliantly walk over rough terrain. As you will learn in today’s interview, it was called “Spring Turkey” and is on display in MIT’s Boston museum. The second robot he built as a graduate student was called “Spring Flamingo,” and is on display in the lobby of IHMC’s Fred Levin Center in Pensacola. After graduation, Jerry and some MIT colleagues founded a small company called Yobotics, which specialized in powered prosthetics, biomimetic robots, simulation software and robotic consulting. He joined IHMC in 2002 and has become a well-known expert in bipedal walking. His algorithms are used in various robots around the world. Recent work on fast-running robots has resulted in ostrich-inspired running models and robot prototypes that are currently believed to be the fastest running robots in the world. Jerry has six U.S. patents and was inducted into the Florida Inventors Hall of Fame in 2015. He lives in Pensacola with his wife Megan and their two children. He and he wife founded a science museum called the Pensacola MESS Hall, which stands for math, engineering, science, and stuff. The MESS Hall is a hands-on science museum for all ages that just celebrated it's five-year anniversary.
August 1, 2017
Today’s episode features an important interview with Dr. Jeff Volek, a researcher who has spent the past 20 years studying how humans adapt to carbohydrate-restricted diets.  His most recent work, which is one of the key topics of today’s interview, has focused on the science of ketones and ketogenic diets and their use as a therapeutic tool to manage insulin resistance. In 2014, Volek became a founder and the chief science officer of Virta Health, an online specialty medical clinic dedicated to reversing diabetes, a chronic disease that has become a worldwide epidemic. The company’s ambitious goal is to reverse type 2 diabetes in 100 million people by 2025. Earlier this year, The JMIR Diabetes Journal published a study coordinated by Volek and Virta that showed people with type 2 diabetes can be taught to sustain adequate carbohydrate restriction to achieve nutritional ketosis, thereby improving glycemic control, decreasing medication use, and allowing clinically relevant weight loss. These improvements happened after just 10 weeks on the program that Virta designed for people. In addition to his role at Virta, Volek is a registered dietitian and full professor in the department of human sciences at Ohio State University. He is a co-author of “The New Atkins for a New You,” which came out 2010 and spent 16 weeks on The New York Times best-seller list. The book is an updated, easier-to-use version of Dr. Robert Atkins’ original 1972 book, “Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolution.” Volek has co-authored four other books, including “The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living” and “The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance.” Both books are co-authored with and delve somewhat deeper than “The New Atkins” did into the science and application of low-carb diets. Volek received his bachelor’s degree in dietetics from Michigan State University in 1991. He went on to earn a master’s in exercise physiology and a PhD in kinesiology and nutrition from Pennsylvania State University. He has given more than 200 lectures about his research at scientific and industry conferences in a dozen countries. In addition to his five books, he also has published more than 300 peer-reviewed scientific papers. Although numerous studies have confirmed the validity and safety of low-carb and ketogenic diets, Volek and others who support carbohydrate restriction are often criticized for being so one-sided that their work comes across as more advocacy than science. But in “The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living,” Volek writes: “What is the proper response when three decades of debate about carbohydrate restriction have been largely one-sided and driven more by cultural bias than science? Someone needs to stand up and represent the alternate view and science.” As Volek explains in episode 42 of STEM-Talk, this has become his mission. Links: “New Atkins for a New You” -- “The Art and Science of Low-Carbohydrate Living”-- “The Art and Science of Low-Carbohydrate Performance” -- New York Times article: JMIR DIABETES paper:
July 18, 2017
Frequent STEM-Talk listeners will more than likely recognize today’s guest, veteran NASA astronaut Tom Jones, who joins us today to talk about the threat of near-Earth asteroids. Tom occasionally helps co-host STEM-Talk. But for episode 42, regular co-hosts Ken Ford and Dawn Kernagis turn the microphone around to interview Tom about his days as an astronaut, planetary defense and asteroids. It’s a topic, as you will hear, that Tom is quite passionate about.  He also has a great deal of expertise in the field. Before he became an astronaut, Tom earned a doctorate in planetary science from the University of Arizona in 1988. He’s also a graduate of the United States Airforce Academy. His research interests range from the remote sensing of asteroids to meteorite spectroscopy to applications of space resources. He became an astronaut in 1991 and received the NASA Space Flight Medal in 1994, 1996, and 2001. He also received the NASA Exceptional Service Award in 1997 and again in 2000. In 1995, he received the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal. Tom logged 52 days in space, including three space walks totaling more than 19 hours. He is the author of several books, including Sky Walking: An Astronauts Memoir, which the Wall Street Journal named as one of the five best books about space. His latest book is Ask the Astronaut: A Galaxy of Astonishing Answers to Your Questions about Space. Below are links to Tom’s books as wells the STEM-Talk interview with Pascal Lee, which Ken refers to while interviewing Tom. Links: Pascal Lee interview: New Yorker article: TFPD Report: Tom Jones books: “Sky Walking” - “Ask the Astronaut” - “Complete Idiots Guide to NASA” - “Planetology” - Show notes: 3:36: Ken and Dawn welcome Tom to the show. 4:11: Ken comments on the interesting path that Tom has travelled throughout his life and asks Tom to give a synopsis of his path of reinvention. 6:56: Dawn asks Tom to talk about the goals and highlights of the four shuttle missions he went on. 3:39: Dawn welcomes Tom as a guest on STEM-Talk. 9:23: Dawn comments on how Tom no longer flies in space, but he and some of his colleagues are now involved in another space mission that could save the Earth or a large part of it from destruction. Dawn then asks Tom how he became interested in planetary defense from asteroids. 11:30: Ken asks Tom to explain the differences between asteroids, comets, meteoroids, meteors, and meteorites. 13:37: Ken asks Tom how he would define a near-earth asteroid. 14:06: Dawn asks Tom how frequently asteroids strike the Earth. 16:27: Dawn asks Tom how likely she is to die in an asteroid catastrophe, statistically speaking. 18:27: Dawn discusses an article on planetary defense titled, Vermin of the Sky, published in The New Yorker in February of 2011. She comments on how Ken is quoted in the article as saying, “The very short perspective we have as humans makes the threat of asteroids seem smaller than it is.
July 4, 2017
Dr. David Diamond is a University of South Florida professor in the departments of psychology, molecular pharmacology and physiology and director of the USF Neuroscience Collaborative. He is well known for research that looks at the effects of stress on brain, memory and synaptic plasticity. A primary research project over the past few decades has been the study of treatments for combat veterans and civilians with PTSD. Although his academic specialty is neuroscience, recently he has been closely examining the role of fat and cholesterol in heart disease. He began looking into lipids after test results showed his triglycerides were through the roof.  He also launched a critical look into the effectiveness of statins, a class of drugs doctors frequently prescribe to help people lower cholesterol levels in their blood. Dr. Diamond’s findings contradicted the low-fat, high-carb diet that he, as well as many Americans, had been advised to follow. This led him to explore ways for people to optimize their diet for cardiovascular health. He eventually created a graduate and undergraduate seminar entitled, “Myths and Deception in Medical Research.” A lecture he gave at the university entitled “How Bad Science and Big Business Created the Obesity Epidemic” is now a YouTube video with nearly 200,000 views. The lecture focused on how “flawed and deceptive science demonized saturated fats and created the myth that a low-fat, plant-based diet is good for your health.” Dr. Diamond received his B.S. in biology from the University of California, Irvine in the 1980. He continued his post-graduate work at the university and earned a Ph.D. in biology with a specialization in behavioral neuroscience. From 1986 to 1997, Dr. Diamond was an assistant professor in the Department of Pharmacology in the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver. He then moved to University of South Florida and since 2003 has been a professor in the departments of psychology, molecular pharmacology and physiology. In addition to directing USF’s Neuroscience Collaborative, Dr. Diamond also is the director of the university’s Center for Preclinical and Clinical Research on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. His research projects at the university have ranged from “The Effects of Stress on Brain, Memory and Synaptic Plasticity” to “The Cognitive and Neurobiological Perspectives on Why Parents Lose Awareness of Children in Cars.” Dr. Diamond has served on federal government study sections and committees evaluating research on the neurobiology of stress and memory and has more than 100 publications, reviews, and book chapters on the brain and memory. He is a fellow in the American Institute of Stress and in 2015 he received the award for Outstanding Contribution to Science from the Riga Diabetes and Obesity World Congress. In 2015, Diamond also received the University of South Florida International Travel Award. Links: USF lecture: “How Bad Science and Big Business Created the Obesity Epidemic” IHMC lecture: “An Update on Demonization and Deception in Research of Saturday Fat, Cholesterol and Heart Disease -- Show notes: 4:31: Ken and Dawn welcome David to the show. 4:42: Dawn comments on how David has always been interested in science and even wanted to be a physician as a child. She also asks him about majoring in biology and receiving his PhD from the University of California, Irvine. 5:41: Dawn asks David about his varied research topics at the University of South Florida,
June 20, 2017
Joining us for this special edition of STEM-Talk is Robb Wolf, who will co-host today’s show with Ken Ford, STEM-Talk’s regular co-host and chairman of the Double-Secret Selection Committee which selects all the STEM-Talk guests. Wolf is the New York Times best-selling author of “The Paleo Solution” and “Wired to Eat.” He’s also a friend of today’s guest, Alan Savory, a world-renowned ecologist who advocates for the restoration of the earth’s grasslands. “I’ve known Allan for years as a passionate advocate for restoring the health of the earth, especially grasslands. So when Ken invited me to join him and co-host the podcast with Allan, I jumped at the chance,” said Wolf, who is filling in for regular STEM-Talk co-host Dawn Kernagis. Grasslands take up a third of the earth’s land surface. And, as you will learn in today’s podcast, they are in serious trouble. Seventy percent of grasslands have been degraded by global trends ranging from deforestation to droughts to agricultural and livestock practices. As more and more of earth’s fertile land rapidly turns into deserts, Savory travels the world promoting holistic management as a way to reverse thousands of years of human-caused desertification. Savory is an ecologist, international consultant and the president of the Savory Institute, which promotes large-scale restoration of the world’s grasslands. Desertification, which Savory says is just a fancy word for land that’s turning to desert, directly affects more than 250 million people worldwide and has placed another billion people at risk, according to the United Nations. Savory was born in Southern Rhodesia, which is now the nation of Zimbabwe, and went to college in South Africa where he majored in zoology and biology. He went to work as a research biologist and game ranger in what was then known as Northern Rhodesia, but is now the nation of Zambia. Later in his career, he became a farmer and game rancher in Zimbabwe. As a game ranger in the 1960s, Allen made a significant breakthrough in understanding what was causing the degradation of the world’s grassland ecosystems and became a consultant who worked with groups on four continents to develop sustainable solutions. Most of his time as a game ranger was spent in the country’s savannas and grasslands among antelopes, elephants and lions. It was then that Allan started to notice that the healthiest grasslands were those in which large herds of wild grazers stayed bunched together and were constantly on the move because of predators that hunted in packs. It was this insight that led Savory to develop what he refers to as a “holistic management framework,” a planning process that mimics nature as a means to heal the environment. Once an opponent of livestock, he grew to believe that increasing the number of livestock on grasslands rather than fencing them off for conservation was the way to stop desertification. But when civil war broke in Rhodesia in the ‘60s, Allan ended up leading an elite military squad to fight communist guerrillas. In the latter days of the civil war, Allan became a member of Parliament and the leader of the opposition to the ruling party. He was exiled in 1979 as a result of his opposition to the ruling party and immigrated to the United States. In 1992, Savory and his wife, Jody Butterfield, formed the non-profit Africa Centre for Holistic Management and donated a ranch that serves as learning site for people all over Africa. He and Butterfield then co-founded the Savory Institute in 2009, whose mission is to promote restoration of the world’s grasslands through holistic management. The couple lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and have co-authored books together, including “Holistic Management: A Commonsense Revolution to Restore Our Environment,
June 6, 2017
Prior to Dr. Suzana Herculano-Houzel’s research, scientists assumed that the brains of all mammals were built in the same way and that the overall brain mass as compared to body mass was the critical determinant of cognitive ability. It was to resolve these conundrums about brain mass, body mass, and intelligence that Herculano-Houzel turned to chainsaws, butchers’ knives, and kitchen blenders to concoct what she refers to as brain soup. As STEM-Talk co-hosts Ken Ford and Dawn Kernagis point out during their interview with Herculano-Houzel, epsisode 39 of the podcast turned out to be not only an enlightening conversation, but also one of the most fun STEM-Talk interviews to date. Herculano-Houzel is a Brazilian neuroscientist who devised a way to count the number of neurons in human and animal brains. She writes about this in her book, The Human Advantage: A New Understanding of How Our Brain Became Remarkable. Her method of counting the neurons of human and other animals' brains allowed her to study the relation between the cerebral cortex and the thickness and number of cortical folds in the brain. She is currently an associate professor of psychology and biological sciences in Vanderbilt University’s psychological sciences department and the Vanderbilt Brain Institute. She grew up in Brazil and received her undergraduate degree in biology at Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. She went to Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, to get her masters in neuroscience, and completed her Ph.D. in visual neurophysiology at the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research in Frankfurt, Germany. After completing her doctorate, Herculano-Houzel returned to Rio and went to work for the Museum of Life where she designed children’s activities. In 2002 she returned to her alma mater and began researching how human brains compared to other animals. In 2004, she devised a way of reducing brains to liquid as a means to count the number of neurons in them. It is technically known as the “isotropic fractionator.” In 2004 she won the Jose Reis Prize of Science, and in 2010 she received the James S. McDonell Foundation’s Scholar Award in Understanding Human Cognition. She is also the author of a biweekly newspaper column on the neuroscience of everyday life for Folha de São Paulo, the major newspaper in Brazil. Going into its 11th year, the column has appeared more than 270 times since 2006. In addition to “The Human Advantage,” Herculano-Houzel is also the author of six books in Portuguese that focus on the neuroscience of everyday life. She also has a popular blog called “The Neuroscientist on Call,” which she describes as not-so-random thoughts about brains, the universe and everything. She lives in Nashville, TN, with her husband, son and two dogs. Links you may be interested in: “The Human Advantage”: The Neuroscientist on Call blog:
May 23, 2017
Thyroid cancer is one of the fastest growing cancers in the United States, especially among women. In Florida, thyroid cancer trails only melanoma skin cancer as the state’s fastest rising cancer. Today’s guest on episode 38 of STEM-Talk has made it his mission to not only treat thyroid cancer, but also raise awareness about the disease. Dr. Mark Lupo is founder and medical director of the Thyroid and Endocrine Center of Florida which is based in Sarasota. A graduate of Duke University, he went on to earn his medical degree at the University of Florida where he worked with the world-famous thyroid expert, Dr. Ernie Mazzaferri. Dr. Lupo also did his internship and residency in internal medicine at Florida and then won a fellowship in endocrinology, metabolism and nutrition at the University of California San Diego and the Scripps Clinic. Dr. Lupo’s research and practice are particularly focused on thyroid nodules, which are abnormal growths of thyroid cells that form a lump within the thyroid gland. Although the vast majority of thyroid nodules are benign, a small proportion do contain thyroid cancer. His practice is centered on diagnosing and treating thyroid cancer at the earliest stage and helping people avoid unnecessary surgeries. He also is very involved in teaching neck ultrasound, thyroid cancer and general thyroid disease to other physicians at the national level. He has published book chapters and several articles on thyroid disease and thyroid ultrasound. In addition to his work as the medical director of the Thyroid and Endocrine Center of Florida, he also is a clinical assistant professor on the faculty of the Florida State University College of Medicine. Dr. Lupo also was named the 2017 recipient of the Jack Baskin Endocrine Teaching Award, which is annually presented by the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists. You can learn more about the Thyroid and Endocrine Center of Florida by visiting
May 9, 2017
The front pages of Gary Taubes’ new book on sugar feature a blurb excerpted from the magazine Scientific American: “Taubes is a science journalist’s science journalist who researches topics to the point of obsession – actually, well beyond that point – and never dumbs things down for readers.” Gary’s most recent obsession is documented in “The Case Against Sugar,” a book that argues that increased consumption of sugar over the past 30 to 40 years has led to a diabetes epidemic not only in the United States, but an epidemic that’s now spreading around the world. Episode 37 of STEM-Talk features a more than two-hour conversation with Gary about his latest research as well as a look back at other nutrition and science topics that have dominated Gary’s journalistic investigations since the 1980s. Gary first burst onto the national scene in 2002 with an article in the New York Times Magazine titled, “What If’s It’s All Been a Big Fat Lie?” Gary made the point that Robert Atkins and his high-fat, low-carb diet had a better history and scientific record of helping people lose weight than the low-fat diet that was and remains the centerpiece of the nation’s health policy and food pyramid. The article had an immediate impact. As Michael Pollan pointed out in the introduction of “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” in the fall of 2002 bread “abruptly disappeared overnight from the American dinner table.” Virtually overnight, wrote Pollan, Americans changed the way they eat. Gary did not set out to become a science journalist. He graduated from Harvard College in 1977 with an S.B. degree in applied physics and went on to earn an M.S. degree in aeronautical engineering from Stanford University. But while at Stanford, he realized he wasn’t that passionate about becoming an aeronautical engineer and decided to enroll in the Columbia School of Journalism to become an investigative reporter. In the ‘80s, Gary became fascinated with flawed science and started writing a series of magazine articles about bad science. That eventually led to a pair of books: “Nobel Dreams” in 1987 and “Bad Science: The Short Life and Weird Times of Cold Fusion” in 1993. After “Bad Science,” Gary turned to nutrition reporting and that resulted in the 2002 article in the New York Times Magazine. He followed up on his research for the article with two books: “Good Calories, Bad Calories” in 2007; and “Why We Get Fat” in 2010. Both books detailed how refined carbohydrates are largely responsible for America’s rising obesity rate and a primary cause of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and other chronic diseases of the Western diet. His new book, “The Case Against Sugar,” takes this argument a step further and shows how the explosion of sugar consumption and sugar-rich products in the United States has led to a global diabetes epidemic. Dan Barber, author of “The Third Plate,” wrote in a New York Times review of Gary’s book, “Comparing the dangers of inhaling cigarettes with chowing down on candy bars may sound like a false equivalence, but Gary Taubes’s “The Case Against Sugar” will persuade you otherwise. Here is a book on sugar that sugarcoats nothing. The stuff kills.” Below are links to Gary’s books: “The Case Against Sugar” “Good Calories, Bad Calories” “Why We Get Fat” “Bad Science” “Nobel Dreams”
April 25, 2017
In a rare departure from interviews with scientists and engineers, STEM-Talk Host Dawn Kernagis and IHMC Director Ken Ford interview Jeffrey “Skunk” Baxter about his life as a musician and founding member of Steely Dan, and how he went on to become a defense consultant on the Senate Armed Services Committee. The two fields seem completely different, but Baxter explains the similarities between them and talks about how improvising in jazz is a skill that can carry over into defense analytics and tactics. Baxter’s bio includes playing with a number of well-known bands, such as Steely Dan and The Doobie Brothers. As a studio musician for 35 years, Baxter recorded with Donna Summer, Dolly Parton, Ringo Starr and Rod Stewart. He was a record producer for Carl Wilson, the Beach Boys and Stray Cats. He also composed music for movies and television.
April 11, 2017
Back pain has become the world’s leading cause of disability. Stuart McGill has been at the forefront of non-surgical approaches to addressing back pain for many years. His 2015 book "Back Mechanic: The Secrets to a Healthy Spine Your Doctor Isn't Telling You" is a wonderfully accessible account of his methods and perspectives. Stuart McGill spent 30 years as a professor of spine biomechanics at the University of Waterloo in Canada. His laboratory has become a renowned destination for everyday people as well as Olympic and professional athletes from around the world who are struggling with back pain. He is the author of more than 300 scientific publications and 3 textbooks that address issues such as lumbar spine function and injury mechanisms, patient assessment, corrective exercise prescription, and performance training. McGill also consults for many medical management groups, governments, corporations, legal firms, and elite sports teams. He has won numerous awards, including the prestigious Volvo Bioengineering Award for Low Back Pain Research. He released his landmark text, “Low Back Disorders: Evidence-Based Prevention and Rehabilitation,” in 2002. It changed the way coaches, bodybuilders, athletes and non-athletes approached core training. His new book, “Back Mechanic,” is written for a lay audience and addresses common misperceptions about back pain. It also provides a step-by-step guide of the McGill Method to fix back pain. is a web site also geared for a lay audience and is dedicated to providing access to evidence-based information and products that assist in preventing and rehabilitating back pain. Products featured on the website have been tested in McGill's lab at the University of Waterloo. McGill and his staff have also produced a video, “The Ultimate Back: Enhancing Performance,” that synthesizes McGill's approaches for avoiding back injury and enhancing athletic and physical performance. It is available for purchase on Vimeo.
March 28, 2017
Blood-flow-restriction training is a topic of growing interest. But as IHMC director and STEM-Talk co-host Dr. Ken Ford points out, there’s also a great deal of misinformation about the training. Episode 34 of STEM-Talk addresses some of that misinformation with our interview of Dr. Jim Stray-Gundersen, who helped pioneer blood flow restriction training and leads the Live Hi/Train Low program for the US Athletic Trust. Since receiving his board certification in general surgery in 1985, Jim has focused his work and research on maximizing human performance, health and resilience. He pioneered the Hi-Low training protocol and played a key role in the development of the anti-doping test, SAFE, which stands for Safe And Fair Events. It is considered the most aggressive blood-profiling test in the fight against doping. He has worked with numerous Olympians in various sports and has an ongoing relationship with world renowned long-distance runner Alberto Salazar, who also is a coach and director of the NIKE Oregon Project. Jeff has been an official physician and consultant of the United States, Norwegian and Canadian Olympic teams. He is an official member of 15 world championships. Jim completed post-doctoral fellowships in cardiovascular physiology and human nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School. He received appointments as an associate professor of orthopedic surgery and physiology. He spent 20 years on the faculty of UTSW and helped build and direct two human-performance centers at St. Paul and Baylor University hospitals. He has served on international medical committees that include the International Olympic Committee, FIFA, International Biathlon Committee, International Ski Federation and the International Skating Union. Jim also is the sports science advisor for the US Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA), and continues to lead human performance and altitude camps for Olympic athletes, masters athletes, as well as Navy SEALs. He runs The SG Performance Medicine Center and Sport Technologies for Maximal Athletic Performance, overall fitness, weight loss, and recovery in Frisco, Texas, and now the new center in Park City, Utah, located inside The Center of Excellence USSA Building.
March 14, 2017
Dr. Natalie Batalha’s STEM-Talk interview was so contagious that Dawn Kernagis said it made her dream of returning to school to get a second graduate degree in astronomy. “Hearing Natalie talk about her research had all of us in the STEM-Talk studio buzzing,” said Dawn, the podcast’s co-host. Natalie is an astrophysicist and the project scientist for NASA’s Kepler Mission, a space observatory launched by NASA to discover Earth-sized planets orbiting other stars. She sat down with Dawn and veteran astronaut and IHMC senior research scientist Tom Jones for episode 33 of STEM-Talk. As one of the original co-investigators of the Kepler Mission, Natalie has been a leader in using the telescope to discover exoplanets, which are planets that orbit stars other than our own sun. Natalie has been involved in the Kepler Mission since the proposal stage and has helped identify more than 150,000 stars that are monitored by the telescope. She holds a bachelor’s degree in physics from The University of California Berkeley, and a doctoral degree in astrophysics from UC Santa Cruz. She taught physics and astronomy for 10 years at San Jose State University before joining the Space Sciences Division of the NASA Ames Research Center, which is located in California’s Silicon Valley. In 2011, Natalie received a NASA Public Service Medal for her vision in communicating Kepler’s science to the public, and also for her outstanding leadership in coordinating the Kepler science team. That same year Natalie also headed up the analysis that led to the discovery of Kepler 10b, the first confirmed rocky planet outside our solar system. She joined the leadership team of a new NASA initiative in 2015, which is dedicated to the search for evidence of life beyond our solar system. Called the Nexus for Exoplanet System Science, the program brings together teams from multiple disciplines to understand the diversity of worlds, and which of those exoplanets are most likely to harbor life.
February 28, 2017
Women who are pregnant often talk how careful they are about what they eat and drink. They’re careful, points out Dr. Claire Fraser, because they’re feeding their baby. “Well, we should all think about diet in the same way that pregnant women do,” says Fraser. “Everything we put into our mouths, we’re either feeding or not feeding our gut microbes … And it’s important we keep our gut microbes happy.” Fraser is a pioneer and global leader in genomic medicine, a branch of molecular biology that focuses on the genome. In episode 32 of STEM-Talk, Fraser sits down with host Dawn Kernagis and IHMC founder Ken Ford to explain why we should all pay more attention to our guts, which is the home of more than 100 trillion bacteria. An endowed professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, Fraser is a founder and director of Maryland’s Institute for Genome Sciences. From 1998 to 2007, she was the director of the Institute for Genomic Research in Rockville, Maryland, and led teams that sequenced the genomes of several microbial organisms, including important human and animal pathogens. In 1995, she became the first person to map the complete genetic code of a free-living organism, Haemophilus Influenza, the bacterium that causes lower respiratory tract infections and meningitis in infants and young children. This discovery forever changed microbiology and launched a new field of study, microbial genomics. During this time, she and her team also sequenced the bacteria behind syphilis and Lyme disease, and eventually the first plant genome and the first human-pathogenic parasite. She even helped identify the source of a deadly 2001 anthrax attack in one of the biggest investigations conducted by U.S. law enforcement. Research into the benefits of gut bacteria has exploded around the world in the past decade. In this STEM-Talk episode, Fraser explains the role these microbes play in improving health, preventing disease, and keeping us mentally sharp. She even shares how her diet has changed since she started studying the gut microbiome. Fraser also talks about working with the FBI during the 2001 antrhax attacks and her early work in microbiology that led to the first mapping of a free-living organism’s complete genetic code. Her recent lecture at IHMC, titled “The Human Gut Microbiome in Health and Disease,” can be viewed at If you’re interested in learning more about the gut microbiome, Fraser in her lecture recommended “The Good Gut: Taking Control of Your Weight, Your Mood, and Your Long-term Health” by Stanford University scientists Justin and Erica Sonnenburg.
February 14, 2017
Dr. Michael Turner makes a “big bang” in the world of theoretical cosmology. Translation: He’s an expert on the universe—what it’s made of, what’s in its future, and how it came to be. Turner is the Rauner Distinguished Service Professor and Director of the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics at the University of Chicago. From 2003 until 2006, was Assistant Director for Mathematical and Physical Sciences for the National Science Foundation. He is the recipient of numerous awards and prizes, and he is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Michael Turner and Vera Rubben, who recently passed away. Turner is most well-known for having coined the phrase “dark energy” in 1998, which he calls “very, very mysterious stuff.” Thought to comprise 70 percent of the universe, dark energy is responsible for both the expansion of the universe and the increasing speed at which that expansion is occurring. Another five percent of the universe is atoms, and the remaining twenty-five percent is “dark matter”—what Turner calls “the cosmic infrastructure of the universe.” The universe, he adds, has largely “been a battle between the two dark titans: dark energy and dark matter.” “He [Turner] is able to explain the deepest issues in cosmology with a rare clarity and elegance,” says IHMC Director Ken Ford. “His research focuses on the earliest moments of creation.” With Chicago cosmologist Rocky Kolb, Turner co-wrote the well-known book “The Early Universe.” More information on Turner can be found here: and here: Turner’s 2011 IHMC lecture, “The Dark Side of the Universe,” can be viewed here: . Turner was also a guest on STEM-Talk for an earlier episode for his interview on the discovery of gravitational waves. Turner is interviewed by regular STEM-Talk host Dawn Kernagis and guest host Tom Jones, a veteran NASA astronaut and senior research scientist at IHMC. 00:37: Ken calls Dr. Michael Turner “exactly the right guy to talk to about dark energy and dark matter. After all, he coined the phrase dark energy. He is able to explain deepest issues in cosmology with a rare clarity and elegance.” 1:04: Ken pays tribute to Vera Rubin, who passed away on Christmas Day. She confirmed the existence of dark matter and transformed modern physics and astronomy. 2:24: Ken asks for feedback on STEM-Talk and reads 5-star iTunes review from BobRXUF: “With all of the garbage we are bombarded with, listening to STEM-Talk reminds me that there is higher intelligence, the hope for mankind.” 3:35: Dawn and Ken introduce Michael and talk about his background. 4:17: Dawn and Tom welcome Michael to STEM-Talk. 4:39: Tom asks Michael to give listeners the big picture about the structure of our universe and explain how we stumbled upon the phenomenon called dark matter and dark energy? 5:14: Michael explains that a half of one percent of the universe is in the form of stars. The other 99.5 percent is dark. 6:29: Michael talks about how dark matter matter provides the cosmic infrastructure of the universe. 7:45: “Our universe,” says Michael, “has really been a battle between the two dark titans: dark energy and dark matter.” 9:49: Michael explains that’s it’s the stars that give off energy and it’s the atoms we’re made of.
January 31, 2017
Dr. Art De Vany is an American economist known for his work on the Hollywood film industry. He is perhaps best known, however, as the grandfather of the paleo diet, a high-protein, high-fiber way of eating similar to the way our hunter-gather ancestors ate during the Stone Age. Born in 1937, he has had a varied career that began right out of high school when he signed a baseball contract with the Hollywood Stars, a minor-league affiliate of the Pittsburg Pirates. Even though he could “run like a deer” and “hit the ball out of sight,” his poor eyesight ended his baseball career and led him the UCLA where earned a doctorate in economics. He spent most of his academic career studying Hollywood and the film industry. His research has ranged from “Hollywood Economics: How Extreme Uncertainty Shapes the Film Industry” to “Quality Revaluations and the Breakdown of Statistical Herding in the Dynamics of Box Office Revenues.” De Vany turns 80 in August and has spent the past 40 years living the paleo way. He outlined his diet and fitness philosophy in “The New Evolution Diet: What Our Paleolithic Ancestors Can Teach Us About Weight Loss, Fitness and Aging.” He is working on a new book that’s tentatively titled “Renewing Cycles: Healing the Wounds of Aging Through Improved Cellular Defense and Systemic Signaling.” De Vany gave a lecture at IHMC in Pensacola last December where he talked about the New Evolution Diet” as well as his upcoming book on aging. In Episode 30 of STEM-Talk, host Dawn Kernagis and IHMC Founder Ken Ford have a wide-ranging conversation with De Vany that covers his statistical study of home-run hitting to the dynamics of box-office revenues to the role that exercise and diet play in aging.
January 17, 2017
Dr. Leonard Wong, a research professor at the Strategic Studies Institute (SSI) of the U.S. Army War College, led an important study titled: “Lying to Ourselves: Dishonesty in the Army Profession.”  The study, which was published in 2015 generated much discussion as well as some consternation and reflection. In this episode, Host Dawn Kernagis and IHMC’s Director Ken Ford talk with Wong about his study and its implications. Wong also lectured about his study at IHMC in Pensacola last September: Wong’s research focuses on the human and organizational dimensions of the military and includes topics such as leadership development in the military profession. He is a retired Army Officer and taught leadership at West Point. He is also an analyst for the Chief of Staff in the Army. Wong’s research has led him Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo and Vietnam. He has testified before Congress and has been featured widely in the media, including the New Yorker, the Washington Post, the New York Times, PBS, NPR, 60 Minutes and CNN. Wong is a professional engineer and holds a Bachelor’s from the U.S. Military Academy. He also has a Master’s and a Ph.D. in business administration from Texas Tech University. 1:43: Ken reads five-star iTunes review from “CC Rider,” which is entitled “Intelligent Podcast: What a Relief:” “What a pleasure to hear intelligent, articulate people discussing worthwhile topics.” 2:17: Dawn describes Wong’s bio. 3:18: Dawn welcomes Wong and Ken. 3:42: Wong describes his role at the U.S. Army War College, as well as the College’s structure. When Army leaders arrive at the War College, they’ve generally been in the Army for twenty years. They’re at the point of thinking strategically about leadership and their roles. 5:27: Wong’s research into this topic started over a decade ago, with the question of how to build more time into the schedule of junior offices to facilitate innovation. Wong and his colleagues discovered an overwhelming amount of requirements, which were stifling Innovation. In the back of his mind, Wong concluded: ‘If we require more than they can possibly do, what are we reporting?’ 6:36: Wong, in conversation with his colleague Steve Gerras, once asked him what he was doing on his computer. He was supposedly doing mandatory training, but not really. He said, ‘I know, I’m just saying I did it.’ Wong realized then ‘how casually we approach lying, but we don’t call it lying.’ 7:15: The theory of Wong’s subsequent study came from a book entitled “Blind Spots: Why We Fail to Do What’s Right and What to Do About It,” by Max Bazerman and Ann Tenbrunsel (, along with what David Messick called ethical fading. The methodology was to use focus groups from various ranks throughout the Army, including staff officers at the Pentagon. 8:12: Dawn mentions that Wong’s study had a precedent: In 1970, the U.S. Army War College published a study showing that lying in the Army was pervasive. Digitization, the audit culture, and downsizing have made it worse today. 8:43: Wong says, “The Army is like a compulsive hoarder. It collects requirements, and it never gives any up. We always add more. We keep adding to the pile. Technology has made a huge influence on this.” Now, with email and Internet, we can ask people to provide digital signatures, and do various online trainings. 9:42: Wong characterizes another part of the problem: “The Army has had a giant emphasis on being a profession. It’s a good thing,
January 3, 2017
Mike Gernhardt’s career epitomizes the scientific overlap between the depths of the ocean and Outer Space. A NASA astronaut, Gernhardt started his career as a professional diver and engineer on subsea oil field construction and repair projects around the world. As a child, Gernhardt vacationed in Florida, where he developed a love of the ocean. Like many children, Gernhardt dreamed of becoming an astronaut. But unlike most kids, he stuck with his dream, and began taking steps to pursue it in high school, when, in his own words, he “had already put together that working in space and in the sea were similar.” Gernhardt received his undergraduate degree in physics from Vanderbilt University, followed by his Master’s and Ph.D.—both in bioengineering—from the University of Pennsylvania, where he worked with his life-long mentor C.J. Lambertson, who is considered to be one of the godfathers of diving medicine. Under Lambertson, Gernhardt received unparalleled field work experience, testing real-time the decompression tables that he’d developed and which still constitute the oceaneering standard. In 1992, Gernhardt was selected to be an astronaut at NASA, where he completed four space flights and walks. He also started a company called Oceaneering Space Systems, where he transferred his sub-sea robotics experience to NASA. In his own words, Gernhardt says, “There’s really a lot of synergy between working underwater and working in space, and the design of the task for human and robot compatibility.” Gernhardt has received numerous awards and honors, including the highly coveted NASA Distinguished Service Medal. To view his bios: ;
December 20, 2016
For fitness and Paleo Diet aficionados—and perhaps regular STEM-talk listeners—Robb Wolf is the type of esteemed guest who needs no introduction. Many people already know him by his best-selling book, “The Paleo Solution: The Original Human Diet,” ( or his top-ranked podcast by that same name. ( But what some people may not know is that Wolf also started the world’s first cross-fit affiliate gym; that he’s raising his young daughters on a paleo diet—which may account for their mouths having a similar phenotypical expression as hunters and gatherers; and that nicotine—yes, nicotine—can actually be good for you (just not delivered by cigarette) in some contexts. STEM-Talk Host Dawn Kernagis and IHMC Founder Ken Ford talk to Wolf about these and other fascinating insights in this episode. Wolf hailed from a relatively unhealthy family, which pushed him towards discovering good health on his own terms. A keen interest and aptitude in science (he was a biochemistry major at California State University-Chico) set Wolf on the path of evolutionary medicine. He began thinking seriously about pre-agricultural diets in response to his mother’s poor reaction to her consumption of grains, legumes, and dairy. Since that time, Wolf has become an expert, researcher, and self-experimenter of the Paleo Diet. His expertise has led him to become a review editor for Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism; co-founder of The Performance Menu, a nutrition and athletic training journal; and co-owner of NorCal, one of Men’s Health magazine’s top thirty gyms in America. He is also a consultant for the Naval Special Warfare Resiliency Program. Wolf recently gave a lecture entitled “Darwinian Medicine: Maybe There IS Something to This Evolution Thing” at IHMC:
December 6, 2016
Dr. Richard Moon had an unusual inspiration to practicing medicine: a television show, in black and white, entitled, “Medicine in the ‘60s.” He remembers being blown away by watching live surgeries performed on the show. This eventually led him to a career in the operating room—not as a surgeon, but an anesthesiologist. Like many STEM-Talk guests, Moon wears many hats. In addition to being a physician, he is a renowned researcher in the hyperbaric and diving medicine. He is currently a professor of anesthesiology and medicine at Duke University, and the Medical Director of Duke’s Center for Hyperbaric Medicine and Environmental Physiology. In this episode, Host Dawn Kernagis, herself a rising research scientist in undersea medicine, as well as a highly experienced diver—earlier this year, she was inducted to the Women Divers Hall of Fame—talks with Moon, one of her mentors. Dawn met Moon when she participated in one of his research projects as a diver, and she went to him with research ideas as a potential research intern. She eventually became one of his graduate students at Duke University. In this lively and informative mentor-mentee discussion, Dawn and Moon talk about the history of hyperbaric medicine, including the establishment of Duke’s world-renowned Center for Hyperbaric Medicine and Environmental Physiology. They talk about medical conditions that can occur in deep sea diving, such as high pressure nervous syndrome and immersion pulmonary edema, as well as high-altitude sickness. Moon shares insights about his experiments in both high altitude and deep sea medicine, as well as his own expedition in climbing Mount Everest. Check out Moon’s home page at Duke: ; as well as his lecture at IHMC last January: “From the Ocean Depths to the Mountain Tops: How Do Humans Adapt?” 00:15: Dawn introduces Ken and describes Moon as a world-renowned physician and researcher who works in hyperbaric and diving medicine. 00:40: Dawn says she was “very lucky to have Dr. Moon as a mentor.” She participated in his research projects, as a diver. She then went to him with research ideas, and he accepted her as a graduate student, and he’s been a mentor and colleague ever since. 1:45: Ken reads a five-star iTunes review from “GTG2010” called “Exploding Kid:” “Dear STEM-Talk, I like your show. The super telescope looking at asteroids is cool. I like it so much I’m going to explode. Love, Griffin, age 6.” 2:38: Dawn runs through Moon’s bio. He holds an M.D. and a C.M. from McGill University in Canada, and a Master’s degree in biomedical engineering from the University of Toronto. He is a member of the Royal College of Physicians of Canada, as well as the American Board of Internal Medicine. He has authored hundreds of peer-reviewed publications. 3:48: Dawn welcomes Moon to the podcast. 4:06: Moon describes what sparked his interest in medicine when he was in high school. He watched a television show, in black and white, called “Medicine in the ‘60s.” “It showed operations. It was mind-blowing, so I decided that I had to go into medicine.” 4:49: In medical school, Moon’s first interest was in pulmonary medicine—simply because in the first-year lecture series on organ systems, the one on the pulmonary system was the best. Yet, he felt compelled to do something different and took a couple of years off to study biomedical engineering. 6:20: Moon went to Duke University with a fellowship in pulmonary medicine as well as an opportu...
November 22, 2016
James Briscione’s stellar cooking career began humbly: As a teenager, he washed dishes at a now defunct restaurant (named Jubilee) on Pensacola Beach. He quickly rose through the ranks, at age 24 becoming the chef de cuisine at the Highlands Bar and Grill in Birmingham, Alabama, which is considered one of the best restaurants in the South, and later the sous chef at the prestigious New York City restaurant Daniel. Today Briscione, who lives in New York City, is a top-tier chef, author of three books on cooking, director of culinary development at the Institute of Culinary Education, and a three-time champion on the Food Network’s cooking competition series Chopped. So what is he doing on STEM-Talk, you might ask? Briscione is also versed in the science of cooking and flavor. He partnered with IBM in creating the “Chef Watson” project. This computer-based program generates hundreds of novel flavor combinations based on the compatibility of chemical compounds in food. In this episode, Briscione talks with IHMC Director Ken Ford and IHMC Chef Blake Rushing about the art and science of food, and Briscione’s career as a chef. Briscione’s three books include: “Just Married and Cooking” (with his wife Brooke Parkhurst):; “Cognitive Cooking with Chef Watson”(; and “The Great Cook: Essential Techniques and Inspired Flavors to Make Every Dish Better.” ( He also has his own, new television show on the Food Network called “Cooking with Dad.” Briscione, his ideas on cooking and his own culinary creations have been featured in the New York Times, NPR, the New Yorker, Time Magazine and hundreds of other media outlets throughout the world. Briscione’s recent talk at IHMC, entitled “Who teaches the cooks to cook?” can be viewed at Dive into this delicious interview—an entertaining and informative conversation between three foodies. 00:32: Ken introduces Blake Rushing as the guest co-host of this episode of STEM-Talk. Rushing is IHMC’s chef, as well as the owner of Union Public House in Pensacola. 1:00: Ken introduces James Briscione as, “Working in the boundary spaces between the science of food, science and taste and even AI systems, such as Chef Watson.” 1:49: Dawn reads 5-Star iTunes review from “Beautronical:” “I am continually enthralled by the variety and depth of ideas presented here. Also, it is rare that one finds great minds matched by great voices. Given the ketogenic bent of certain interviewers, perhaps mellifluous is the wrong term, but I’ll use it nonetheless.” 4:42: Ken introduces himself and Blake Rushing as hosts of the interview; and then welcomes James to the interview. 5:05: James says he remembers the food made by his Italian grandmother. Among them: chicken cacciatore (although the mushy carrots bugged him.) The “greatest mashed potatoes… Sunday red sauce; sausage and meatballs loaded down with pecorino cheese.” 6:55: “True learning doesn’t often happen until you’re in the kitchen every day,” Briscione tells his students. He didn’t go to culinary school, but has been in the kitchen since he was 16. 8:15: At 16, he was a bus boy washing dishes for two restaurants: fine dining upstairs and casual beach dining downstairs. 9:33: As a teenager and at the beginning of college, Briscione thought, ‘There’s no way I am going to spend the rest of my life in a kitchen.’ He was working on a degree in sports medicine in Birmingham, and worked summers at the restaurant [in Pensacola]. After his second summer, something clicked: he changed his course of study from sports medicine to nutrition.
November 8, 2016
One could say that Dr. Doug McGuff is one of the pioneers of BMX motocross bike racing in Texas. He built the state’s first race track, having gotten hooked on the sport as a teenager in the 1970s. The sport also triggered a deeper interest in fitness. As McGuff tried strengthen his core for bike racing, he discovered Arthur Jones’ Nautilus training technique and bartered janitorial services for a Nautilus gym membership. McGuff’s interest and aptitude for studying the body led him to pursue medicine at the University of Texas in San Antonio. He specialized in emergency medicine, was chief resident of emergency medicine at the University of Arkansas in Little Rock, and a staff physician at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base Hospital in Ohio. McGuff is currently an ER physician with Blue Ridge Emergency Physicians in Seneca, South Carolina. The other side of McGuff’s career is dedicated to fitness, or as he says—helping people never have to go to the ER. Realizing a lifetime dream, he opened up his own fitness facility in 1997 called Ultimate Exercise. The gym is dedicated to the type of high-intensity fitness training using the Super Slow protocol. In this episode of STEM-Talk, McGuff talks about why this type of exercise is better for the body, safer, and able to prevent age-related conditions such as sarcopenia. McGuff is the author of three books: “Body by Science: A Research-Based Program for Strength Training, Body-building and Complete Fitness in 12 Minutes a Week,” (co-authored with John Little), “The Primal Prescription: Surviving the “Sick Care” Sinkhole,” (co-authored with economist Robert Murphy), and “BMX Training: A Scientific Approach.”
October 25, 2016
On March 11, 2005, President George W. Bush announced his intention to nominate Griffin to serve as the 11th Administrator of NASA. He was confirmed by the Senate on April 13, 2005 and served until January 20, 2009. Griffin knew NASA well. He had been NASA’s associate administrator for exploration in the early 1990s, as well as its chief engineer.
October 11, 2016
Hurricanes are a leading source of insured losses, and a major cause of human and economics loss in the world. But from an insider’s view, they are also breathtakingly beautiful. Dr. Kerry Emanuel, a leading hurricane expert, compares flying into the eye of a hurricane to being inside a white Coliseum, thirty to forty miles wide, with walls resembling “a cascade of ice crystals.” That’s just one of the fascinating tidbits from this episode of STEM-Talk, with Dr. Emanuel, whom Time Magazine named as one of the 100 most influential people in 2006. The following year, Dr. Emanuel was elected a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. He is a professor of meteorology at MIT, where he also completed his Ph.D. When he returned to teach there, he taught a course in meteorology of the tropics, and discovered that the existing theory of hurricanes was partly wrong. He’s spent the better part of his career disproving that theory and coming up with better theories of hurricane development and progression. Dr. Emanuel is also a book author of “What We Know About Climate Change,” and “Divine Wind: The History and Science of Hurricanes.” His recent lecture at IHMC is entitled “Hurricane Risk: Past, Present and Future”: STEM-Talk Host Dawn Kernagis interviews Dr. Emanuel about his career, the future of climate change and its impact on hurricane development, and the future of hurricane projection and prediction. 1:11: Ken Ford mentions that he met Kerry in 2005-06 when Ford was on the National Science Board’s Hurricane Task Force, which he co-chaired with Kelvin Droegemeier (also a previous STEM-Talk guest: That NSF report was entitled “Hurricane Warning: The Critical Need for a National Hurricane Research Initiative: 2:24: Ken reads a 5-star review from “Wheelsuker”: “I’m not always curious, but when I am, I love STEM-Talk, and the deeply learned folks at IHMC. Subjects range from human physiology to the exploration of space, with thoughtful and probing questions that simultaneously teach and entertain. Highly recommended subscription.” 4:53: Dawn introduces Kerry Emanuel. 5:05: Kerry says his older brother told him that as a toddler, Kerry would get excited about thunder storms at home in Ohio. 6:08: His academic interest in science, and weather, developed in high school: “I started reading more professional meteorology books in high school; I got interested in physics and math. By the time I went to MIT [as an undergraduate], I realized you could put those things together.” 6:33: Kerry describes his academic journey: “I was an undergraduate at MIT, and I also did my Ph.D. there in 1978. Then I went and taught at UCLA and was there for three years. I came back to MIT, and I’ve been there ever since.” 7:00: At MIT, he taught about hurricanes in a course called meteorology of the tropics. “Not only did I not understand the existing theory [about hurricanes], but the existing theory had to be wrong, so I had to go about setting it right.” 7:35: The existing theory didn’t pay any attention to transfer of energy from ocean to the atmosphere. “Ironically, earlier scientists thought that was the guiding principle.” He picked up where they left off. 9:43: “Hurricanes cannot arise out of small fluctuations in atmosphere like a thunderstorm or winter storm.
September 27, 2016
In this episode of STEM-Talk, we talk to one of our own senior research scientists, Dr. Yorick Wilks, renowned for his work in natural language processing. Wilks is also a professor of artificial intelligence at the University of Sheffield in England, and senior research fellow at the Oxford Internet Institute at Balliol College. A “war baby” born in London in the midst of the Second World War, Yorick was sent away to school due to the bombings. He excelled and went to Cambridge, where he studied with Margaret Masterman, a protégé of philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. Yorick first came to America—L.A. in the 1960s—on a one-year Air Force Research Grant. Yeas later, he moved to Stanford University’s AI Lab, where he worked with John McCarthy, one of the founders of Artificial Intelligence. Yorick’s research interests have been vast and rich, including machine translation, translating, understanding and extracting meaning from language, belief representation and human and machine communication. He has authored 14 books and many more papers, and has been the recipient of numerous awards, including, in 2008, the Association for Computational Linguistics (ACL) Lifetime Achievement Award. Yorick also speaks several languages, including Swahili and Japanese. Yorick is a senior research scientist at IHMC’s Ocala, Florida facility where he was interviewed for this podcast. STEM-Talk Host Dawn Kernagis and IHMC Associate Director and senior research scientist Bonnie Dorr—who is also a leading expert in natural language processing—conduct this rich interview, full of both historical insight and wisdom about the future of AI. Yorick also spends much of his time in Oxford, England, where he lives with his wife and two beloved dogs, an Italian greyhound and a German Sheppard.
September 13, 2016
When Alessio Fasano entered medical school at the University of Naples (Italy) School of Medicine, his goal was to eliminate childhood diarrhea. Working with a mentor who’d studied the physiology of the gut, Fasano decided to focus on the microorganisms that cause diarrhea. That opened up his world to specialize in overall gut health, and Fasano became a leading expert in celiac disease and gluten-related disorders. Following medical school, Fasano spent three years at the Center for Vaccine Development in Baltimore, and later returned to the U.S. to pursue his career. Today the world-renowned gastroenterologist is chair of pediatric gastroenterology and nutrition at Harvard Medical School and director of the Center for Celiac Research and Treatment. He is also the director of the Mucosal Immunology and Biology Research Center at Massachusetts General Hospital. Fasano was the lead researcher of a seminal 2003 study showing that 1 in 133 Americans have celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder characterized by gluten-induced damage to the small intestine. His book Gluten Freedom has been hailed as “the groundbreaking roadmap to a gluten-free lifestyle.” He is also the author of “A Clinical Guide to Gluten-Related Disorders.” His lectures at IHMC “The Gut is Not Like Las Vegas,” (November 2014) and “People Shall Not Live by Bread Alone: People Shall Not Live by Bread Alone” have gotten over 70,000 views on YouTube. Fasano has been featured widely in media, such as NPR, CNN and Bloomberg News. In this episode of STEM-Talk, Fasano talks about his early life as a curious boy in Italy, with a scientist grandfather as his first mentor, the impassioned trajectory of his career, and the underlying importance of gut health in determining our overall health.
August 30, 2016
For this special episode of STEM-Talk, IHMC Research Scientist and STEM-Talk Host Dawn Kernagis sits on the other side of the microphone. This summer, Dawn was one of six divers selected for NASA’s NEEMO (NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations) 21 mission, and we were able to talk to her live from the Aquarius Reef Base, located 62 feet below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. During the 16-day mission, Dawn and her colleagues performed field research designed to test operations and equipment for future space exploration. In particular, the international crew of aquanauts performed research both inside and outside the habitat. During simulated spacewalks carried out underwater, they evaluated tools and mission operation techniques that could be used in future space missions. Inside the habitat, the crew's objectives include testing a DNA sequencer, a medical telemetry device, and HoloLens operational performance for human spaceflight cargo transfer. In many ways, the NEEMO mission crystalizes Dawn’s career. Her research expertise has been focused on human performance, risk mitigation and resilience in extreme environments—namely undersea and in space. In addition to her accomplishments as a scientist, Dawn is also a long-standing diver, and this year was inducted into the Women Divers Hall of Fame. Conducting the interview is IHMC Senior Research Scientist and former NASA astronaut Tom Jones. Dawn shares aspects of her daily life in the undersea habitat, from eating freeze dried food to watching thousands of fish from the galley window every night before bed. She also delves into the research that she conducted, which included testing a mini DNA sequencer and deep water dives to collect samples of several coral species and weighted walks on the ocean floor to simulate space walks. STEM-Talk’s Billy Howell and Jason Conrad, key players in the production of each episode, also join the impromptu conversation with “fanboy” questions for Dawn. Dawn kept a blog about her experience, which you can read at: 2:00: Dawn discussed her experience as manager for the world record-breaking diving exploration project Wakulla Springs. 2:24: On her induction, last April, into the Women Divers Hall of Fame, she said, “It was cool to be sitting with women I have looked up to since I was a little girl.” 3:23: Dawn described certain challenges faced by people working in extreme environments such as Navy divers, deep sea divers and astronauts: decompression sickness, oxygen toxicity and nitrogen narcosis. 5:02: Ken Ford read a 5-star iTunes review (which are piling up): “The best podcast. It is as if the double secret selection committee has hacked my Google search. Keep up the great work, team.” 5:37: Tom Jones explained that the NEEMO mission, now in its 15th year, is an analog to deep space expedition. 6:09: Dawn said her voice sounded high because of the increase in air density in her undersea habitat. 7:14: Dawn explained that for the in-water work, they gear up and jump out of the habitat in hard hat diving supplies. “There is constant communication with the habitat,” she says. 9:30: “It makes such a difference to have a great team.” 9:50: “The nice thing is we have support divers who bring supplies up and down on a daily basis. It is not as isolated as space expeditions.” 10:50: Dawn described some of the physiological effects of being at a pressure of 3 atmospheres and 62 feet deep: “I can’t whistle; I have a high voice; we can feel swells pick up overhead—the pressure changes, so our ears are constantly popping. We’re hungry all the time.”
August 16, 2016
As STEM-Talk Host Dawn Kernagis points out in this interview, guest Colin Champ looks like he could be featured on the television show “The Bachelor.” But the striking young doctor (who alas, is in a serious relationship) is a radiation oncologist at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Center. Dr. Champ is also deeply invested in researching how exercise and nutrition can help treat and prevent cancer. In his very popular book entitled, “Misguided Medicine: The Truth Behind Ill-Advised Medical Recommendations and How to Take Health Back into Your Hands,” Champ tackles several commonly-held myths regarding health such as the perils of salt and meat intake. Take a look at: Dr. Champ’s web site, The Caveman Doctor,, also challenges conventional wisdom and governmental guidelines on nutrition. Dr. Champ received his medical degree from Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia and his bachelor’s in chemical engineering from MIT. He grew up, in his own words, in the “blue-collar, steel town” of Pittsburgh, in a mixed lineage family of Austrians, Irish and Southern Italians. At an early age, he excelled at both sports and science. Dr. Champ’s lecture at IHMC, “Augmenting Cancer Therapy with Diet,” can be found at: He also regularly writes for Health Wire:
August 2, 2016
Dr. Pascal Lee is not the first Renaissance man to be interview on STEM-Talk, but his impressive biography merits that moniker. “An artist, helicopter pilot, polar researcher, planetary scientist, and a pioneer in thinking about possible human futures in space,” as described by IHMC Director Ken Ford, Lee has an impressive list of accomplishments to his name. He is co-founder and chairman of the Mars Institute, director of the NASA Haughton-Mars Project at NASA Ames Research Center, and senior planetary scientist at the SETI Institute. Born in Hong Kong, he was sent to boarding school in Paris as a child, and later graduated from the University of Paris with a degree in geology and geophysics. During his year of civil service after college, he lived with 31 other men in Antarctica—a formative experience that gave him a thirst for field work and hands-on exploration. As Lee himself says in this interview, “Forever in my life there will be before and after Antarctica.” Lee went on to study astronomy and space science at Cornell University, where he was also Carl Sagan’s teacher’s assistant. He then did a post-doc at NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California, where he has been ever since. He continues to search for “new life” in the universe, with a particular interest in preparing for future exploration of Mars. This summer marks Lee’s twentieth summer field trip on Devon Island, the largest uninhabited earth with geological evidence similar to what Lee suspects would be found on Mars. Lee is also the author of a children’s book, called Mission: Mars, about what it would take for humans to travel to the planet. He is also currently working on a book for adults addressing similar questions: Several of Lee’s lectures are available on YouTube, or at his page on the SETI website: His personal web site is
July 19, 2016
If you want to feel like an astronaut, lie in bed all day. That may seem counter-intuitive, but the body experiences the two scenarios in a similar way. The absence of gravity in space mimics the affects of lying down flat—and not using gravity to our physiological advantage. Gravity expert Joan Vernikos talked about this and other insights on how gravity affects us, in this episode of STEM-Talk, hosted by Dawn Kernagis and Tom Jones. Vernikos spoke to them right before her IHMC lecture in Pensacola, entitled, “Gravity is Our Friend:” Vernikos’ first mentor in life was her father, who at 17 years of age, left his native Greece for France, determined to study medicine, which he did. His specialization in infectious diseases took him to Egypt, where Joan and her sister were educated at English boarding schools. Her sister became a physician, while Joan “chickened out,” becoming a pharmacologist instead. After entering academia, she was recruited to NASA, where she became the director of the Life Sciences Division. Since retiring from NASA 16 years ago, Vernikos says that she’s had “a lot more time to think.” She is the author of the provocatively-titled book, “Sitting Kills, Moving Heals,” which was published in 2011. Her forthcoming book, “Designed to Move,” is about how sedentary lifestyles contribute to poor health and early death; and how movement that challenges gravity can dramatically improve life and longevity. A dynamic speaker, Dr. Vernikos has given dozens of lectures, some of which can be found at You can also check out her web site at
July 5, 2016
Brian Shul speaks softly and carries a big stick. The American war hero every bit worthy of Roosevelt’s words flew 212 missions in the Vietnam War before his nearly fatal crash. With his body severely burned, Shul was in so much pain that he wanted to die. Then one day, lying in his hospital bed, he heard children playing soccer and the voice of Judy Garland singing “Over the Rainbow” on the radio. Suddenly, Shul, at 25-years-old, realized he had a lot to live for. He set himself on a determined road of recovery that would span 15 reconstructive surgeries and countless hours of physical therapy. Shul eventually turned his amazing story of survival into his greatest strength, and he went on to be one of fewer than 100 people to pilot the SR-71 Blackbird, a U.S. spy plane largely operational during the Cold War and thereafter. Shul and flight engineer Walter Watson flew multiple missions in which they escaped missiles over enemy territory including the Soviet Union and Libya, gathering footage and information that would help the U.S. win the Cold War. Unlike other STEM-Talk guests, Shul is neither engineer nor scientist, but he piloted and knew intimately of one of the greatest feats of both. The plane went 3,400 feet per second, which is faster than most bullets and is the speed of traveling between LA and D.C. in an hour and four minutes. For more information on Brian Shul, visit his Wiki page: Also, check out the YouTube video of his IHMC lecture, “From Butterflies to Blackbirds,” which has had more than 180,000 viewers: Shul is also the author of Sled Driver: The World’s Fastest Jet: and The Untouchables: Here is a link to Shul’s recently opened photo gallery in Marysville, California:
June 21, 2016
Dominic D’Agostino looks like a bodybuilder. But that doesn’t mean that he eats a diet typical for that sport; on the contrary, the research scientist—and amateur athlete—can go an entire day without eating and says his performance—both in the lab and in the gym—improves because of it. D’Agostino is perhaps rare in the world of science in that he practices what he preaches. As associate professor in the department of molecular pharmacology and physiology at the University of South Florida, and a visiting research scientist at IHMC, D’Agostino develops and tests metabolic therapies for a range of diseases and conditions for which the ketogenic diet is the cornerstone. The low-carb, moderate-protein, high-fat ketogenic diet is what he also follows for health and greater mental clarity. The ketogenic diet for decades has been used, albeit perhaps sparingly in the clinic, to treat epileptic seizures. D’Agostino is working on the development of exogenous ketones in the form of ketone esters for cancer and neurological disorders as well. For more information on D'Agostino and his research, visit: or His IHMC bio is at; and his IHMC talk "Metabolic Therapies: Therapeutic Implications and Practical Application": D’Agostino is a long-time friend and colleague to STEM-Talk Host Dawn Kernagis, and the two engage in a rich, cutting-edge conversation with knowledgeable input from IHMC Director Ken Ford in this episode.
June 7, 2016
When Kelvin Droegemeier watched the Wizard of Oz as a child, the tornado scenes scared him so much that he didn’t want to look. Today, the esteemed meteorologist watches storms for a living—with a particular interest in tornados. From his upbringing in central Kansas—where he grew up marveling at weather and storms—to his undergraduate internship with the National Severe Storms Lab, Droegemeier was primed for a brilliant career in meteorology. Droegemeier is currently the vice president for research at the University of Oklahoma, where he is also Regents Professor of meteorology; Weathernews Chair Emeritus; and Roger and Sherry Teigen Presidential Professor. He is also the vice-chairman of the national science board at the National Science Foundation. In 1989, he co-founded CAPS, the Center for the Analysis and Prediction of Storms. This center pioneered storm scale numerical weather prediction with data simulation, which ushered in a whole new science of studying the weather. Droegemeier talks with STEM-Talk Host Dawn Kernagis and co-host Tom Jones about the past, present and future of weather prediction, both in the U.S. and globally. For more information on Droegemeier, check out his home page at the University of Oklahoma: as well as his biography at the National Science Board: Here is also the report that came out of that, entitled “Hurricane Warning: The Critical Need for a National Hurricane Research Initiative:
May 24, 2016
Dr. Dale Bredesen says Alzheimer’s Disease is the third leading cause of death in the United States. Dr. Bredesen has developed a novel therapeutic approach that addresses the underlying metabolic changes leading to development of the disease. Dr. Bredesen’s approach, called MEND (metabolic enhancement for neurodegeneration) helped a 65-year-old woman recover her functional memory, after her first physician had written her off as bound to the same demise of her mother, who suffered and died from Alzheimer’s Disease. Bredesen shares these and other insights in this episode of STEM-Talk, where he and host Dawn Kernagis engage in a rich and thought-provoking conversation about the future of treating neurodegenerative and other diseases. Bredesen has been on the faculty at UCSF, UCSD. Currently, he divides his time between UCLA and the Buck Institute for Research on Aging, of which he is founder and CEO:
May 10, 2016
If we could only sell people on the importance of sleep as successfully as we sell them on the pleasures of sex, we’d have a much healthier—and happier bunch. This is one of sleep expert Kirk Parsley’s messages. Parsley calls sleep “the greatest elixir,” and places its importance above that of both exercise and nutrition. Yet, this simple physiological need is hard to satisfy in a society that glorifies business and overworking—and loves its electronics, which don’t exactly prepare the body for sleep. Parsley discusses these and other issues with STEM-Talk host Dawn Kernagis. He talks about how his background as a Navy SEAL led him to a career in medicine, focused on sleep. He also explains why sleep is important—and how you can get more of it. Parsley served as the Naval Special Warfare’s expert on sleep medicine, and has been a member of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine since 2006. He is also the inventor of the Sleep Cocktail, a supplement designed for the sleep optimization of Navy SEALs: A much sought-after sleep expert, this podcast marks Parsley’s 100th podcast interview. You can find more information on him at his web site: You can find his TED talk at
May 3, 2016
In many respects, Barry Barish is the quintessential scientist: soft-spoken and modest, he is also completely dedicated to the pursuit of pure science. Barish is currently the Linde professor of physics at Caltech. He’s a leading expert on gravitational waves, and his leadership and advocacy to the National Science Foundation about the need for LIGO (laser interferometer gravitational wave observatory) played a key role in convincing the NSF to fund it. Barish was the principal investigator of LIGO in 1994, before becoming its director in 1997. The pay-off of Barish’s effort and the NSF decision was huge: Last February, Barish and other scientists announced to the world that they had detected gravitational waves four months before, marking the first ever direct detection since Albert Einstein predicted the existence of gravitational waves in 1916. The proof came via a chirping sound—played below in this interview—which was the sound-wave translation of the merger of two black holes more than a billion light years away. Barish talks to STEM-Talk host Dawn Kernagis and co-host and IHMC Director Ken Ford about the history of Einstein’s theory and the science that later ensued to set up this significant discovery. He also talks about the scientists who made it happen. Barish gave an IHMC lecture in 2009 entitled “Einstein’s Unfinished Symphony: Sounds from the Distant Universe:” Here is a link to the LIGO press conference on the gravitational waves detection:
April 26, 2016
Rusty Schweickart remembers when getting a man on the moon was at the top of the national agenda. JFK’s single minded decision to do that, according to Schweickart, “was perhaps the gutsiest, goal-setting episode in human history.” And Schweickart was part of that—as the pilot of the first manned test of the lunar module, the lander portion of the spacecraft-- during the Apollo 9 Mission in 1969. Schweickart also performed the first space-based test of the portable life support system and spacesuit that was used by the Apollo astronauts who walked on the Moon. He was later the backup commander of the first Skylab mission in 1973, the first U.S. orbital space station. He served as Director of User Affairs at NASA’s Office of Applications, transferring NASA technology to the private sector. Most recently, he co-founded the B612 Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to defending the earth from an asteroid impact. In this episode, Schweickart talks with veteran astronaut Tom Jones, also an IHMC senior scientist, about the potential threat of asteroids, the value of space-based asteroid-finding telescopes; and his contributions to getting the U.S. to the Moon in 1969.
April 19, 2016
Roughly 80 percent of the U.S. population is infected with the herpes virus. While the virus is very easy to get, it remains dormant in many people, who never even know they have it. This is partly because it effectively evades the immune system, taking up refuge in the central nervous system. Dr. Greg Smith is a herpes expert. He is a professor in the microbiology-immunology department at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. His research on herpes looks at novel targets for antivirals and engineering recombinant viral particles as effective gene delivery vehicles. In this episode, Smith talks with STEM-Talk host Dawn Kernagis about his educational and research path to becoming a herpes expert. He also touches on polio as an example of an earlier virus that was largely defeated, and how that was different than herpes. Finally, Smith touches on the development of viral vectors and vaccines to win against the more severe forms of herpes that some people are genetically predisposed to get.
April 12, 2016
Intermittent fasting—alternating days in which you fast or eat only a few hundred calories a day—may have significant long-term health benefits, according to some researchers. Dr. Mark Mattson is a leading expert on intermittent fasting, and one of its proponents on a personal level as well. As a neurosciences professor at Johns Hopkins University, and chief of the laboratory of neurosciences at the National Institute on Aging (NIA), Mattson is particularly interested in how fasting can improve cognitive function and reduce the risk of neurodegenerative diseases. Intermittent fasting might play a role in preventing or postponing neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s, which fifty percent of Americans living into their eighties are predicted to get. In this episode, Mattson talks with IHMC Director Ken Ford and IHMC visiting research scientist Dominic D’Agostino about the benefits of fasting and the physiological mechanisms behind those benefits.
April 5, 2016
Michael Turner is best known for having coined the term “dark energy” in 1998. A theoretical cosmologist at the University of Chicago, Turner has dedicated his career to researching the Big Bang, dark energy and dark matter. He wrote his Ph.D. thesis on gravitational waves—back in 1978—and nearly four decades later—had a bird’s eye view of their recent discovery. Turner was assistant director of the National Science Foundation (NSF), which funded the development of LIGO, which stand for the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory. This large-scale physics experiment and observatory, which was led by researchers at MIT and CalTech, discovered, on September 15th, 2015, the existence of gravitational waves via a chirping noise signaling the collision of two black holes a billion light-years away. The scientists announced their discovery on February 11th, 2016. In this episode, Turner interprets this momentous finding, and talks about some of the big player scientists who worked on LIGO.
March 29, 2016
Margaret Leinen is a big name in oceanography. She’s the director of the Scripps Oceanographic Institute and vice chancellor of marine sciences at Scripps. She was previously assistant direct of the National Science Foundation, where she worked with IHMC CEO and Director Ken Ford, who calls her “one of the most effective and most pleasant assistant directors of NSF.” Leinen’s interest in science started early: In high school, she became interested in geology and the history of the earth. When she discovered oceanography in college, she never looked back. In this episode, Leinen talks about her first dive in the Pacific, where she stumbled onto a huge hydrothermal vent system teeming with worms, clams and other colorful life forms. She also addresses current and future threats to the ocean, a non profit she established to look into mitigating the effects of climate change, and the overall resilience of the oceans. Host Dawn Kernagis, whose own interest in becoming a scientist—started with her childhood fascination with the ocean—conducts this interview.
March 22, 2016
In this episode, we talk with Harrison "Jack" Schmitt, the first and only scientist to land on the moon. Schmitt was part of the Apollo 17 Mission in 1972, the last Apollo mission. The geologist turned NASA Astronaut, turned U.S. senator, talks about first seeing the advertisement, in 1964, for scientists interested in space missions. “When I saw that on the bulletin board, I hesitated about ten seconds,” he said. Called “Dr. Rock” by his colleagues in the Apollo program, Schmitt recounts walking, falling and singing on the moon; and his discovery of orange ash, probably of volcanic in origin at Shorty Crater. Schmitt says returning to the moon is a gateway to Mars, and that private investors may have a stake in funding future space exploration. STEM-Talk’s host Dawn Kernagis and co-host Tom Jones, a veteran NASA astronaut himself, talk to Schmitt.
March 15, 2016
Before Rhonda Perciavalle Patrick "stumbled into research"—at the renowned Salk Institute—the Southern California native was a biochemistry major and a passionate surfer. She's still an avid surfer, but of her college major, Patrick said, "I wasn't feeling connected to synthesizing peptides in the lab, so I decided that I wanted to try out biology." After earning her undergraduate degree in biochemistry from the University of California at San Diego, Patrick worked at the Salk Institute's aging laboratory, where she became fascinated with watching how much the lifespan of nematode worms could fluctuate depending on the experiments done on them. Hooked on aging research, she pursued that thread all the way to the laboratory of renowned scientist Dr. Bruce Ames, who developed the Triage Theory of Aging, which focuses on the long-term damage of micro-nutrient deficiencies. Patrick is currently working with Ames as a post-doc at the Children's Hospital Oakland Research Hospital. Together, they are looking at strategies to reverse the aging process. She also received her Ph.D. in biomedical sciences from the University of Tennessee, where she worked at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. Patrick lectured at IHMC in Ocala in December. She also has her own podcast show, called "Found My Fitness," at: STEM-Talk host Dawn Kernagis and co-host Ken Ford talked with Patrick about her research and development as a young scientist who is now at the forefront of the longevity field.
March 8, 2016
Guy Consolmagno is not your typical scientist. The director of Vatican Observatory is also a Jesuit Brother, astronomer extraordinaire, MIT graduate, former Peace Corp volunteer and self-described science fiction geek. The second-generation Italian-American, born in Detroit, now divides his time between the Vatican Observatory in Italy and the Mount Graham International Observatory in Tucson, Arizona. In 2014, Brother Guy received the Carl Sagan Medal from the American Astronomical Society for his unique position as a scientist and man of faith, and he believes firmly that the scientific and spiritual inquiry are more complementary than conflictual. Consolmagno is the author of several books about astronomy, and science and faith, including most recently, "Would You Baptize an Extra-terrestrial?" He also authored "God's Mechanics: How Scientists and Engineers Make Sense of Religion," and gave a lecture at IHMC on that topic. That lecture can be found on YouTube at In another IHMC lecture, Brother Guy discusses "Discarded Worlds: Astronomical Ideas that Were Almost Correct": Brother Guy writes for a blog called the Catholic Astronomer, which can be found at STEM-Talk co-host Tom Jones, a former NASA astronaut who shares Brother Guy's love of astronomy—as well as the same MIT thesis advisor, John Lewis—interviews Brother Guy about his life-long journey to understand the universe and the role of faith in that pursuit.
March 1, 2016
Dr. Peter Attia, the guest for this episode of STEM-Talk, is a modern-day "Renaissance man," says IHMC CEO Ken Ford. That term gets tossed around a lot, but in Attia's case, it's true. He is a top-notch physician, a former McKinsey consultant, and an ultra endurance athlete—who once swam twenty-something miles to Catalina Island, off the coast of California. During the podcast show, Attia talks about his academic journey, from studying math and engineering, to then pursuing clinical medicine and developing research interests in longevity. The birth of Attia's daughter marked his interest in quantity of life—as well as quality of life. Attia discusses his eight "drivers of longevity," all of which depart from the concept of preventing the onset of chronic disease. These include optimal nutrition, exercise, sleep habits, hormone optimization, stress management, sense of purpose/social connections, medications, and avoidance of harmful behaviors. Check out Peter Attia's blog "The Eating Academy," at You can also check out his TED talk "Is the obesity crisis hiding a bigger problem?
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