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New KPBS Podcast Introduces 'Rad' San Diego Scientists To The World

UC San Diego associate professor of pathology, Pascal Gagneux, is dressed like a sperm to help describe the process of fertilization in this undated photo.
Pascal Gagneux
UC San Diego associate professor of pathology, Pascal Gagneux, is dressed like a sperm to help describe the process of fertilization in this undated photo.
New KPBS Podcast Introduces 'Rad' San Diego Scientists To The World
New KPBS Podcast Introduces 'Rad' San Diego Scientists To The World GUEST:Margot Wohl, host, "Rad Scientist"

Scientist seem to live in another world. The study things and talk about things often far removed from everyday life. The subjects they research have a real impact on our lives and our planet. So how do we bridge the gap between what scientists know and what we should know about scientists? A new podcast is trying to make that connection It is cold Rad Scientist and my guest Margot Wahl is the host. Welcome to the program.Thank you.Your podcast arts by reminding all of us with a big scientific hub Sunday go is. What research are going on here questionEvery type of imaginable that you can think of and in doing the show, I've been introduced to types of science that I did not know were a thing. So we have physics and chemistry in all types of biology and biotech, robotics, anything you can think about.Is this a kind of Q&A format were scientist talks about the research he or she is doing questionThis is a different kind of format. Rather than doing the I asked a question and get an answer, I'm weaving together long interview into a short -- of who they are and what their into an expanding other science but also stuff outside of science. Their hobbies, family, anything that makes them human IRCAYou are PhD candidate at UC San Diego. You are part of the San Diego scientific community. Why do you think scientists have a hard time talking about themselves and their work to nonscientists?I think there's a few things. For one were not always incentivized to do that. A lot of times the goal is to get rid good research of there. You end up being thing in your community and we have lots of jargon that we use and makes it easier to talk to other scientists. So I think it takes some people taking the initiative to maybe be the liaison between the people and the scientists and hopefully this podcast can start to help to do some of that.Who will we hear from in this series question markYou will hear from people from a few institutions. There's a chemist from Scripps, reproductive disease professor from UCSD. We have a scientist a general atomics and we have and a Stroman or as -- a Stroman or.Can you help the people that you profile become more accessible questionI will ask them to break down topics when -- I studied brain science so I have a very specific knowledge base. So often anytime I have a question, I will stop them is a can you explain that further or in a different way are tried taking this word out? In doing that hopefully other people will be able to understand this as well.Do some things you found out surprise you?Yes, I guess the surprising parts of it or how people think about their science and get to where they are. Something I found fun is the chemist from Scripps Institute talks about chemistry as though it is a space exploration. Is like colonizing a new planet that's how we thinks about doing his organic chemistry. It's really fun to talk to a professor who had a chance to be part of a big up-and-coming band but instead he decided he wanted to go through the research track and always wanted to study the stars. Also just seeing people who came from environments that weren't maybe more conducive to science and they made their way through. I had someone that decided that she wanted to be a nuclear physicist which blew my mind at 10.We will hear a long excerpt from the first episode of the rat scientist -- Rad Scientist podcast.He took a really long journey to get to where he is today starting out on a train ride and then he goes to the jungles of Africa where he starts to mold the research you want to do any somehow gets to the intersection of infectious disease and sperm, which sounds crazy but once you hear him explain it, you understand these things really aren't so different.This is from the first episode of the episode Rad Scientist.I am a zoologist who works at UC San Diego input apology and what made me decide to go into biology was an encounter with a recently graduated ecologist in Thailand. I was 17 years old at the time and we spent the whole night talking about ecology and after that I decided that this is what I wanted to do. I don't remember his name. This discussion had a big impact on me.Not long after he graduated he picked up and moved over 3000 miles from Switzerland to Africa. He landed a dream job working for a climatologist.It turns out he was looking for someone to run his place in north Africa.I remember my advisor saying that it will change your life. He was right. My first day in the forest they suggested that I go by myself and get an impression of the forest. There were dangerous snakes and it was completely packed with monkeys and monkeys jumping in the trees and making a lot of noise. Fruit dropping whenever they jump around. Lots of unknown noises from other animals and then I hear this bank and it sounded like a carpenter. I started walking to the noise and there was a chimpanzee and he was --He stood face-to-face with HMP's. The species he came to Africa to study and what he really needed from that was hair. He was interested in measuring the genetic diversity of the population and he could not ask hey can I just get some of your hair. Instead when they were out to play, he climbed into their nests in the canopy sometimes 150 feet up to get the goods. He analyze the DNA from the hair and the results you found were startling.Chimpanzees seem to retain more genetic diversity than all humans, which is kind of paradoxical. It was ironic.Just 100,000 chimps have a more genetic diversity than the entire human species all 7 1/2 billion of us. He wondered why.It would be diseases and things that kill almost everybody off. Could it be that the reason -- reasons humans are the way they are is that we might just be a side effect of the regime of diseases we've had in the past. That is a pretty big question but to try to understand it, he thinks small like microscopic. They are decorated with these tiny sugar molecules but they are different in small ways and they may have a big tube -- impact on disease risk.They carry hundreds and millions and the cell surface is like a nano rain forest. You would be looking up at something like 150 foot tree.Kind of like the trees used to climb in the jungle. When they surfaced trees the branches would be the acids. The use for cell to cell communication but they also act like a deacon for some not so welcome visitors.It's kind of a tale molecule.There are some malaria strains the only infect chimpanzees and some the only infect humans because it is looking for one kind of acid beacon and human malaria is looking for another kind. So maybe one deadly strain looking for human sugars wiped out our population but left chimps unscathed. Remember this is just one hypothesis for why it's so much higher than human diversity.That was the next are of the first episode. To hear the complete episode go to It is one of seven projects selected for the 2016 KPBS explore local content project. I've been speaking with Margot Wahl. Thank you so much.Thank you for having me.

A new KPBS podcast is trying to bridge a connection between San Diego's scientific community and non-scientists. It's called "Rad Scientist," and its host, Margot Wohl is working towards her Ph.D. in neuroscience at UC San Diego.

“I've been part of the science community for about 10 years and the researchers I've met have been some of the most passionately curious folks. However, scientists don't always come across as the most accessible people - and that's why I want to make a show that can introduce these people and their passions to the world,” Wohl said.

The first episode features Pascal Gagneux, an associate professor in the pathology department at UC San Diego. Gagneux, a zoologist, decided to go into biology after a chance encounter with an Australian ecologist on a train in Thailand.

"After that train ride, I decided that this is what I wanted to do. I don't even remember his name," Gagneux said. "But this discussion had a big impact on me."

After a stint studying chimpanzees in West Africa, Gagneux now studies how sperm survive in the female reproductive system in order to fertilize the egg and relatedly, how infectious disease pathogens invade host cells, in order to understand how diseases like malaria can evade our immune systems.

"Rad Scientist" is one of seven local content projects selected for the KPBS Explore program.

Wohl previews "Rad Scientist" Wednesday on Midday Edition.