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Podcast Episodes – Chemistry Podcast

ChemTalk chemistry podcast interviews

In our podcast series, we interview chemists, scientists, and educators from across the globe who show the many career paths that involve chemistry, and how a love for chemistry can manifest itself in many unique ways. Each episode features a different chemist from a different part of the world and a new perspective of chemistry. The ChemTalk chemistry podcast can be listened to on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Anchor, and most additional streaming platforms.

Episode 21: “Professor Dave Explains” Farina on Youtube and Working as a STEM Educator

Have you ever seen a tweet saying two of your favorite celebrities are dating, only to find out that it was misinformation? We’ve been there too. Even worse, this happens all the time in science! On this episode of the ChemTalk Podcast, host Olivia Lambertson interviews Dave Farina, otherwise known as “Professor Dave Explains” on YouTube to his 2.3 million subscribers. We discuss what it is like to have your own YouTube channel, how to combat misinformation, and the importance of science communication. We hope you enjoy! If you would like to know more about Dave Farina you can check out his YouTube channel or reach him by email at professordaveexplains@gmail.com.

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Episode 20: Dr. Helmut Cölfen on the Applications of Biologically-Based Materials

Have you ever stepped on a sea urchin? If you have, you were probably too busy thinking about the pain in your foot rather than how these unique creatures get to be so sturdy and sharp. Would you ever imagine that these creatures could have insight into creating almost indestructible buildings? On this episode of the ChemTalk Podcast, host Olivia Lambertson interviews Dr. Helmut Cölfen, Professor of Physical Chemistry at University Konstanz. We discuss how physical chemistry can create more natural tooth fillings, how a sea urchin’s skeleton can show us how to make new concrete, and how calcium disappearing from an experiment led to the possibility of liquid painkillers. We hope you enjoy! If you would like to know more about Dr. Helmut Cölfen you can check out his research, or reach him by email at helmut.coelfen@uni-konstanz.de

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Episode 19: Dr. Devleena Samanta on DNA as Materials

Have you ever thought about your DNA as something other than your genetic material? What if we told you that you could fold DNA to make a smiley face? What about a map of the United States? On this week’s episode of the ChemTalk Podcast, host Roxanne Salkeld interviews Dr. Devleena Samanta, Assistant Professor of Chemistry and an associate member of the Livestrong Cancer Institutes at The University of Texas at Austin. We discuss Dr. Samanta’s research regarding the use of DNA as a material in detecting diseases like cancer at earlier stages. We hope you enjoy! If you would like to know more about Dr. Devleena Samanta you can check out her research, or reach her by email at dsamanta@utexas.edu.

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Episode 18: Dr. Kayunta Johnson-Winters on Enzymology and Diversity in Science

This week’s interviewee’s advice you may ask? Think about the questions that are not answered in existing projects. On this week’s episode of the ChemTalk Podcast, host Olivia Lambertson interviews Dr. Kayunta Johnson-Winters, Associate Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Texas at Arlington. Dr. Johnson-Winters discusses her work involving enzymology and its clinical applications for diseases like tuberculosis. Additionally, Dr. Johnson-Winters shares her experience as a first-generation college student, being unapologetic about speaking her mind, and her experience as a woman of color in STEM. We hope you enjoy! If you would like to know more about Dr. Kayunta Johnson-Winters you can check out her research, Twitter, or reach her by email at kayunta@uta.edu.

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Episode 17: Dr. Joaquín Rodríguez-López on Electrochemistry

How can we use chemistry to make an impact on climate change? Can we reduce carbon dioxide and make it a new fuel? You can find out on this week’s episode of the ChemTalk podcast, where hosts Roxanne Salkeld and Olivia Lambertson interview Dr. Joaquín Rodríguez-López, Associate Professor of Chemistry at the University of Illinois. Dr. Rodríguez-López speaks about the broad applications of electrochemistry (including reduction of carbon dioxide), diversity, and pushing the boundaries of chemistry. We hope you enjoy! If you would like to know more about Dr. Joaquín Rodríguez-López you can check out his research, Twitter, or reach him by email at joaquinr@illinois.edu.

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Episode 16: Dr. Scott Cushing on the Power of Lasers

Did you know that lasers are more than a unique toy for your cat? On this week’s episode of the ChemTalk podcast, hosts Roxanne Salkeld and Claris Chan interview Dr. Scott Cushing, Assistant Professor of Chemistry at Caltech. Dr. Scott Cushing’s research specializes in the development of laser-based instrumentation for applications in chemistry and beyond. Dr. Cushing talks about how to make a tabletop chemical instrument, life as a professor, and the importance of mental health in all professions. Dr. Cushing’s enthusiasm for lasers will leave you wanting to learn more. We hope you enjoy! If you would like to know more about Dr. Scott Cushing you can check out his research, or reach him by email at scushing@caltech.edu.

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Episode 15: Dr. Elizabeth Bess on the Human Gut Microbiome

How many microbial cells do you think you have in your body? A million? A billion? Would you guess that you have as many microbial cells in your body as cells that make up your body (which is approximately 30 trillion)? We didn’t! On this week’s episode of the ChemTalk Podcast, hosts Roxanne Salkeld and Claris Chan interview Dr. Elizabeth Bess, Assistant Professor of Chemistry at UC Irvine. Dr. Elizabeth Bess’ research specializes in the human microbiome and the chemical reactions that bacteria perform. Dr. Bess explains how gut bacteria can affect more than just whether or not you digest your lunch, but perhaps even your mood and brain. We hope you enjoy! If you would like to know more about Dr. Elizabeth Bess you can check out her research, Twitter, or reach her by email at elizabeth.bess@uci.edu.

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Episode 14: Dr. Philipp Zerbe on Plants’ Use of Diverse Chemistry

Tell me something- before you took a literature class, did you enjoy reading just for the sake of it? And now, do you find yourself identifying motifs, classifying steps in the hero’s journey, or internally (or externally, we don’t judge) commenting on how the color of the rug elevates the mood of a certain scene? Well, we’re about to do that to you, only in this case, we’re gonna tell you everything you need to know about maize, and, maybe, strawberries. Have you heard of Terpenoids? Terpe-WHAT?- you may be asking. Well never fear! On this week’s episode of the ChemTalk podcast, hosts Roxanne Salkeld and Alejandra Valenzuela speak to Dr. Philipp Zerbe, Associate Professor of Plant Biology at UC Davis. Dr. Philipp Zerbe’s research focuses on plant terpenoids and why this field is so important to study. Dr. Zerbe explains how the primary focus of his research lab is to better understand the diversity of chemistry that plants utilize to defend themselves against stress and react to their surroundings. This information can be used to optimize crop yield and formulate medicines. We hope you enjoy! If you would like to know more about Dr. Philipp Zerbe you can check out his research or reach him by email at pzerbe@ucdavis.edu.

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Episode 13: Dr. Elizabeth Neumann on MALDI MSI

If you’re wondering what on earth MALDI MSI is, you’re not alone. We were right there with you. On this week’s episode of the ChemTalk podcast, host Roxanne Salkeld interviews Dr. Elizabeth Neumann, Assistant Professor of Chemistry at UC Davis. Dr. Elizabeth Neumann’s research revolves around the use of MALDI MSI (matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization mass spectrometry imaging) to identify neurological disease elements without causing disorder in the sample. We also talk about starting a lab from scratch (sort of), and how to get what you want as someone in academia. We hope you enjoy! If you would like to know more about Dr. Elizabeth Neumann you can check out her research, Twitter, or reach her by email at ekneumann@ucdavis.edu.

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Episode 12: Dr. Irene Chen on Bacteriophages

Pop quiz! What biological agent is most abundant on all of planet Earth? Hint: it’s a type of virus with hyper-specificity, allowing infection of different bacterial species. If you guessed bacteriophages, you’re correct! These phages are viruses that target bacterial cells and subsequently kill their host as they use parts of the bacterial cells to replicate. On this week’s episode of the ChemTalk podcast, hosts Claris Chan and Roxanne Salkeld interview Dr. Irene Chen, Associate Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at UCLA. We discuss what these viruses are, how they work, and the challenges and benefits of using them in the realm of human health and infectious diseases. We hope you enjoy! If you would like to know more about Dr. Irene Chen you can check out her research or reach her by email at ireneachen@ucla.edu.

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Episode 11: Dr. Jennifer Lillig on Listeria Monocytogenes

Ever had a bad case of food poisoning? And while you were curled up in the fetal position waiting for it to be over, have you ever googled what might have caused it? This podcast episode might answer all your questions. On this episode of the ChemTalk podcast, hosts Roxanne Salkeld and Claris Chan interview Jennifer Lillig, Professor of Chemistry and Interim Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies at Sonoma State University. Her research focus is Listeria monocytogenes, a pathogenic bacteria capable of causing severe food-borne illness. Listen to understand why she and her students are breaking apart molecules and experimenting with bacteriocins, and how she’s trying to prevent us from getting so ill in the future. We had lots of fun speaking with Dr. Lillig and we hope you enjoy this episode as much as we do! If you would like to know more about Dr. Jennifer Lillig you can check out her research or reach her by email at whilesli@sonoma.edu.

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Episode 10: Dr. Kim Janda on Vaccines for Opioids

You’ve had your fair share of flu vaccinations, and probably ones for mumps and measles too! But did you know that one of the most insidious crises of our time could also be treated with a simple shot? On this week’s episode of the ChemTalk podcast, host Roxanne Salkeld interviews Dr. Kim Janda, Professor of Chemistry at the Scripps Research Institute. We discuss his research journey to produce a vaccine to combat the opioid crisis, how he became interested in chemistry, and his proudest moment in the lab with one of his students. If you would like to know more about Dr. Kim Janda you can check out his research or reach him by email at kdjanda@scripps.edu.

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Episode 9: Dr. Carl Denard on Synthetic Biology

You can change your hair, you can change your clothes. But did you know if you change a genetic sequence of an organism, it will affect not just itself, but its entire lineage to come? On this week’s episode of the ChemTalk podcast, host Lawton Long interviews Dr. Carl Denard, Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering at the University of Florida, along with one of Dr. Denard’s Ph.D. candidates, Sam Martinusen. We discuss the research conducted in Professor Denard’s lab, what the field of synthetic biology may look like in the near future, and the pressing issues affecting underprivileged communities in regard to their exposure to the STEM field. If you would like to know more about Dr. Carl Denard you can check out his research, Twitter, or reach him by email at cdenard@ufl.edu.

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Episode 8: Dr. Eric Scerri on What Defines an Element

Would you believe that this periodic table expert has a side hobby of playing blues guitar? On this week’s episode of the ChemTalk podcast, host Scott Gietler from ChemTalk interviews Dr. Eric Scerri, Professor of Chemistry at UCLA and periodic table expert. Dr. Scerri has written many books on the periodic table and is specifically interested in philosophical chemistry. With his knowledge of the periodic table, he discusses important figures involved in its development, what happens when an element is disproved, how he became interested in chemistry, and his love for blues guitar. We hope you enjoy! If you would like to know more about Dr. Eric Scerri you can check out his website or Twitter or reach him by email at scerri@chem.ucla.edu.

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Episode 7: Dr. Dino Spagnoli on the Tobacco Industry

You may have done titrations on acids or bases in chem lab, but have you ever thought about titrating tobacco? On this week’s episode of the ChemTalk podcast, host Nafeesa Mahmood interviews Dr. Dino Spagnoli, a Lecturer and Coordinator of First-Year Studies in Chemistry at the University of Western Australia. Dr. Spagnoli speaks about his experiences as a research assistant at UC Berkeley in California, the process by which he developed his own app, what it was like working in the tobacco industry, and more. We hope you enjoy! If you would like to know more about Dr. Dino Spagnoli you can check out his research or Twitter, or reach him by email at dino.spagnoli@uwa.edu.au.

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Episode 6: Dr. Fun Man Fung on Online Chemistry Education

How would you feel if your professor was more popular on YouTube than you? This interviewee’s students may actually have to consider this question. On this week’s episode of the ChemTalk podcast, hosts Scott Gietler and Nafeesa Mahmood interview Dr. Fun Man Fung, an Instructor of Chemistry at the National University of Singapore. Dr. Fung speaks of the passion involved in being a professor, how online learning can change the world for the better, and the importance of honest feedback. We hope you enjoy! If you would like to know more about Dr. Fung you can check out his YouTube or Twitter or reach him by email at fun.man@u.nus.edu.

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Episode 5: Dr. Jen Heemstra on Nucleic Acids and Coping with Failure in STEM

Chemistry podcast interview - Jen Heemstra

Can’t decide between chemistry and psychology? This interviewee shows that you can do research on both! On this week’s episode of the ChemTalk podcast, hosts Nafeesa Mahmood and Scott Gietler interview Dr. Jen Heemstra, Professor of Chemistry at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. The Heemstra Group studies nucleic acids and their applications, specifically how they may differ from their traditional roles (such as acting as antibodies). Dr. Heemstra speaks of her research group, how she got to where she is in academia, coping with failure in the STEM world, and much more. Since speaking with her, Dr. Heemstra has moved her lab to Washington University in St. Louis. We hope you enjoy! If you would like to know more about Dr. Heemstra you can check out her website or Twitter or reach her by email at heemstra@wustl.edu.

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Episode 4: Dr. Timothy Dore on Medicinal Chemistry and Working Abroad


Did you know that chemistry could take you to Abu Dhabi or even Kyoto? It took this interviewee to both. On this week’s episode of the ChemTalk podcast, hosts Nafeesa Mahmood, Shreya Sangani, and Melissa Valqui interview Dr. Timothy Dore, Associate Professor of Chemistry at New York University’s campus in Abu Dhabi. Professor Dore speaks of his experience with medicinal chemistry research, his time as a visiting professor in Kyoto, how COVID-19 changed the direction of his research, and how to travel as a chemist. If you would like to know more about Dr. Dore you can check out his website or reach out to him by email at timothy.dore@nyu.edu.

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Episode 3: Dr. Lauren Zarzar on Material Chemistry

What would you do if your kitchen table came to life? But in all seriousness, what would happen if materials had life-like properties? On this week’s episode of the ChemTalk podcast, hosts Nafeesa Mahmood and Olivia Lambertson interview Dr. Lauren Zarzar, an Assistant Professor of Chemistry, Materials Science and Engineering at Pennsylvania State University. Dr. Lauren Zarzar’s research focuses on material chemistry. Tune into the riveting interview to hear about how science and art overlap, the importance of creativity in research, and how we can work as a community to change the perception of chemistry. Since the interview, Dr. Zarzar has joined the ChemTalk team as an advisor. If you want to know more about Dr. Zarar, you can check out her website or Twitter, or contact her by email at ldz4@psu.edu.

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Episode 2: Dr. Roald Hoffmann on Being a Nobel Prize Winner

Chemistry podcast interview - Roald Hoffmann


This interviewee says that the winner of the Nobel Prize is never a surprise. Tune in to learn why this is the case! On this week’s episode of the ChemTalk podcast, host Scott Gietler interviews Nobel Laureate Roald Hoffmann about how his love for chemistry began, nanoparticles, who’s going to win the next Nobel Prize, his friendship with Oliver Sacks, the real purpose of a research group, and so much more. Dr. Hoffmann won the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1981. If you want to know more about Dr. Hoffmann, you can check out his website or email him at rh34@cornell.edu.

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Episode 1: Dr. Michelle O’Malley on Biomaterials

Chemistry podcast interview - Michelle O'Malley

Would you believe it if we told you this interviewee met President Obama because of science? Tune in to find out! On this week’s episode of the ChemTalk podcast, hosts Scott Gietler, Lawton Long, and Rylie Maziek interview Dr. Michelle O’Malley, a Professor of Chemistry at UC Santa Barbara. Dr. O’Malley speaks about her research on biomaterials, her education, and what it’s like to be a professor. Dr. O’Malley’s lab studies how proteins are synthesized, but approaches the mystery as both a biologist and an engineer. If you want to know more about Dr. O’Malley, you can check out her website or Twitter, or reach out to her by email at momalley@engineering.ucsb.edu.

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Stay Tuned for more ChemTalk Chemistry Podcast Interviews!

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