Learn what it’s like to be a scientist on the frontlines of viral outbreaks like MERS (Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome) and Ebola with our guest Dr. Vincent Munster, Chief, Virus Ecology Unit at Rocky Mountain Labs at the National Institutes of Health. The Virus Ecology Unit combines traditional bench work at their state of the art facilities in Montana with work right where the outbreaks are happening, like Africa, the Middle East, and the Caribbean. Vincent was on the frontlines of the Ebola outbreak in Africa & was part of the unit to test patients for the virus. His lab also does research into MERS, including a transmission blocking vaccine for camels, and development of mouse & monkey models. We also feature friend & colleague Stephen Goldstein, PhD candidate working on MERS in the lab of Susan Weiss at the University of Pennsylvania. This was recorded at the American Society for Virology annual meeting at Virginia Tech.
Tune in to hear Vincent’s story on what it was like to be a scientist in Africa at the height of the Ebola outbreak and his cutting edge work on MERS. Truly an inspirational scientist who’s focusing on improving global health!
Talking about viruses, and in particular influenza virus (or flu), to the lay public remains an extremely difficult area of science reporting. Bad science communication regarding flu can be devastating–if we can’t get the right information to the public and get their support, then public health progress could be set back decades, risking the lives of many people. It’s really important to keep flu research going as so much about the disease and the underlying cause (= the virus) remains a mystery. Moreover, an effective vaccine or antiviral treatment remain elusive.
If you’ve followed science news in the last 3 years, you’ve most likely heard of Dr. Ron Fouchier and his research on understanding how bird flu spreads and if it’s possible for it to change into a form that can be passed between people. Voted one of Time Magazine’s “World’s 100 Most Influential People of 2012″, Fouchier shares with us his side of the avian H5N1 flu research controversy that catalyzed a frenzy of (bad) science reporting in 2011-2013. What made this research so controversial? Did the press misrepresent Fouchier? What has he learned about science communication during this process? For these answers and more insights into how the American press failed us, check out this podcast.
Youtube video by Ron explaining the importance of his work and why it’s safe
I have often debated about whether guns should be banned or not…but I never considered the possibility that these conversations are actually impeding the progress of policies that help reduce gun violence. And yes, it’s gun violence that we are all really concerned about–not whether or not guns should be allowed in society.
Our latest episode features Dr. Daniel Webster, Director of the Center For Gun Policy and Research at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. Dr. Webster discusses how these conversations on whether guns should be banned or not (which are usually based on morals, anecdotes, and passions–not actual facts) are harming good gun policy progress and points out the kinds of research and policies that have been most helpful in reducing gun violence. It’s important to realize that focusing discussions on banning guns isn’t actually helping to reduce gun violence in America. Yet another example of how bad communication can harm public health progress!
Our latest guest, Kyle McLean, is a wealth of science knowledge and lore. In this episode, Kyle discusses the pitfalls of putting the majority of public funding into translational or applications-based research instead of basic science. Kyle also tells Nina’s favorite story of science communication gone awry when poor communication of data led to the destruction of the space shuttle Challenger and all of its occupants. Kyle ends with explaining how we scientists need to put more thought into how we present our data and to better adapt our presentations to fit the audience.
If you are looking for a female role model, look no further than our latest interview with Diane Griffin, MD/PhD. Griffin is Chair of the Department of Molecular Microbiology & Immunology at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health (yep, Nick & Nina’s home) and Vice President of the National Academy of Sciences. If you want to be impressed (and shocked), listen to her talk about how she decided one day to apply to medical school and three days later took the MCATs without studying (and got into Stanford University’s medical school). Truly an inspiration and leader of science. Check out her laboratory research into measles and Sindbis virus here.
For your convenience, we have broken up the interview into two 30 min blocks.
In Part 1, Griffin explains how lucky opportunities brought her from a small liberal arts college in the rural Midwest to being an honored head of a very unique and interdisciplinary research department.
In Part 2, Nina and Griffin have a great discussion on who should be responsible for science communication, including how parents and educators should keep science exciting and focused on questions, rather than pure memorization. Griffin also explores her role as Chair of MMI and the goals of the department –including what she hopes students learn from the program.
“Nobels, Impersonations, & Talking Science on the Colbert Report.” Interview 2 with Dr. Peter Agre, 2003 winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Dr. Agre is the head of the Malaria Research Institute at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and you can check out a short biography here. Check out Peter on the Colbert Report here. I think he held his own really well against Colbert!
In this episode, Peter relives the day he won the Nobel followed by a discussion on mentors, the Colbert Report and talking religion/science with the public, and why more scientists should be involved in politics. Peter also gives Nina some valuable life advice at the end.
To access the interview, click to stream or right click to download HERE.
On May 14, 2013 Nina interviewed Dr. Al Sommer, one of the great leaders in public health. He is best known for his discovery that vitamin A supplementation can reduce childhood mortality by 34%, but he has contributed so much more to the global public health scene.
He has been a public health revolutionary in many ways. Influenced by his time in the Epidemiological Intelligence Service (EIS), Sommer was first to combine the fields of Ophthalmology & Epidemiology, bringing hard data to the medical field instead of conclusions based on case studies. EIS also taught him the importance of making meaningful relationships while doing field work. So much so that he aided refugees (the very people he had been sent to help medically) from the Bangladesh revolution and went against orders to aid survivors of a terrible cyclone.
As dean of Johns Hopkins School of Public Health from 1995-2005, he formed many new global amd national partnerships. This included working with Mayor Michael Bloomberg to increase funding to the school (and coming up with our current school motto–JHBSPH, saving lives–millions at a time). Sommer points out in our interview that schools of public health save more lives than schools of medicine because we work to prevent disease from ever happening. This can sometimes be a thankless job since no one thanks you or is even aware of the power of disease prevention.
Truly a leader, Sommer recounts in this interview the beginnings of his career, the political unrest he encountered in Bangladesh and its impact on public health, how he met his extremely supportive wife, and leaves us with exceptional life advice.