Memorable Episodes from Inspiration Dissemination
Please be patient! After authoring ~35 posts, and participating in ~80 interviews, I’m still revisiting all these stories
I started co-hosting the show in 2015 mostly because I thought it would be fun to talk to people on the radio. Before long, I was being exposed to research I NEVER knew existed. I had conversations with physicists, oceanographers, and social scientists that have helped me grow as a scientist but also an individual. The interviews were always about their research, but it was also partly about my curiosity of the world around me. Below is a short list of the most memorable episodes. All my blog posts can be found on the Inspiration Dissemination website, or you can access our podcast archive with links to your preferred podcast provider. If you can only listen to one, please see either Holly Horan or Hannah Whitley.
I am the primary author of the blogs listed below unless otherwise noted.
- I absolutely love Hannah’s research. For the all the complicated things about fish habitat, agricultural production, water rights, land claims, there are people who disagree with one another and they will, one way or another, need to reach a consensus. But how can you create a model where everyone’s voices are heard, so the final decision can be adhered to? Governance is key, but it’s not easy. And while this is an especially thorny location (the Klamath River Basin), you can expect more conflict around water just like this to increase in the future. Beyond water, Hannah’s research on community input of shared resources has a overlaps with many other issues. For example, our clean energy transition will require a lot of infrastructure building that will inevitably intersect with people’s ranches and homes; and how you include their voice of concern about the project could be the linchpin for how successful our clean energy transition will be.
- You read my blog post Water Woes of the West about Hannah’s research, but I really encourage you listening to the podcast episode because we were able to peel back many layers that I could not address in the blogpost.
- On the surface, Holly’s research seems straightforward; pregnancy is stressful, and tracking maternal stress through hair cortisol sampling can inform policy on when during/after pregnancy are women most stressed. Therefore, we can use this information can try and alleviate those stressful time-points for mothers. But what happens when the community you’re researching is one that were [forcibly] coerced into being test subjects for the development of birth control? What happens when the island you live on has declared bankruptcy to the colonial power that extracted wealth and resources from your lands? What happens when a hurricane rips through your island while your pregnant? Can you imagine the additional stress that might place on you? Neither can I. Holly’s research on Puerto Rican women is part social psychology, ethnography, history, and biochemistry. But she did all this as a Puerto Rican who gave birth during her PhD. Holly doesn’t know this, but I constantly revisit this interview because of how intertwined history is with our present, and how science can only do so much if the people are left out of the conversation.
- Holly Horan’s blog post Applied Medical Anthropology: A history of stress in Puerto Rico and its impacts on birth outcomes was written by Daniel Watkins, but we both interviewed her in the podcast episode.
- She is a visa-lottery recipient from Macedonia (yes, the US has a visa lottery) and worked as cleaner for a computing & manufacturing facility in Corvallis. Vesna worked graveyard shifts while going to school and raising children. Fast-forward a few years and she’s helping Oregon residents access food benefits as an Oregon Health Department (OHD) employee. Her new job was helping others in her exact situation not long ago. At OHD she noticed the large hurdles that many people have accessing food benefits, especially university students from accessing food resources. She describes her immigration story, how she wanted to help others like herself as the primary why she worked for the Oregon Health Department. Later in the interview we discuss why she wanted to pursue a higher degree (to make an even stronger impact). If you enjoy this discussion, also listen to the episode with Terese Jones above.
- Read Vesna Stone’s blog post No Strings Attached: Why some students need help, and how others provide assistance, or listen to her podcast episode.
- Our own human perceptions are not as rational as you may think. We discuss how our brains make instantaneous decisions on trustworthiness based on a person’s facial structure, the implications for people with “untrustworthy” faces, and how these immediate and subconscious decisions can create a vicious cycle. There are obvious parallels to the concept of of inherent bias, but that concept is often discussed in a nebulous way where this was a really tangible and memorable study.
- Read Zoe Alley’s blog post Do You Trust Others as Much as They Trust You?, or listen to her podcast episode.
- It should not be a surprise that Oregon State, being a land-grand university, has a large engineering program dominated by men. But should it come as a surprise that the photo of the 2018 SpaceX falcon heavy launch was as white-male dominated as NASA photos during the space race from the 1960’s? Andrea’s PhD research examines what happens in an engineering workplace that keeps these disparities stable, despite the fact that “girls get better grades than their male counterparts from kindergarten through high school, girls have a similar level of STEM interest as their male counterparts early in their schooling career and within the last decade women outnumber men among college graduates."
- Read Andrea Haverkamp’s blog post Workplace Woes for Women in Engineering that she primarily wrote and we lightly edited, or listen to the Apple podcast episode.
- How expensive do you think it is to buy a wheelchair? How about a wheelchair for children? Answer: about $17,000 for a powered pediatric wheelchair. That’s insane (
insert rant on the American health care system) and obviously prohibitive for most families. Once you take into account that the way children learn about themselves, others, and the world they inhabit is strongly tied to their own self-mobility and freedom to explore what they find interesting, then the stakes of having exorbitantly priced medical devices for children seems criminal. The Social Mobility Lab at Oregon State decided to do something about it; they designed modified ride-on cars for children with a total cost of $200. Christina and her lab are very humble, but I see this interview as one of the most influential because of the way it tied together developmental psychology, health care infrastructure, and applied research into a cohesive story that encourages me that understanding the system(s) can help fix them.
- Read Christina Hospodar’s blog post Happy Children Happy Feet: Ride-On Cars Promote Childhood Development, or listen to the Apple podcast episode.
- It’s no secret, that the world is built around able-bodied people. Even with the advent of the Americans with Disabilities Act, there are everyday hurdles and limitations disabled people must figure out that other people don’t even realize exist. Oregon State University has an adaptive physical activity program aims to make movement, exercise, and personal development more accessible for those with mobility limitations. Winston was a practicing physical therapist for a number of years, when he noticed some basic gaps in care that he was not able to provide his patients. Some issues began around primary care physicians not knowing all the benefits of PT. Other, more practical issues, revolved around patients not having the equipment at home to perform the recommended PT exercises. Winston’s research aims to better inform primary care physicians on the full benefits of PT and to identify ways to encourage at-home PT exercise to be more successful.
- Read Winston Kennedy’s blog post Work your Body, Work Your Brain, or listen to the podcast episode. Winston was also selected to be part of an annual event we organize with the OSU Graduate School called Grad Inspire. You can watch his speech from the 2020 event.
- Research institutions pride themselves on conducting basic science research that takes decades before the laborious lab work done by many graduate students ever reaches any sense of broader application. Sometimes it feels like knowledge, for knowledge’s sake. But these basic science endeavors are some of the most difficult areas of research to pursue because the return on investment for the work is far far away. Nonetheless, someone has to do the work, otherwise we wouldn’t have most of our medical therapeutics we take for granted today. As Shauna describes, her work is both at the forefront of human knowledge but difficult to translate because it deals with molecular responses to calcium in muscle cells.
- What makes Shauna’s episode so special, more so than her really advanced research, is her willingness to be vulnerable and honest about the difficulties of her path to graduate school. The unfortunate reality is that academia has never been accepting of people who come from non-privileged backgrounds. We’re poorly paid, usually lack health care, and only more recently has the importance of mental health been realized. Shauna was an un-paid undergraduate worker in a research lab and unfortunately she became houseless; the only place she had to sleep for a while was hiding under a laser table in the lab where she worked. When her adviser found out, he gave her a camping mat. Talk about an underwhelming support system. Luckily, OSU provides graduate students with descent pay (compared to most other universities) and a really good health care benefits that allowed Shauna to find her feet.
- For all my years I’ve been interviewing people, one of the most consistent issues graduate students have is a PI who has no idea how to be a mentor. These issues rarely get voiced on the recorded interviews because the power dynamic between a graduate student and adviser prevents their ability to be honest about their experience. Additionally, to become a tenure track professor you need lots of publications and grant awards; but they have no relation in how to be a good mentor or a good human. While Shauna’s individual situation was unique, her experience of having an supportive mentor is all too common in academia. If I could give prospective graduate students advice on choosing a lab, ask the PI to put you in contact with some of their previous graduate students - they have the ability to be more honest than their current students so you can make the right decision which lab to join.
- Read Shauna Otto’s blog post Micro Structures and Macro Support written by Kristen Finch, or listen to Shauna’s podcast episode. Shauna’s story was so powerful, she was selected as a participant for our annual Grad Inspire event. You can listen to the 2020 Grad Inspire episode or read the transcript. I was Shauna’s primary mentor to help craft her speech, which focused much more on her personal background than it did her science, it begins at the 49:20 mark.
- I don’t usually get very excited about hybridizing plants on the Oregon coast, but this is different. This episode was conceived, organized, and conducted within a 48 hour window… and it want flawlessly (mostly because Rebecca had lots of media exposure, so she was very comfortable on air and did a great job explaining science-y terms). We had such a quick turn around time because the movie Dune was being released, and Rebecca studies the sand dunes that gave the author of the books inspiration.
- I also love this interview because we talk about much more than just plants and pop-culture. We discuss the trade-offs of how historical legacies of manifest destiny created the ecology we see today, why that ecology is threatened, and why beach front property owners have different priorities than ecologists or bird lovers. Unbeknownst to us, the Oregon State radio station director sent this show into the Western Division of the Society of Professional Journalists where we were named finalsts in the podcast catagory. We didn’t win, but it was nice to be recognized.
- You can read Rebecca Mostow’s blog The Promise and Peril of New Plants on Oregon’s Sand Dunes, that was very hastily written by me, or listen to the episode.
Jason J. Dorsette
- Jason has both a fascinating background and really important novel research; neither of which we were able to dive into because this episode was mostly about Jason’s role as the President of the local branch of the NAACP. We were helping to advertise their Freedom Fund, a fundraiser that helps to fund the Linn-Benton County NAACP branch, that was happening later in the year. We explored his background from North Carolina, and how coming to a dominantly white area really made him think twice whether he belong here. That did inform his research, but we expect to have him on air again to more strickly dive into his research and his many roles with the university.
- I highly recommend reading Jason Dorsette’s blogpost Fighting for Freedom in Oregon because we were only able to briefly touch on a few key terms that are more fully explained in the blog. Also, if you’re living in Oregon, and/or interested in history, definitely look over the learning resources in the blogpost. Checkout the podcast episode here.
10 Year Anniversary
- The radio show, turned podcast, is now a decade old! I interviewed the first three hosts about why the show started and how they felt about it continuing long after they finished with their OSU career. I also spliced together a really fun introduction with the voices of every single host ever. I’m now a much better audio editor after splicing so many different audio files.
- Check out the 10-year Anniversary episode here. Sorry, no blog post… I need to fix that in my spare time.
- I was lucky enough to interview the Vice President of the local NAACP branch who is passionate about environmental justice. Unfortunately, he passion comes from frustration of how his hometown of Detroit handled flood(s) that disproportionately impacted renters and black communities. We begin the discussion about how one Detroit flood caused lasting damage, but we zoom out to discuss broader environmental injustices before finishing the episode with some tangible local actions someone can embark on if they live nearby. As more people are realizing, if you want to generate change, start locally first.
- Environmental Justice is becoming a more popular concept, but in a weird paradox this is often the practice about damaging environmental contaminants that cause injustice. The decision about where to place freeways, landfills, and power plants were mostly done in the early to mid 1900’s of US history. But these decisions continue to have implications today. Freeways were purposefully placed through black-majority areas, that both separated a thriving community and also caused ongoing noise and air and water pollution that disproportionately impacts those disenfranchised from local decision making. One recent developer accidentally said the quiet part out loud of why they choose to place a oil pipeline through a black community and avoiding a white community, they they choose the “path of least resistance”. As the landing page of my website suggests, I hope to move away from the ivory tower and focus on a different career that allows me to use the skills I’ve learned about environmental science, but apply that in a more people-center approach. Environmental Justice seems like my next stepping stone, so here’s the early phases of my conception around these topics.
- Check out the blog Environmental Justice, what it is and what to do about it or listen to the episode directly.
- Our energy grid will have to adapt faster then the climate is changing… and our climate is changing fast. Over the last few years I’ve become deeply interested in utility poles and the wires that connect them. For all our big talk about de-carbonizing our energy sources (basically not using fossil fuels anymore), the energy we create from renewable sources still needs to be transported and delivered to homes and businesses. Whether energy is created by utility-scale renewables or home rooftop solar panels, they generate unique problems for our energy grid that it has never seen before. I like to think of our current energy grid like the 1990’s telephone lines; yes they can transmit information back and forth but in today’s information age we need ethernet and fiber optic connections because phone lines just won’t cut it anymore! If only we knew the wonders going on behind that wall when we plug in our electronics, we’d be amazed at how far we’ve come. But for our generation we need to basically upgrade everything that’s ever been done, what an awesome task ahead of us.
- You can read Emily’s Richardson’s blogpost Our Energy System in Transition, or listen to the podcast episode.
- This was a special episode where we reached outside our graduate student mindset and interviewed a Corvallis community member about their advocacy on behalf of trans-groups that helped raise $400,000 dollars for Texas-specific organizations. This interview was conducted in 2020 where in the first four months of the year, nearly 240 anti-LGBTQ bills have been file across the US. This kind of targeting against the trans-community is not new, but it’s rapid expansion is unparalleled. Texas in particular proposed one of the most dystopic bills where even talking about one gender could land teachers in jail. Republican-led state legislatures are only getting started, and if you think these bills do not affect you, well think again.
- You can read Rue Dickey’s blog post written by Grace Deitzler, or listen to the episode.
- We often think of college students as young 20-year olds without children. As a result, most of the programs are built around that concept, but it leaves many students falling through the cracks. Terese was a non-traditional graduate student; she had careers working in Chicago with the homeless, and Seattle at a women’s shelter where she found all these paperwork requirements burdensome and downright confusing! (A prominent article in The Atlantic by Annie Lowery makes the argument that not only are these paperwork requirements ‘Time Taxes’ promoted by both major US political parties, they impact non-white and/or poor people the most even though the rates of fraud are minuscule.) Of the many topics covered in the interview, her research focuses on the cumulative advantage theory as a potential explanation for why students of lower socioeconomic status do not succeed to the same degree as their more affluent counterparts. This conversation is as relevant today, as it was in 2016 when it was recorded.
- This was such an impactful interview, Terese was selected to be part of the inaugural class of graduate students who told their story through a curated effort with the Graduate School similar to TEDx style talks. You can listen to the podcast version of the 2018 event (originally it was called GRADx but due to branding issues, we’ve since changed the name of the annual even to Grad Inspire).
- You can read Terese Jones' blog post The hurdles for a college education are not the same for all students, and download the audio file. If you enjoy this discussion, be sure to also listen to the episode with Vesna Stone below.
- Ever wondered how pregnancy tests worked? It’s basically a tiny little lab that adds reagents in exactly the right quantity, in exactly the right order to produce a result on a easy to read test strip. They’re shelf stable, relatively cheap, and you can buy then basically anywhere. Imagine if there were more tests that could be made into these little devices to help us diagnose a wider range of bodily functions or issues? Enter microfluidic devices. These are rather simple devices that use water’s natural willingness to wick up a piece of (usually) paper, adding the right chemicals to produce a result. However, they’re really difficult to get to work correctly and that’s what Lael is focusing on.
- Read Lael Wentland’s blog post Healthcare, but in Paper Form, or listen to the podcast episode.
- This was my very first blog post with the Inspiration Dissemination team dating back to 2015. As is common with the show, but especially this interview, it opened up my eyes to issues I had never considered. Elham identified a central limitation to daily activities that conflicted with her identity: How to be a practicing Muslim while also trying to participate in sport that make it exceeding difficult to wear a hijab. As a textile specialist, and practicing Muslim herself, she dedicated her PhD to improving the comfort and security of wearing a hijab while simultaneously allowing full vision and movement of the body. The summer following this interview, had the first US athlete to wear a hijab while competing at the Olympics.
- You can read Elham Maqsood’s blog post Modifying textiles and design to make a modern hijab, or download the audio file of the interview. Unfortunately, the radio show started in 2012, and the podcast version did not begin until 2016, after the interview with Elham.
- Most of the time science is figuring out all the things that don’t work. Sometimes, it’s accidentally finding out something that does work! Taylor stumbled upon a new way for organisms to detoxify their blood through lipid-based (fat) proteins that was previously unknown. His story serves as a reminder how science often finds out new information… by mistakes!
- You can read Taylor Hughes' blog post Oops that’s a mistake - no - that’s a new detox pathway, and download the audio file. This was conducted just before we got our Apple Podcast page up and running in late 2016 (sorry!).
- Everyone has heard of the great pacific garbage patch by now, but what does it look like inside plastic-laden fish? Katherine focuses her research off the Oregon coast sampling Rockfish, grinding them to a pulp and testing their extracts for visual and chemical signatures of plastics. In this episode I also learned about Marine Reserves (Federal and State sanctioned), and just how difficult it is to do science without using any plastic or allowing for plastic contamination because it’s EVERYWHERE!
- Read Katherine Lasdin’s blog post Are microplastics the new fish food?, or listen to the podcast episode. If you enjoyed this episode, be sure to listen to Katy Navlen’s episode as well.
- Ocean plastics are a huge issue, but changing minds is often the first stop to changing policies. Katy focuses her research on Oregon coastal communities where she’s using community based social marketing approach because it’s proven more effective in changing behaviors for beneficial outcomes rather than just mass media information campaigns by themselves.
- Read Katy Navlen’s blog post The evolving views of plastic pollution, or listen to the podcast episode. If you enjoyed this episode, be sure to listen to Katherin Lasdin’s episode as well.
- What are zebrafish, why are they model organisms, and how have our (human) lives depended on model organisms!?
- Read Sarah Alto’s blog post Just keep swimming, curioously following zebrafish, or listen to her podcast episode.
- A natural ocean CO2 seep is a perfect time-for-space substitution for what the ocean could look like in the nearby future. Instead of waiting for our oceans to get warmer and more acidic everywhere, Grace’s research site as a natural time-for-space-substitution allows us to figure out which corals are most sensitive to changes, and which are the most resilient. Grace is hoping to leverge this natural experiment to find out today which corals are most adaptable to tomorrow’s climate.
- Read Grace Klinges' blog post Small differences and big consequences keep oceans happy, or listen to her podcast episode.
Interested in reading more about my work with Inspiration Dissemination? Check out the archive of my interviews & blog posts.