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Virginia Tech students launch science outreach podcast

What is DNA and how does it shape our traits? How do our brains store memories? These are just some of the questions that a new Roanoke-based science podcast, “Big Lick of Science,” examines. Produced by Virginia Tech translational biology, medicine, and health (TBMH) graduate students training at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at Virginia Tech Carilion, each episode of “Big Lick of Science” explores a unique aspect of biomedical research and its relevance to life and health.

To support the podcast’s roll out, the VTC Student Outreach Program recently received a $1,500 one-year 2019 Civic Engagement Microgrant from Research!America. These microgrants help scientists improve public awareness of their research.

To engage locals, the students request questions on various topics through TwitterFacebook, and Instagram, letting listeners participate in the podcast’s development.

“Big Lick of Science’ is all about connecting the local community to local scientists working at the research institute,” said Rachana Deven Somaiya, “Big Lick of Science” co-host, neuroscientist, and third-year TBMH graduate student.

The first four episodes explore genetic traits, how light impacts jet lag and mood disorders, the biology underlying healthy heart beats, and what happens when a virus infects your heart tissue. Each segment features a different Fralin Biomedical Research Institute scientist, giving community members a peek inside life in the labs.

“Big Lick of Science” co-host Paras Patel, who is a native Roanoker, said his career as a neuroscientist was inspired by listening to other scientists share their work through podcasts and online videos.

“My hope for ‘Big Lick of Science’ is that at least one person will listen and get the same feeling I did as a student and start exploring science more in depth,” said Patel, a third-year TBMH graduate student.

Patel also thinks it’s important for people in his home town to connect with Virginia Tech’s scientists and understand their work.

“I grew up here, and it’s amazing to me that scientists who were trained by Nobel laureates are working here in my town, publishing research in top scientific journals,” said Patel. “I really appreciate what Virginia Tech has done for Roanoke and want to highlight the scientists doing world-class research here.”

The podcast is edited and produced by Jeremy Myslowski, and Carleigh Studtmann is responsible for marketing and communications. Both Myslowski and Studtmann are second-year TBMH graduate students studying different aspects of brain research.

Listeners can tune in online through the “Big Lick of Science” website.