Author: Dawn Kernagis and Ken Ford

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The most interesting people in the world of science and technology.

STEM-Talk is an interview podcast show produced by the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition, a not-for-profit research lab pioneering ground-breaking technologies aimed at leveraging and extending human cognition, perception, locomotion and resilience. Twice a month, we talk to groundbreaking scientists, engineers and technologists. Our interviews focus on the science that our subjects are engaged with, as well as their careers, motivations, education, and passions. Think of them as “profiles in science.” Tune in every other Tuesday to our show—and if you like us, please write a review of STEM-talk on iTunes—and spread the word. 
157 Episodes
Today we have one of the world’s foremost authorities on dietary protein and amino acids, Dr. Donald Layman. He is known for his extensive research on muscle development as well as his studies of metabolic regulation for obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Don is a professor emeritus in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. He spent 31 years on the faculty before stepping away in 2012. Much of Don’s research over the years investigated the impact of diet and exercise on adult health problems related to obesity, type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome. His lab at Illinois particularly focused on understanding metabolism. He conducted clinical trials for nearly two decades that helped create a new understanding about how to optimize people’s macronutrient balance and metabolism. In addition to his work on metabolism, Don has also conducted extensive research into ways to enhance body composition, increase energy levels and monitor blood sugar. Today Don works as Director of Research for the American Egg Board and is a nutrition consultant for the National Dairy Council and The National Cattlemen's Beef Association. He also is the Chief Science Officer for Qivana, a natural products marketing company that promotes the weight-loss program that Don developed in his lab at the University of Illinois. Show notes: [00:04:02] Marcas asks Don what it was like growing up on a farm in a small town in northern Illinois. [00:04:29] Marcas asks how small the town was that Don grew up in. [00:05:16] Don explains how he first became interested in science. [00:05:39] Don talks about how he realized in college that he wasn’t as good at math as he thought he was. He shares how this shifted his focus away from chemical engineering. [00:06:27] Marcas asks if Don’s natural intuition and interest for biochemistry stemmed from growing up on a farm. [00:07:10] Ken mentions that as Don was studying biochemistry, he started looking into protein synthesis with a professor by the name of Arlen Richardson, who was known for his aging research. Ken asks Don to talk about this period and how his interest in protein and muscle evolved. [00:08:27] Marcas asks Don to explain for listeners the importance of protein as it relates to metabolism and what he means when he talks about protein turnover. [00:09:36] Marcas mentions that we hear a lot about the need to maintain muscle as we grow older, but that back in the ‘70s and ‘80s when Don was starting his career, there wasn’t much of a focus on muscle, except in terms of athletic performance. Marcas goes on to explain that largely because of Don’s research, we now know that protein is critical in terms of helping people stay healthier as they age. Marcas asks Don to give a sense of just how important protein is for our health span and aging. [00:12:35] Ken asks if it is true that the inefficiency in muscle protein synthesis begins as early as one’s thirties. [00:14:11] Ken asks Don to talk about the right amount of protein an individual should consume and mentions that there is much confusion on this issue, largely due to the food pyramid’s recommended daily allowance for protein of 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. [00:15:51] Ken mentions that Don has talked in the past about how 40 percent of women who are 60 and older consume less than the RDA for protein, which is likely the bare minimum. Ken asks if it is reasonable to say that a plant-based diet for older women could be risky. [00:17:13] Ken asks Don to address the claims that high-protein diets are not good for you, and that too much protein can harm your liver and kidney. [00:18:47] Marcas shifts gears to talk about the quality of protein consumed. Marcas explains that it is much easier for carnivores to get the right amount of protein than vegans, largely because the amino acid leucine is vital for muscle repair and replacement,...
Today’s interview is with Dr. Josh Hagen, the director of the Human Performance Collaborative at Ohio State University and an Associate Research Professor in the university’s Department of Integrated Systems Engineering. Joining co-host Ken Ford for this episode is IHMC’s Chief Strategic Partnership Officer Morley Stone who has a long history with Josh has and been instrumental in his career. Today we talk with Josh about his work at the Human Performance Collaborate, which brings together multi-disciplinary teams of researchers, sports scientists, data scientists, and practitioners with the goal of optimizing human performance in Ohio State athletes. Within the human performance research area, Josh leads two areas: Sport and Tactical Performance Science and Recovery Science. At Ohio State, Josh works with other performance-science researchers to evaluate the physical traits and capabilities of athletes. Josh and his colleagues then collaborate with coaches and athletic trainers to make adjustments in the weight room, on the field, and during recovery after training or competitions. In addition to his work at Ohio State, Josh also is working on federally funded projects in human performance with Special Operations Command, The Air Force Research Laboratory, the Office of Naval Research and several private foundations. Josh joined IHMC in 2022 in a collaborate role as a Visiting Senior Research Scientist. Josh is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati where he studied and earned a Ph.D. in materials science and engineering. He spent 11 years at the Air Force Research Laboratory, which is where Morley and Josh first worked together. After his stint at the Air Force Research Laboratory, Josh headed for West Virginia University as the director of the Human Performance Innovation Center at the Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute before moving to the Ohio State University. Show notes: [00:03:39] Morley starts the interview asking Josh if he played a lot of sports as a kid. [00:03:54] Morley asks if it is true that in addition to being a bit of a jock, Josh was also a nerd growing up. [00:04:34] Josh talks about the high school chemistry teacher who got him excited about science. [00:06:05] Morley asks how Josh ended up at the University of Cincinnati. [00:07:06] Morley mentions that after Josh earned his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering, he worked for a private company before deciding he did not want to spend his career in chemical engineering. Morley asks about the advice that one of his professors gave Josh at the time. [00:09:03] Ken mentions that it was at the Materials Directorate at the Air Force Research Lab, where Josh first met Morley. Ken asks Morley what he remembers about the young Josh. [00:11:19] Ken turns the question to Josh and asks him about his first impressions of Morley. [00:12:12] Ken mentions that after Josh completed his graduate work, he again went to work in the private sector, and again found it unfulfilling. Josh talks about calling Morley to see if he had a job opening. [00:13:51] Morley mentions that in 2018, Josh left the Air Force and went to work at West Virginia University, where he became the director of the Human Performance Innovation Center at the Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute. Morley asks Josh how that job came about and what sort of work went on in that lab. [00:15:46] Ken mentions that after Josh’s time at West Virginia, Morley offered Josh a job at Ohio State University, where Morley was, at the time, the senior vice president for research at Ohio State. Ken asks what this time was like for Josh. [00:17:17] Morley mentions that in Josh’s role as the director of the Human Performance Collaborative, he works with a multidisciplinary team, and largely worked with two populations, sports athletes and the military. Morley asks Josh to give a sense of how Josh’s lab works with both groups.
Today we have the world’s foremost authority on kratom returning to STEM-Talk after five years to give us an update on his research. Shortly after his 2018 interview on episode 61,  Dr. Christopher McCurdy and his lab at the University of Florida received two major grants from the National Institute of Drug Abuse to investigate the medical efficacy of kratom and its alkaloids, which we discuss in today’s show. Mitragyna speciosa, or kratom, is an herbal leaf from a tropical evergreen tree in the coffee family.  It is native to Southeast Asia where it has been used in herbal medicine for hundreds of years. Kratom has become increasingly popular in the United States and throughout the world for recreational purposes. But kratom is also becoming recognized in the medical and research communities for its treatment for chronic pain as well as its potential to alleviate opioid withdrawal symptoms. For more than 25 years, McCurdy has studied the design, synthesis, and development of drugs to treat pain, anxiety, and substance-abuse disorders. For the past 15 years, Chris and his lab have turned a lot of their attention toward kratom and its chemical components to better understand its potential to treat a multitude of conditions. Chris is a professor in the Medicinal Chemistry Department in the College of Pharmacy at the University of Florida. He also is director of the of school’s Translational Drug Development Core and an Associate Dean for Faculty Development. Our interview with Chris comes on the heels of Florida passing the Kratom Consumer Protection Act, which mandates that kratom products sold in the state meet a high standard of product purity. In today’s interview, we talk to Chris about the protection act as well as: -- The numerous studies he has been able to conduct thanks to his lab’s two grants from the National Institute of Drug Abuse. -- The disparity between the traditional use of kratom and the new often highly concentrated manufactured products sold in the U.S. -- His lab’s study examining the effects of lyophilized kratom tea and its ability to alleviate withdrawal symptoms of opioid-dependence. -- The potential of kratom alkaloids to serve as treatment of various substance abuse disorders. -- The benefits and risks associated with CBD usage. Show notes [00:03:21] Dawn opens the interview welcoming Chris back to STEM-Talk and mentions that his last appearance was episode 61 in 2018. Dawn explains that Chris has devoted much of his research to kratom, or Mitragyna speciosa, which is a traditional Southeast Asian medicine. It has been used by indigenous populations for centuries to increase endurance, enhance mood, treat pain, and mitigate opioid withdrawal symptoms. Dawn asks Chris to give a short overview of kratom and why it is attracting so much attention recently. [00:09:14] Ken mentions that at the time Chris first appeared on STEM-Talk, he was in the process of attracting funding to take a deep dive into kratom, which he has now secured from the National Institute of Drug Abuse. Ken asks Chris to give a general overview of the research they are conducting with this grant and what they are finding. [00:15:19] Dawn mentions that in Chris’s last interview on STEM-Talk, he mentioned that researching kratom was difficult due to a lack of standardization and asks if this has changed. [00:21:11] Ken asks about a Thai product that is a freeze-dried leaf, which is coming to the US market, and if this product is more like what is used in Southeast Asia as opposed to the ground leaf material available in the U.S. market. [00:24:29] Dawn mentions that in 2020, Chris and a colleague published an article in the journal Current Opinion in Psychiatry on the need to address the disparity between the traditional use of kratom and the new often highly concentrated manufactured products sold in the U.S. and other countries. Dawn asks Chris to talk about the points made in this arti...
Today we have Dr. Brian Cole, an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in cartilage restoration, orthobiologics, and advanced surgical techniques for the treatment of knee, elbow, and shoulder injuries. He is the team physician for the NBA’s Chicago Bulls and the co-team physician for the Chicago White Sox. He also is the host of the Sports Medicine Weekly Podcast. Brian practices orthopedic sports medicine at Midwest Orthopaedics. He also is a professor of Orthopaedics, Anatomy and Cell Biology at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. He is Managing Partner of Midwest Orthopaedics and is the department’s Associate Chairman and the Section Head of the Cartilage Research and Restoration Center. In addition to this work, he also serves as the Chairman of Surgery at Rush Oak Park Hospital. In today’s interview, we talk to Brian about his cutting-edge research into ways to treat knee, shoulder, and elbow injuries.  Brian shares his novel approach to dealing with ACL tears, one of the most common sports injuries, and his investigations of methods to enhance the healing and recovery time following ACL reconstructions. He also talks about new advances in minimally invasive surgical techniques for many common injuries.  We have a particularly interesting conversation with Brian about exciting developments in the use of stem-cell treatments as well as the use of bone marrow aspirate to treat injuries. Show notes: [00:03:53] Marcas opens the interview mentioning that Brian was in the eighth grade when he fell in love with a popular sit-com from the 1970s,  “The Bob Newhart Show.” Marcas asks Brain what he loved about the show and what impact it had on him. [00:05:07] Brian enrolled in the University of Illinois after graduating from high school. Marcas asks Brian if knew he wanted to major in biology and psychology when he arrived on campus. [00:05:58] Ken mentions that after Brian’s undergrad, he travelled upstate to the University of Chicago, where he earned an MD and an MBA. Ken asks what led Brian to pursue both an MD and MBA. [00:09:52] Ken explains that after the University of Chicago, Brian moved to New York City for an orthopaedic research fellowship in metabolic bone disease at the Hospital for Special Surgery. Brian also decided to do his residency there as well. Ken asks how that came about. [00:11:31] Marcas mentions that after Brian finished his fellowship and residency, he went to the University of Pittsburgh for a sports medicine fellowship. Marcas asks what led Brian there and what drove his interest in sports medicine. [00:13:10] Marcas asks Brian about a fortuitous phone call he received when he was a fourth-year resident. [00:14:34] Ken explains that Midwest Orthopaedics is one of the nation’s most respected private orthopaedic practices.  Ken notes that through a partnership with Rush University Medical Center, Midwest has developed a national reputation as a leader in sports medicine; hip, knee, spine, and cartilage restoration; as well as shoulder care and pain management. Rush also is an academic medical center that includes a 671-bed hospital and is a center for basic and clinical research. Ken asks Brian to describe the scope of the work that goes on at Midwest and Rush. [00:17:20] Marcas comments that Brian is also the head team physician for the Chicago Bulls and the co-team physician for the Chicago White Sox, and asks Brian to describe some of the work that he does in that capacity. [00:20:09] Marcas explains that Brian treats a wide range of patients with injuries and pain, from athletes to non-athletes, and from children to senior citizens, and that he has performed more than 20,000 surgeries over the course of his career. Marcas asks Brian to give a sense of the patients he sees and what his average day at the office is like. [00:24:00] Ken points out that Brian is known for focusing on treating the patient and not the x-ray or MRI.
Today we have our good friend and colleague Dr. Dominic D’Agostino returning for his third appearance on STEM-Talk. Dom, as most of our longtime listeners know, is well-known for his research into the ketogenic diet and the physiological benefits of nutritional ketosis. Since our last conversation with Dom in 2019, a tremendous body of research has been added to the literature about the therapeutic potential of ketosis. The high-fat, low-carb ketogenic diet has been linked to advances in the treatment of Alzheimer’s, cancer, migraines, type-2 diabetes, psoriasis, sleep apnea, psychiatric disorders, traumatic brain injuries as well as a host of other diseases and disorders, which we cover in today’s interview. In episode 14 of STEM-Talk, we talked to Dom about his development and testing of metabolic therapies involving the ketogenic diet for a wide range of diseases and conditions. In episode 87, Dom returned to reflect on his 10 years of research focused on the high-fat/low-carbohydrate diet. In today’s interview, we talk to Dom about this latest work as well as his extensive research on hyperbaric oxygen. Dom is a tenured Associate Professor in the Department of Molecular Pharmacology and Physiology at the University of South Florida Morsani. He specializes in neuroscience, molecular pharmacology, nutrition, and physiology. Dom also is our colleague and a research scientist here at the IHMC. Show notes  [00:02:50] Dawn opens the interview mentioning Dom’s recent IHMC Evening Lecture, in which he mentions the film “First Do No Harm” starring Meryl Streep. The film is based on the true story of a four-year-old boy diagnosed with severe epilepsy, whose extreme seizures continued despite extensive medical treatments. The boy’s mother reached to Dr. John Freeman, a physician who had successfully treated patients with a ketogenic diet. Dawn asks Dom to give some context about this fictional film based on a true story. [00:05:05] Dawn asks Dom to discuss the many evidence-based applications of the ketogenic diet that he highlighted in his IHMC evening lecture. [00:07:11] Ken asks Dom about another story involving Russell Winwood, a man with severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, also known as COPD. Russell reached out to Dom with respect to treating his COPD with a ketogenic diet. [00:11:21] Ken asks if Russell only engaged in the ketogenic diet or if also used exogenous ketones. [00:12:10] Ken mentions that the ketogenic diet has the broad potential to be an anti-inflammatory diet. Ken goes on to mention that COPD is an inflammatory disease. As Dom’s case report suggested, Ken wonders if the ketogenic diet has the potential to have strong therapeutic effects for other inflammatory conditions as well. Ken asks what other conditions Dom thinks might benefit from therapeutic ketosis. [00:14:02] Dawn mentions that Dom has been busy since his last appearance on STEM-Talk, having authored or collaborated on more than 40 papers, one of which garnered a lot of attention and was published in Frontiers in Neuroscience. This paper investigated whether therapeutic ketosis via ketone esters could represent a viable way to treat epilepsy and other seizure disorders. Dawn asks Dom to elaborate on this paper’s findings and their significance. [00:16:26] Ken mentions that those listeners who are unfamiliar with ketone esters may want to check out our interview with Dr. Brianna Stubbs. Ken asks Dom to give a quick primer on ketone esters and why so many researchers in the field are excited about their potential. [00:19:20] Ken mentions that in addition to ketone salts and ketone esters, there are other product formulations out now, like the one from a company called Kenetik. Ken asks Dom what he thinks about this formulation. [00:23:33] Dawn mentions that Dom has had a number of animal studies published since 2019 looking at ketone induced neuroprotection and asks Dom to give an overview of some of this...
Today we have the former chief scientist of NASA’s Human Research Program, Dr. Mark Shelhamer. Mark specializes in neurovestibular adaptation to spaceflight. He is an otolaryngology professor at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and the director of the school’s Human Spaceflight Lab. He also the director and founder of the Bioastronautics at Hopkins initiative. In addition to his work with NASA, Mark is an advisor to the commercial and consumer spaceflight industry. In today’s interview, we talk to Mark about some of this work, as well as the research he conducted on the first all-civilian crew that successfully orbited the Earth for three days in a SpaceX capsule. We mostly talk to Mark, however, about how the harsh conditions of space imperil humans. We have a fascinating discussion about Mark’s role in NASA’s planned human mission to Mars and how he is investigating ways to maintain the health and performance of astronauts on such a long-duration spaceflight.  We also discuss how the lessons Mark is learning about how the lessons of human spaceflight can be applied to healthcare on Earth. Show notes: [00:02:42] Dawn starts the interview mentioning that Mark grew up in Philadelphia in the ‘70s. She asks Mark what he was like as a kid. [00:03:32] Dawn asks if it is true that Mark played drums in a band in school. [00:03:54] Ken asks Mark to talk about an uncle who was key in fostering Mark’s interest in math and science. [00:05:31] Ken mentions that Mark was only 10 years old when he took up an interest in electronics and asks what sparked that and what electronics he specifically found interesting. [00:08:14] Dawn mentions that Mark attended Drexel University and initially wanted to become an electrical engineer but changed his mind somewhere along the way. Dawn asks what caused this shift. [00:10:20] Ken asks Mark why he selected to attend MIT after Drexel. [00:13:52] Ken asks Mark how he ended up at Johns Hopkins after finishing his studies at MIT. [00:15:52] Dawn mentions that when Mark arrived at Johns Hopkins as a postdoc fellow in 1990, he continued the research he had been doing at MIT on sensory motor physiology and modeling, including astronaut adaptation to space flight. Dawn asks Mark to give an overview of this research as well as how he tracked back into studying astronauts. [00:17:15] Ken mentions Mark’s 2007 book “Nonlinear Dynamics in Physiology: A State-Space Approach,” which provides mathematical-computational tools for analyzing experimental data. Ken asks Mark to talk about the book and its goals. [00:20:43] Ken mentions that Mark has done quite a bit of research into motion sickness and vestibular issues, and asks about his more recent work on Space Motion Sickness. [00:24:53] Dawn explains that on Mark’s Wikipedia page, there’s a reference to his pioneering work on a multidisciplinary approach to human space flight research. She asks Mark to give an overview of this work. [00:29:17] Dawn explains that spaceflight has widespread effects on many different body systems at the same time, and that Mark has been an advocate for developing approaches to examining all these interactions in a rigorous way. Dawn asks if Mark feels that we should be taking this rigorous multidisciplinary approach and applying it to terrestrial medicine as well. [00:34:08] Ken asks Mark to talk about some of the progress he has made in convincing certain groups that they need to embrace a multidisciplinary approach to their research. [00:38:37] Dawn mentions that getting people, especially groups, to change their approach to research can be a daunting task. She goes on to mention that Mark has been quoted as saying “If there’s one thing I’m known for, it’s banging my head against the wall trying to convince people to do integrative research.” Dawn asks Mark how many scars he has on his forehead from these efforts. [00:43:00] Dawn asks Mark to talk about his informal experti...
Back in early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. John Ioannidis wrote an article in March of 2020 questioning government statistics about the fatality rate associated with COVID-19. The backlash was swift and brutal and John’s reputation as one of the most influential scientists in the world took a beating. Today, John makes his second appearance on STEM-Talk to discuss his extensive research into the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the public shaming he received in 2020 for questioning the World Health Organization’s prediction of a 3.4 percent fatality rate associated with COVID-19. John also talks about his most recent peer-reviewed paper that looked at the age-stratified infection fatality rate of COVID-19 in the non-elderly population.  The study found that the pre-vaccination fatality rate for those infected may have been as low as 0.03 percent for people under 60 years old, and 0.07 percent for people under 70, far below the World Health Organization’s prediction of a 3.4 percent fatality rate. In today’s episode, John walks us through this paper, which was published in January, as well as what he describes as the U.S. government’s bungled response to COVID-19. He also discusses the importance of collecting reliable data in the future to guide disease modelers and governments before they make decisions of monumental significance like lockdowns. He goes on to share how he underestimated the power that politics and the media, or powers outside of science, can have on science. Over the past two decades, John’s research has earned him a global reputation as a consummate physician and researcher, which contributed to The Atlantic describing John in 2010 as one of the most influential scientists alive. He is a professor of Medicine, Epidemiology and Population Health as well as a statistician and professor of biomedical data science at Stanford University. Back in 2018 when we interviewed John on episode 77 of STEM-Talk, we talked to him about his 2005 paper questioning the reliability of most medical research. The paper, titled, “Why Most Published Research Findings Are False,” found that much of the medical science reported in peer-reviewed journals is flawed and cannot be replicated. The paper is the most citied article in the history of the journal PLoS Medicine and has been viewed more than 3 million times. Show notes: [00:03:16] Dawn opens the interview welcoming John back to STEM-Talk. his last appearance being in 2018. Dawn explains that when John last appeared on STEM-Talk in 2018, he was described by Atlantic Magazine as “one of the most influential scientists alive.” But in the intervening years, John became public enemy number one in 2020 after a paper he published questioning government statistics about COVID 19’s fatality rate. Dawn asks John if it’s fair to say that he has been on a rather rocky ride for the past few years. [00:03:54] Dawn explains that John was trained at Harvard and Tufts universities in internal medicine and infectious disease, and asks John what led him to study infectious disease. [00:04:54] Ken asks John about his initial thoughts in 2019 when he first heard the reports coming out of China about COVID-19. [00:05:52] Ken explains that in March of 2020, John fell into some hot water for writing a piece questioning the 3.4 percent fatality rate associated with COVID-19. John found this number to be inflated and wrote that while COVID-19 was indeed a threat, it did not behave like the Spanish Flu or a pandemic that would lead to a 3.4 percent fatality rate. Ken asks John how he came to this conclusion. [00:08:37] The article that John wrote in 2020 was titled “A fiasco in the making? As the coronavirus pandemic takes hold, we are making decisions without reliable data.” John argued in his article that the data collected in the first three months of the pandemic was “utterly unreliable.” He went on to write that no one had a good way of knowing how many people ...
Today we have Dr. Barbara Thorne, a termite biologist and an expert on the invasive conehead species, a Central and South American termite that has invaded South Florida. Barbara is a research professor and professor emerita in the Department of Entomology at the University of Maryland. Since 2012 she has served as the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services science advisor on the state’s Conehead Termite Program. She also chairs the National Scientific Advisory Committee for the Conehead Termite Program. Barbara’s research focuses on the biology of termites, which are highly social insects that form complex colony structures. She earned her Ph.D. in Organismic and Evolutionary Biology in 1983 from Harvard University where she studied with the late Dr. E. O. Wilson, a renowned biologist and naturalist. Show notes [00:03:14] Dawn points out that Barbara is from Southern California and asks Barbara if she were a Valley Girl since she grew up in the San Fernando Valley. [00:03:42] Dawn mentions that it was wanderlust that sent Barbara from the West Coast to the East Coast for college and asks why she decided on Brown University. [00:04:14] After Barbara explains that she was originally not interested in science, Ken asks what changed her mind. [00:06:34] Dawn mentions that some kids grow up fascinated with bugs, but not Barbara, so Dawn asks what eventually triggered Barbara’s academic interest in insects. [00:07:58] Ken asks Barbara to elaborate on how Bug Camp and E.O. Wilson’s book “The Insect Societies”  motivated her to go to Harvard. [00:10:22] Dawn explains, for those who aren’t familiar, that E.O. Wilson was an American biologist who was recognized as the world’s leading authority on ants among other topics. He spent 40 years on the Harvard faculty and authored more than 30 books, including two that won Pulitzer Prizes. Dawn asks how Wilson became Barbara’s Ph.D. faculty advisor. [00:14:15] Ken asks why Barbara often refers to the time she was at Harvard as the golden age for research into social insects. [00:18:31] Dawn asks about Barbara’s initial goal for her Ph.D. dissertation, which was to investigate the evolutionary driver that created the sociality in termites, who are a completely different branch of insects from the classic social insects (ants, bees, and wasps). Dawn goes on to ask what Wilson thought of this idea when Barbara proposed it. [00:21:22] Barbara spent 15 years in E.O. Wilson’s lab and Ken wonders if she has a favorite story about Wilson. [00:28:29] Dawn explains that for Barbara’s postdoc research, she continued to expand on the work of her dissertation, and then began working in the field of applied termite biology and targeted applications for control. This was when chlordane, a powerful pesticide against termites, was pulled from the market. Dawn asks Barbara to talk about the significance of pulling chlordane from the market and how this created an opportunity for her. [00:31:30] Ken asks Barbara what led her to join the faculty at the University of Maryland in the early 1990s. [00:33:59] Dawn mentions that during Barbara’s time at Maryland, she investigated her hypothesis of accelerated inheritance as a driver for the evolution of eusociality in termites, following up this research in a 2003 paper in PNAS. Dawn goes on to explain that the paper provided experimental evidence for the powerful selective forces driving the evolution of eusociality in termites, a question that perplexed Charles Darwin. Dawn asks Barbara to talk about why Darwin was confused by the existence of social insects and how Barbara approached this question in termites. [00:49:16] Dawn mentions that Barbara expanded on the previously mentioned research with a study in 2009, using genetic markers to demonstrate that in merged colonies, offspring from both original, unrelated families can become new reproductives and even interbreed.
Dr. Jeff Volek has been investigating how humans adapt to ketogenic—and carbohydrate-restricted diets for the past 30 years.  Today, Jeff returns to STEM-Talk to discuss a growing accumulation of studies supporting a ketogenic diet as a way to improve metabolic health, as well as research confirming the relative safety of dietary fat. Jeff is a professor in the Department of Human Sciences at Ohio State University. He is known for his research on the clinical application of ketogenic diets in the management of insulin resistance and type-2 diabetes. His research particularly aims to understand individual variability, including how well-formulated ketogenic diets alter fatty acid composition, lipoprotein metabolism, gut microbiome and overall metabolic health. Jeff has performed several prospective diet studies that demonstrate that well-formulated ketogenic diets result in substantial improvements in (if not complete reversal of) metabolic syndrome and type-2 diabetes. In today’s episode, we talk to Jeff about: -- How a well-formulated ketogenic diet results not only in weight loss, but also leads to substantial improvements in insulin resistance as well as improvements in a number of cardio-metabolic biomarkers associated with metabolic syndrome. -- The remarkable progress that has been made in the science of low-carbohydrate nutrition in the past 30 years. -- How Jeff’s research has expanded to look at a well-formulated ketogenic diet’s potential in the treatment of mental health, heart disease and cancer. -- An initiative Jeff is conducting to address how the poor metabolic health of the nation is impacting our military troops and therefore poses a significant threat to the future of the military and our nation’s defense. -- We also ask Jeff about his thoughts on the recent popularity of fasting and time-restricted eating.  We then ask what his own daily dietary intake looks like. Show notes [00:02:48] Ken opens the interview welcoming Jeff back to STEM-Talk. Ken mentions that Jeff, who appeared on episode 43,  has perhaps published more research on the ketogenic diet and its effects on humans than anyone. While most STEM-Talk listeners are familiar with Jeff’s research, Ken points out that many people might not know that Jeff was once an accomplished powerlifter, achieving impressive numbers for his body weight. Ken asks Jeff what his best lifts were, and if his background in powerlifting inspired him to study exercise physiology. [00:05:25] Dawn mentions there is a paradigm shift in terms of low-carb diets and the public perception regarding the relative safety of dietary fat.  Americans have long been led to believe that saturated fats lead to obesity and heart disease. Dawn goes on to explain that in the last 20 years, there has been a steady accumulation of studies supporting carbohydrate restriction as well as the relative safety of dietary fat. Jeff addressed this in a paper in Science titled “Dietary Fat: From Foe to Friend?”, and also a paper in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology titled “Saturated Fats and Health: A Reassessment and Proposal for Food Based Recommendations” Dawn asks Jeff to talk about this research and what listeners should take from it. [00:08:37] Ken mentions that Jeff at one point in his life demonized fat, and was a strong advocate for low-fat diets. Ken asks what changed his mind on this issue. [00:10:04] Dawn mentions that when Jeff was interviewed back in 2017, he was in the early stages of launching Virta, a company that was founded in 2014 to address the type-2 diabetes epidemic that we’re seeing in the United States and across the world. Dawn asks Jeff to explain what type-2 diabetes is and how it’s different than type-1. [00:13:36] Ken explains that diabetes is a major cause of blindness, kidney failure, heart attacks, stroke and lower-limb amputation. In light of this, Ken asks Jeff if we know how many deaths can be annually attri...
Our guest today is Dr. Ed Weiler, a retired NASA scientist who spent 20 years as the chief scientist for the Hubble Space Telescope, the forerunner of the James Webb. During his 33-year NASA career, Ed wore many hats, including Associate Administrator of the Science Mission Directorate; Center Director of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Associate Administrator for NASA's Space Science Enterprise, chief of the Ultraviolet/Visible and Gravitational Astrophysics Division and director of the Astronomical Search for Origins Program. In today’s episode, we talk to Ed about: -- NASA’s accomplishments in the past year, including the Perseverance mission, the success of the James Webb telescope, and the launch of Artemis-1. -- Ed’s experience as the Chief Scientist for the Hubble Space Telescope during its early development. -- Ed’s time as the director of NASA’s Astronomical Search for Origins program. -- Ed’s role in the development of the New Horizons space craft and its mission to fly by and study Pluto and it’s moons. -- Ed’s belief that in the next 20 to 50 years, we will be able to the prove the existence of other life in the universe. Show notes [00:02:59] Dawn opens the interview mentioning that she and Ed share a common experience of going through the selection process to become a NASA astronaut. [00:03:55] Dawn mentions that instead of becoming an astronaut, Ed joined NASA in 1978 as a scientist, serving in a variety of science leadership roles throughout his career, eventually retiring in 2011 after 33 years of service. Dawn asks Ed to talk about his various accomplishments at NASA. [00:05:57] Dawn asks Ed about his feelings toward the various accomplishments of NASA in recent years since his retirement, such as the Perseverance mission, the success of the James Webb telescope, and the launch of Artemis-1. [00:08:42] Ken asks Ed to discuss the recent images from the James Webb telescope, images that have captured the public’s imagination. [00:12:10] Dawn asks if it’s true that Ed decided to become an astronomer and go to work for NASA when he was only 13 years old. [00:15:36] Dawn mentions that we have had several guests on STEM-Talk that cite the Apollo missions as their inspiration for pursuing a career in science. Dawn points out that Ed was already in grad school when Neil Armstrong first stepped on the moon. Dawn asks Ed about watching the moon landing on the campus of Northwestern University. [00:16:48] Ken asks about Ed’s experience as the Chief Scientist for the Hubble Space Telescope during its early development. [00:25:01] Dawn points out that after graduating from Northwestern University, Ed joined the research staff at Princeton while also working at the Goddard Space Flight Center. In 1978, Ed became a staff scientist at NASA headquarters and Dawn asks how that position came about. [00:29:45] Dawn mentions that Ed was also the director of NASA’s Astronomical Search for Origins program and asks Ed to talk about that experience. [00:33:03] Ken mentions that in 1998, Ed became the Associate Administrator for Space Science for the first time. Ken goes on to mention when Ed was first approached about the position, he said “not in a million years.” Ken asks what eventually changed Ed’s mind. [00:37:10] Dawn asks Ed about his first stint as NASA’s Associate Administrator, where he oversaw several successful missions and set in motion an ambitious Mars exploration mission. [00:43:43] Dawn asks Ed to talk about the role he played in the development of the New Horizons craft and its mission to fly by and study Pluto and its moons. [00:45:46] Ken mentions that when Ed’s first tenure as Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate ended in 2004, he took over the leadership of the Goddard Space Flight Center, which is one of the premier institutions for space and earth science missions. Ken asks Ed to talk about the work he did at the cente...
Today’s interview is with IHMC’s Dr. Gwen Bryan, a research scientist who investigates wearable robotic devices aimed at augmenting human performance in clinical, occupational, and military applications. She is particularly focused on maximizing the benefits of powered exoskeletons. At IHMC, Gwen leads the exoskeleton team, which is developing a novel augmentative device that continues IHMC’s research on mobility devices for people with spinal cord injury. The team also is researching a powered exoskeleton to aid government employees whose work involves nuclear site remediation. Gwen and her team’s effort, which utilizes a human-centered research approach, is uniquely situated to expand exoskeleton research and technology because of the expertise and collaboration that’s available among IHMC’s robotics and human-performance research groups. Gwen joined IHMC after completing her Ph.D. in the Stanford Biomechatronics Lab. Outside of work, Gwen enjoys soccer, weightlifting, painting and snowboarding. She also is a dog mom to two very adorable shelter dogs, Bandit and Oreo. Show notes: [00:02:32] Dawn asks Gwen what it was like growing up in Albuquerque, New Mexico. [00:03:02] Dawn mentions that it seems science was a part of Gwen’s life early on. Dawn goes on to mention that Gwen’s father was an engineer, and her mother was a nurse and asks how her parents having these backgrounds influenced her. [00:03:35] In addition to a science background, Gwen’s mother is also a clarinetist who instilled a love for the arts in Gwen.  Dawn asks Gwen about her painting and how art benefits other aspects of her life. [00:04:17] Ken asks Gwen what she was like as a kid. [00:04:59] Ken asks Gwen to talk about a rafting trip she took with her cousin through the Grand Canyon. [00:06:27] Dawn asks Gwen how chocolate chip cookies factored into her third-grade science fair project. [00:08:04] Dawn mentions that fitness became a part of Gwen’s life following an injury she had as a senior in high school. Exercise, particularly weightlifting, helped alleviate her back pain. Dawn asks Gwen what her fitness journey taught her about her body, and ultimately, how that experience gave her insights into the work she does today. [00:09:16] Ken asks Gwen how she chose to go to the University of Texas in Austin. [00:10:38] Dawn mentions that Gwen transferred to the University of New Mexico for her undergraduate work. Dawn asks Gwen what motivated her to apply her interest in mechanical engineering into robotics. [00:11:28] Ken asks Gwen what was involved in her transfer from the University of Texas to New Mexico. [00:12:34] Ken asks Gwen what led her to the Stanford Biomechatronics Lab. [00:13:38] Ken asks Gwen to talk about her internship with the Sandia National Research Labs. [00:14:40] Dawn shifts to talk about Gwen’s current research focus on wearable robotics, particularly exoskeletons, mentioning that when the public hears this term most people generally think either insect exoskeletons or Ironman. Dawn asks Gwen to describe the exoskeletons she works on. [00:15:25] Dawn mentions that the potential uses of exoskeletons to help people with limited or no lower-limb mobility seems, in some respects, clear, but the application has been limited, and asks why that is. [00:16:40] Dawn asks what some other applications of exoskeletons are that are important to know about. [00:18:35] Ken mentions that during Gwen’s doctoral work at Stanford, she developed the first cable-driven exoskeleton to assist all the three leg joints — hips, knees, and ankles — and asks Gwen to talk about how that design was developed and what made it special in the exoskeleton field. [00:20:10] Ken explains that Gwen’s work also developed novel control systems for exoskeletons by using feedback from real-time physiological measurements of the user – coined human-in-the-loop optimization (HILO).
Our guest today is Dr. Dan Pardi, the CEO of, a digital health training application. Dan is well-known for his research into sleep and has collaborated with many high-performing organizations, from Silicon Valley venture capitalists to companies like Adobe, Salesforce, Workday, Pandora, Intuitive Surgical, and more. He also works with several branches of the U.S. Military to help elite warfighters maintain vigilant performance in both combat and non-combat conditions. Dan’s podcast, humanOS Radio, is the official podcast of the Sleep Research Society, the Canadian Sleep Society, and a content partner of the Buck Institute on Aging. Dan collaborated with more than 100 science professors around the globe to create his digital humanOS application. Dan has a Ph.D. in cognitive neuroscience from Leiden University in the Netherlands and Stanford University in the United States. He has a master’s degree in exercise physiology from Florida State University and currently lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife, two young boys, and their dog, Wally. Joining STEM-Talk host Dr. Ken Ford for today’s conversation with Dan is Dr. Marcas Bamman, a senior research scientist here at IHMC. Marcas was a STEM-Talk guest on episode 116. In today’s interview with Dan, we cover his early career in bioinformatics and how a trip to Moscow led to his doctoral research of sleep and treatments for narcolepsy. He also talks about the Loop Model to Adopt and Sustain Health Behaviors, a program he developed during his Ph.D. studies. The Loop Model became the core of his company, humanOS. Finally, Dan talks about the concepts of “actual health,” health-performance experts and a shift in what aging means, which he believes is important to improving the quality of life for all of us. Show notes: [00:03:19] Marcas starts the interview by asking Dan to talk about his years growing up in Northern California’s Marin County. [00:04:06] Ken asks Dan about building radio-controlled cars with his father. [00:05:11] Marcas explains that Dan’s father was a successful businessman who, after a successful career as a salesman for Remco selling kitchenware, started his own company in California that grew to 200 employees. Dan has been quoted as saying that one of the lessons he learned from his father was the value of relationships. Marcas asks how that lesson has affected Dan’s life. [00:06:29] Dan talks about his passion for basketball and how his time at the Cap Lavin camp influenced his early life. [00:08:15] Marcas mentions that Dan’s “science life” seems to have begun with a seventh-grade science-fair project that ended up landing him a job with Nike. Marcas asks Dan to talk about that story. [00:09:26] Ken mentions that Dan went to the University of San Francisco for his bachelor’s degree and then went to Florida State for his Masters in Exercise Physiology. Ken asks what led Dan to FSU. [00:10:26] Ken asks why Dan decided to pursue a career in cancer research, going to work at the Preventive Medicine Research Institute in Northern California after graduating. [00:12:04] Marcas commends Dan for being ahead of his time by leveraging the new technological development of the internet portal to empower life scientists while he was working with the Bioinformatics Biotech DoubleTwist, and asks what that experience was like. [00:13:41] Ken asks Dan how a trip to Moscow led Dan to pursue a Ph.D. at Leiden University and Stanford, after already working in the industry for 10 years. [00:15:17] Marcas explains that Dan’s Ph.D. research at the Zeitzer Circadian Biology Lab at Stanford University focused on gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB), sleep and ingestive behavior. Marcas asks what was most interesting about this research for Dan. [00:16:24] Marcas asks about a randomized controlled trial that Dan conducted to look into ecologically relevant amounts of sleep loss. This trial enrolled 50 participants and manipulated ...
It’s time for another Ask Me Anything episode where STEM-Talk cohost Dawn Kernagis asks Ken questions submitted by listeners. In this episode, Ken and Dawn weigh in on: --  Whether AI is becoming sentient. -- How women in midlife might protect their bodies from the negative effects of a slowing metabolism. -- A Stanford study that compared a low-carbohydrate diet with a Mediterranean diet. -- Whether fasting helps optimize cognitive performance. -- The future of hypersonic technology. -- And a lot more. If you have a question after listening to today’s episode or any episode of STEM-Talk, email your question to STEM-Talk Producer Randy Hammer at Show notes [00:02:45] Dawn begins the AMA with a question for Ken that was inspired by the Mark Mattson interview, episode 133. Mark talked about skipping breakfast and in his recent book,  “The Intermittent Fasting Revolution,” Mark points out that bodybuilders often skip breakfast and do their weight training in a fasted state, which has the effect of optimizing both muscle building and cognitive performance. The listener mentions that they feel more cognitively sharp in a fasted state but as soon as they break their fast, they don’t feel as sharp. The listener asks Ken if this is normal. [00:04:35] A listener asks Ken about a recent news story in which a Russian robot broke a boy’s finger during a chess match. The listener goes on to state that several of their friends have jumped to the conclusion that this is proof robots are becoming sentient beings and asks Ken for his take is on this given Ken’s AI background. [00:06:02] A listener asks another AI question, this one regarding the Washington Post’s reporting on a Google engineer who was fired over claims he made while at the company that an AI chatbot he had been testing had become sentient. The engineer claimed in an interview with The Guardian that the chatbot, LaMDA, was afraid of being turned off, had read “Les Miserables” and that it had emotions. Google maintains that LaMDA is merely responding to prompts designed for it. The listener asks Ken what would be an appropriate test for gauging AI sentience and what other thoughts Ken has about this story. [00:08:32] A listener mentions that they have been following the ketogenic diet for 18 months and have lost 40 pounds. Recently they checked their liver enzymes GGT, AST, TSH and found they were elevated above “normal” and their Alpha fetoprotein marker was measured at 10.3. The listener asks Ken what he has learned about the ketogenic diet’s impact on the liver. [00:09:48] A listener asks about a recent paper regarding a Stanford study that compared low-carbohydrate diets with a Mediterranean diet. The listener mentions that in the Stanford study the diets had three similarities – no non-starchy vegetables, no added sugars and no refined grains. The key difference in the diets was that the low-carb diet avoided legumes, fruits, and whole grains while the Mediterranean diet included them. The study measured glucose control and cardiometabolic risk in people with prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. The study found that comparative outcomes did not support a sufficient benefit to justify people avoiding legumes, whole fruits, and whole grains to achieve the metabolic state of ketosis. The listener asks Ken for his thoughts on the study and in his answer, Ken mentions an interview Dr. Ben Scher did with one of the study's authors, Dr. Lucia Aronica. [00:14:57] A listener mentions in their question that they found the Mike Griffin and Mark Lewis interviews both fascinating and worrying. The listener’s key concern is that China and Russia are ahead of the U.S. in terms of hypersonic capabilities. The listener goes on to mention that they recently saw “Top Gun Maverick” and asks if it is reasonable that someday we will see jets with human pilots that are capable of flying 10-to-20 times the speed of sound,
Our guest today is Dr. Jason Fung, a Toronto-based nephrologist, and the best-selling author of “The Obesity Code,” “The Diabetes Code,” and “The Cancer Code.” Jason is best known for his success in combining a low-carb diet with intermittent fasting to help thousands of overweight patients reverse their type 2 diabetes, lose weight, and improve their metabolic health. Jason is the author of the blog “The Fasting Method” and the co-founder of the Intensive Dietary Management program, an initiative that provides low-carb dietary guidance and counseling on various fasting regimes. Jason is also the co-author with Jimmy Moore of “The Complete Guide to Fasting,” which looks at the history and culture of fasting and how it helps people improve their metabolic health. In today’s episode, Ken is joined by Visiting IHMC research scientist Dr. Tommy Wood and together, they and Jason discuss: How in the beginning of his practice, Jason prescribed insulin for type 2 diabetes patients. How a series of landmark studies starting in 2008 changed Jason’s mind about using glucose-lowering medication for type 2 diabetes. Jason’s realization that type 2 diabetes is largely a dietary disease and therefore requires a dietary solution rather than a pharmaceutical one. The origins of Jason’s Dietary Management program, which counsels overweight and obese patients to follow a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet to reduce insulin. A critique of the “eat less, move more” strategy acclaimed by many obesity experts. Mark Mattson’s research into the powerful impact of intermittent fasting on metabolic health and a recent paper that questioned the effectiveness of time-restricted eating when compared to daily calorie restriction. Recent research and evidence that fasting during chemotherapy may reduce the side effects of the treatment. Show notes: [00:02:25] Tommy opens the interview mentioning that Jason was born and raised in Toronto and asks what drew Jason to science as a kid. [00:03:43] Tommy mentions the irony that Jason has written several best-selling books, yet Jason was not fond of English or writing when he was in school. [00:04:53] Ken mentions that after graduating from high school, Jason stayed close to home and attended the University of Toronto, entering into medical school just after turning 19 to study internal medicine, eventually specializing in nephrology. Ken asks Jason what intrigued him about becoming a kidney specialist. [00:06:36] Tommy asks Jason what led him to go to UCLA after medical school for his specialty training in kidney disease at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. [00:07:37] Tommy mentions that Jason has been practicing clinical nephrology in Toronto since 2001, and that in those early years of his practice, Jason saw patients with type 2 diabetes and prescribed medications to keep their blood glucose low. When that didn’t work, he would prescribe insulin, which is the standard medical practice. Tommy asks what Jason observed during these early years of his practice. [00:09:28] Ken mentions that in 2008, two landmark studies were published, the ACCORD study and the ADVANCE study (a summary of ADVANCE). These studies were followed by two more studies, the ORIGIN and VADT studies, all four of which demonstrated that using blood glucose-lowering medication for type 2 diabetes didn’t necessarily have the expected benefits. Ken asks Jason to talk about how these studies were eye-opening for him and confirmed his own experience in treating patients. [00:16:27] Tommy explains that in 1972 Robert Atkins published the “Dr. Atkins’ Diet Revolution,” which shared his findings on the effectiveness of low-carb, high-fat dieting. Tommy goes on to mention that in the late 1990s, a string of Atkins-styled diet books surged in popularity, with most physicians being opposed due to the conventional wisdom that these high-fat diets would cause heart disease. As a result,
Today’s episode features the author of “Why We Get Sick,” Dr. Ben Bikman, a biomedical scientist at Brigham Young University. Ben is known for his research into the contrasting roles of insulin and ketones as key drivers of metabolic function. In “Why We Get Sick,” Ben takes a deep dive into insulin resistance and metabolic health. The book particularly focuses on the role that insulin resistance plays in many of today’s most common diseases: heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and Alzheimer’s. Ben and his colleagues at the Bikman Lab investigate the molecular mechanisms behind the increased risks of disease that accompany obesity and excess visceral fat. Much of the research at the Bikman Lab particularly focuses on the etiology of insulin resistance and how it disrupts mitochondrial function. In today’s interview, STEM-Talk cohosts Drs. Ken Ford and Dawn Kernagis talk to Ben about: How insulin resistance is tied to multiple chronic diseases. The relevance of ketones in mitochondrial function. How so many of our modern chronic diseases are self-inflicted and driven by insulin resistance. How many of the hallmarks of aging are a consequence of insulin resistance. The theory that the longest-lived people are likely the most insulin sensitive. The benefits that occur with carbohydrate reduction as a result of increasing insulin sensitivity. Ben’s thoughts about the degree of intermittent fasting needed to induce autophagy in humans. Show notes: [00:02:32] Dawn begins the interview asking Ben about his early life growing up in a small farm town in southern Alberta, Canada, as one of 13 children. [00:02:48] Dawn asks Ben what he was like as a kid and what made him stand out from his 12 brothers and sisters. [00:06:01] Dawn asks about Ben’s mother’s influence and how she wanted her sons to be Renaissance men. [00:08:29] Ken asks about Ben’s experience as a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints Missionary in Samara, Russia. [00:15:18] Dawn mentions that while Ben went into his undergrad majoring in exercise science, he wasn’t that interested in science at the time. It wasn’t until he began working on his master’s degree at BYU with Dr. Will Winder that he developed a true interest in science. [00:19:49] Dawn asks Ben how he ended up at East Carolina University for his Ph.D. in bioenergetics. [00:21:42] Ken mentions that Ben, after completing his Ph.D. moved to Singapore for his postdoc work at the Duke National University of Singapore. Ken asks how that came about. [00:25:49] Dawn mentions that Ben is well-known for his work on insulin resistance, stemming from his time at East Carolina when he realized that insulin resistance is tied to many different chronic diseases. Dawn asks what was Ben’s ah-ha moment that led him to focus his research on insulin resistance. [00:27:49] Dawn mentions that much of Ben’s work is focused on the role of elevated insulin in regulating obesity and diabetes, as well as the relevance of ketones in mitochondrial function. Dawn asks if it is correct that Ben has been on a sort of mission as a professor to teach a new generation of doctors and nurses how insulin resistance works, and why it is so relevant in terms of chronic disease. [00:29:56] Ken mentions that Ben began to take his message about insulin resistance beyond the classroom, appearing on podcasts and making YouTube videos, and also giving a speech to the student body at BYU, titled “The Plagues of Prosperity” making the case that the human race is currently eating itself into metabolic disarray. [00:32:31] Ben’s book “Why We Get Sick” points out that historicall, people got sic because of infectious diseases. In modern times, due to sanitation, vaccines, and antivirals, that is less of an issue. Today more people are afflicted by chronic illnesses, many of which are related to metabolism. Dawn explains that the overarching message of the book is that these diseases a...
Our interview today is with Dr. Vyvyane Loh, a board-certified physician in obesity and internal medicine. She is the founder and leader of Transform Alliance for Health, a Boston preventive-care practice that  specializes in weight management and the treatment of chronic metabolic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and dyslipidemia. She and her staff are known for helping people lose 50 pounds or more and getting their type-2 diabetic patients off their many medications. Vyvyane has spent her medical career developing expertise in immunology, metabolic syndrome, fat metabolism, clinical nutrition, and preventive medicine. In today’s interview, we discuss how abdominal, or visceral, fat is linked to a wide range of metabolic disorders. Vyvyane goes on to explain how there’s a clearcut association between obesity and decreased brain volume that rarely gets discussed. When her overweight patients complain about their behavior around food and how they consistently give in to snacks that patients know are bad for them, Vyvyane explains how the challenges they are facing is often a result of the brain struggling with decreased blood flow and the shrinkage of neurons. Vyvyane also shares how a patient asked Vyvyane if she knew anything about the Atkins diet, and although she didn’t, Vyvyane ended up doing the diet along with her patient. This led Vyvyane to start seriously researching whether a ketogenic diet could help people not only lose weight, but also reverse chronic disease. Toward the end of today’s interview, we explore Vyvyane’s interest in macrophages, which are specialized cells involved in the detection and destruction of bacteria and other harmful organisms. We also have a nice discussion about how Vyvyane took some time off from practicing medicine to enroll in the writing program at Warren Wilson College in North Carolina in 1999. She spent the next two years writing a novel, “Breaking the Tongue.”  Set in Singapore during World War II, her book was nominated for the prestigious International IMPAC Award in fiction and was selected by the New York Public Library as one of its top 25 books of 2004. If you are interested in finding out more about Vyvyane, check out her website, Also, Vyvyane launched a podcast this week, which you also can find on her website. Episode one looks at “Metabolism: What It Is, And How It Affects Your Health.” If you enjoy today’s interview with Vyvyane and the many other interviews we’ve had on STEM-Talk discussing the treatment and prevention of chronic metabolic diseases, you may want to check out the upcoming virtual conference on Targeting Metabesity. Our cohost Dr. Ken Ford will be one of nearly 70 speakers, including many former guests on STEM-Talk, talking about the growing evidence that the major chronic diseases of the day share common metabolic roots and as a result may also share common solutions. To find out more about the conference, follow this link to the Targeting Metabestiy home page where you find a program guide and list of speakers. If you would like a free ticket to the conference, click on this link where you will find instructions on how to receive a code for complimentary admission that is being offered to STEM-Talk listeners. Ken will be moderating a session on emerging research related to endogenous and exogenous ketosis in health and disease as well as the role of ketones in mild traumatic brain injury and the prevention and treatment of cancer. If you have enjoyed the interviews we’ve had on STEM-Talk with Drs Steven Austad, Colin Champ, James Kirkland, John Newman, Brianna Stubbs, Jeff Volek and Morley Stone, who are all speaking at the conference as well, you should find the talks by the over 70 speakers quite interesting and beneficial. So, click here to request a free registration and we will make sure to send a you a code for a complimentary ticket. Show notes [00:04:45] Dawn mentions that,
Our guest today is Dr. Jeffery Iliff, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences in the Department of Neurology at the University of Washington. Much of Jeff’s research focuses on neurodegeneration and traumatic brain injury. He is the associate director of research at the VA Puget Sound Health Care System and a co-leader for research at the University of Washington’s Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center. In this episode, we talk about Jeff’s investigations into the glymphatic system, which is a newly discovered brain-wide network of perivascular spaces that facilitates the clearance of waste products from the brain during sleep. Jeff goes on to describe how he is exploring how the glymphatic system fails in the aging brain as well as in younger brains after traumatic brain injury. Jeff and Dawn also have a conversation about their collaboration on a research project  that’s focused on how extreme stressors impact the glymphatic system. Together they are investigating a potential approach to optimizing glymphatic clearance for individuals with acute or chronic sleep deprivation. Show notes: [00:02:55] Dawn opens the interview asking Jeff where he grew up. [00:03:21] Dawn asks what Jeff what he was like as a kid. [00:04:01] Ken mentions that it wasn’t until Jeff was working as a lifeguard at a boy scout camp that he first became interested in science. Ken asks Jeff what it was about his lifeguard experience that triggered the interest. [00:05:06] Dawn asks what led Jeff to the University of Washington as an undergrad. [00:06:02] Ken mentions that Jeff originally intended on going into pre-med. Ken explains that Jeff changed his mind and asks about a suggestion from a girlfriend that caused Jeff to have a change of heart. [00:07:39] Dawn points out that in addition to working in the lab as an undergrad, Jeff also worked a 48-hour shift as an EMT over the weekends. Dawn asks Jeff why he kept such a busy schedule. [00:09:35] Ken asks what led Jeff to the Oregon Health & Science University for his Ph.D. [00:10:53] Dawn asks if it’s true that Jeff’s wife played a big role in his decision to travel across the country to New York for his post-doc at the University of Rochester. [00:13:06] Dawn mentions that after the second year of Jeff’s post-doc, he was promoted to a junior faculty position because he was part of the team that discovered a brain cleaning system known as the glymphatic system. The team published a paper in 2012 in science translational medicine that was the first of about ten papers that later became known as the “glymphatic papers.” After a follow-up paper in 2013, Science Magazine cited the discovery that the glymphatic system cleans the brain during sleep as one of the “Top 10 Breakthroughs of 2013.” Dawn asks what this experience was like for Jeff as a young post-doc and junior faculty member. [00:15:55] Dawn explains that the lymphatic system is a network of vessels extending throughout most of the body that transport excess fluid and waste from the interstitial spaces between cells to the blood. She goes on to explain that these vessels are notably not found in the brain leading to the question of how interstitial fluid is cleared in the brain. Jeff’s team discovered the glymphatic system, which serves the same function in the brain as the lymphatic system in the rest of the body. This discovery turned out to be a paradigm shift and led to numerous subsequent studies. Dawn asks Jeff how the initial 2012 study came about and how they identified a distinct clearing system in the brain that serves a lymphatic function. [00:19:59] Dawn mentions that after Jeff’s initial work in the glymphatic system, he went on to write what has become known as his sleep paper. Dawn goes on to say that for this study, Jeff used two-photon microscopy to visualize fluid moving in and out of the brain, and at some point, saw his tracer leaving the brain.
Today we would like to introduce you to one of our newest colleagues here at IHMC,  Dr. Kaleen Lavin, a research scientist who investigates the molecular mechanisms by which the body adapts and reacts to stressors such as exercise, training and aging. Kaleen came onboard at IHMC last year and is known for her use of computational biology techniques as a means to understand and improve human health, performance and resilience. She also is interested in the use of exercise as a countermeasure for a range of disease conditions, including neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease. Today we will talk to her about some of her most recent work that examined the molecular effects of exercise training in skeletal muscle and in people with Parkinson’s. We also talk to Kaleen about her recent paper that took a comprehensive look at the current literature surrounding the molecular and cellular processes underlying the molecular benefits that exercise induces in humans. The paper appeared earlier this year in Comprehensive Physiology and was titled, “State of Knowledge on Molecular Adaptations to Exercise in Humans.” Kaleen is a graduate of Georgetown University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in biology. She also earned a master’s in sports nutrition and exercise science from Marywood University in Pennsylvania and a Ph.D. in human bioenergetics from  Ball State University in Indiana. Show notes: [00:03:02] Dawn opens the interview mentioning that Kaleen grew up in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and asks Kaleen about her passion for music as a youth. [00:03:25] Ken asks Kaleen about her high school years and how she became  a competitive swimmer. [00:04:26] Dawn mentions that Kaleen was an excellent student growing up, but that it wasn’t until her junior year of high school that she became interested in science. Dawn asks if it were a teacher who inspired Kaleen. [00:05:21] Dawn asks what led Kaleen to attend Georgetown University after graduating from high school. [00:05:57] Dawn asks if Kaleen knew she wanted to major in biology when she first arrived on campus at Georgetown. [00:06:45] Ken asks about Kaleen’s experience of becoming a part of the Howard Hughes Program at Georgetown, which led to her gaining experience working in lab. [00:08:47] Dawn mentions that Kaleen transitioned from competitive swimming to running during her undergraduate years, running a marathon and half marathon. Dawn asks if  Kaleen’s father, who is an avid marathoner, gave her the incentive to start signing up for marathons. [00:13:19] Dawn asks Kaleen about a faculty advisor who noticed her passion for running and exercise and helped her decide what to pursue for her master’s degree. [00:15:23] Ken asks Kaleen what led her to pursue her master’s at Marywood University, a small Catholic University in Scranton. [00:16:56] Ken asks Kaleen what prompted her to pursue a Ph.D. in exercise science at Ball State University, which has one of the longest-standing human performance programs in the country. [00:17:57] Dawn mentions Kaleen’s experience with no-breath laps as part of her training when she was in high school on the swim team. Dawn asks Kaleen to explain what no-breath laps are. [00:19:00] Dawn asks Kaleen about a study she conducted for her master’s thesis at Marywood that examined the effects of controlled frequency breath swimming on pulmonary function. [00:22:13] Ken asks about how Kaleen’s time at Ball State set her up for her post-doc work at Center for Exercise Medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. [00:24:31] Ken asks what it was about UAB that attracted Kaleen to do her post-doc work there. [00:26:08] Dawn asks about a study published in 2017 by a group at UAB led by Marcas Bamman where researchers took people with Parkinson’s disease and ran them through a high-intensity exercise program, finding that you could not only help people preserve some function but al...
In response to several requests from listeners, we have as our guest today, Dr. Matt Kaeberlein, a professor of pathology at the University of Washington. Matt is well-known for his investigations into the basic mechanisms of aging. Much of his research in this area is focused on identifying interventions that promote healthspan and lifespan. In today’s interview, we talk to Matt about the biology of aging and what he has learned about slowing the aging process.  In 1999, Matt and his colleague Mitch McVey discovered that overexpression of the SIR2 gene is sufficient to extend lifespan in yeast. SIR stands for silent information regulator, and we have an interesting discussion about how Matt’s research and 1999 discovery have elevated SIR2 to the forefront of aging research. Also, some of Matt’s most recent and fascinating investigations have been into rapamycin, the only known pharmacological agent to extend lifespan.  His research has shed new light on the role rapamycin plays in delaying age-related dysfunction in rodents, dogs, and humans. We also have a fun discussion with Matt about his research showing that rapamycin may have the potential to reduce the mortality of companion dogs. The paper that came out of this research landed Matt on the front page of the New York Times and received prominent play in the national and overseas media. Other topics we cover include: Matt’s attempts to uncover the molecular mechanism behind lifespan extension via calorie restriction. His research into mTOR, which is a protein in every cell, and how inhibiting mTOR has been shown to extend the lifespan of insects, rodents, and animals. Matt’s 2006 study that showed fasting extends lifespan in worms more than caloric restriction. And an article Matt published last year that summarized several of the most popular anti-aging diets, comparing them with classical caloric restriction. In addition to his work in his Kaeberlein Lab, Matt is the co-director of the Nathan Shock Center of Excellence in the Basic Biology of Aging and the founding director of the Healthy Aging and Longevity Research Institute at the University of Washington. He also is the founder and co-director of the Dog Aging Project. Show notes: [00:02:53] Dawn asks Matt and his youth and where he grew up. [00:03:06] Ken asks if it is true that Matt spent a good deal of his youth “up to no good.” [00:04:20] Dawn mentions that while Matt got decent grades in school, it wasn’t until he went to college that he became studious. Dawn asks Matt if it true that he had originally decided to skip college. [00:05:42] Dawn asks how Matt ended up in Bellingham at Western Washington. [00:06:41] Dawn asks how in the world, despite not liking high school and working a morning shift at UPS for two years after graduating, Matt decided to head off for college and major in biochemistry of all things. [00:08:01] Ken asks what led Matt to travel across the country to Boston and MIT’s biology program. [00:09:57] Ken asks why Matt decided to focus his research on the biology of aging. [00:11:57] Matt talks about what he did following his Ph.D. [00:13:15] Dawn asks Matt what kind of research he did at the University of Washington Department of Genome Sciences for his post-doc, and how this research related to aging. [00:15:10] Ken mentions that it was during Matt’s undergrad that he decided to focus on the question, “To what extent are the mechanisms of aging evolutionarily conserved?” Ken asks Matt what caused him to arrive at that for his central focus. [00:19:36] Dawn mentions that the discovery by Matt, and Mitch McVey, that overexpression of SIR2 (Silent Information Regulator) is sufficient to extend life span in yeast is credited with promoting SIR2 to the forefront of aging research. Dawn goes on to mention that SIR genes are determinants of life span in yeast mother cells. Dawn asks Matt to give a quick primer on the SIR genes a...
Today’s guest is Dr. Mark Lewis, executive director of NDIA’s Emerging Technologies Institute (NDIA ETI), a non-partisan think tank focused on technologies that are critical to the future of national defense. ETI provides research and analyses to inform the development and integration of emerging technologies into the defense industrial base.   We will discuss the Emerging Technologies Institute’s Vital Signs report, which is an evaluation of the readiness and health of the defense industrial base. Prior to his role at the Emerging Technologies Institute, Mark was the Director of Defense Research & Engineering in the Department of Defense, overseeing technology modernization for all military services and DoD Agencies, as well as the acting Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Research & Engineering.  In this role he was the Pentagon’s senior-most scientist, providing management oversight and leadership for DARPA, the Missile Defense Agency, the Defense Innovation Unit, the Space Development Agency, Federally Funded Research and Development Centers, and the DoD’s basic and applied research portfolio. At the Department of Defense, Mark worked closely with Mike Griffin, who appeared on episodes 23 and 134 of STEM-Talk. In today’s interview with Mark, we will again discuss hypersonics and other emerging technologies and modernization priorities that are critical to our national defense. Mark is also the former longest-serving and is perhaps best known for his work in hypersonics. In addition to these important defense-related roles, Mark is also a professor emeritus at the University of Maryland. He spent 25 years as a faculty member at Maryland, conducting basic and applied research in hypersonic aerodynamics, advanced propulsion, and space-vehicle design. Show notes: [00:03:27] Dawn opens the interview asking where Mark grew up and what he was like as a kid. [00:04:29] When Dawn asks Mark when he first became interested in science, Mark tells a funny story form his time as president of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics? [00:06:21] Ken asks Mark how he ended up at MIT after high school. [00:07:46] Mark talks about taking a job as an assistant professor of aerospace engineering at the University of Maryland after earning his Ph.D. in aeronautics and astronautics at MIT. [00:09:34] Dawn mentions that from 2002 to 2004, Mark was the director of the Space Vehicle Technology Institute. She asks Mark to give an overview of the Institute and the kind of work that goes on there. [00:12:45] Ken mentions that in 2004, Mark became Chief Scientist of the U.S. Air Force, going on to become the longest-serving Chief Scientist in Air Force history. Ken asks Mark to explain the role of the chief scientist, and what he focused on during his time in the position. [00:17:37] Dawn explains that in 2012, Mark became the director of the Science and Technology Policy Institute, which worked with the executive office of the President and other Executive Branch agencies. Mark talks about the kind of work the Science and Technology Policy Institute does. [00:20:23] Dawn mentions that during Mark’s 25 years as a faculty member at the University of Maryland, he conducted basic and applied research in a variety of fields, such as hypersonic aerodynamics, space vehicle design, and advanced propulsion.  She point out that Mark, however, is best known for his work in hypersonics. She asks Mark what led him to focus on hypersonics. [00:22:46] Ken asks Mark to explain why he decided to work under Mike Griffin (episodes 23 and 134) in the Pentagon as the Director of Defense Research and Engineering, and what that experience was like. [00:28:19] Dawn mentions that during Mike Griffin’s time as Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, he made hypersonics the department’s number one priority. Dawn asks Mark to explain the importance of hypersonics in terms of our national defense.
Comments (18)



Jan 11th

Махмудхон Мансуров

Today I discovered STEM-Talk. Very informative podcasts.

Nov 13th

Even J

benefit a lot

Nov 1st


This is the first episode of @ihmc_stemtalk I've heard and I found the interview with @ecleelab to be very interesting. She is exactly the sort of #professor I've long dreamt of becoming: someone who is passionate about #mentoring, #teaching, and #research. It is super exciting to hear from someone like that because it give me hope that even with all the detours my life has taken, I might actually one day succeed.

Apr 20th
Reply (1)

farzaneh ef

This talk was so useful and amazing👍

Apr 8th

Karluigi Marie

when did this interview take place? now we know people are being infected more than once. People who live in multigeneraion house holds runs significant risk of catching. we are finding now there are limited teachers to teach the kids because the teachers get sick.

Jan 26th
Reply (1)

Old man

why does everyone have to Salt their speech with the absolutely meaningless phrase "sort of"?

Oct 3rd

John Grundstrom

Can peolpe strawman any subject and get away with it on this show? What a complete echo-chamber. Was hoping for alternative views and got nothing.

Aug 29th

Todavia No

This interview is Gold

Jun 21st

Niclas Daniels


Apr 16th

Benyamin Asgari

great podcast

Feb 5th

Benyamin Asgari

great podcast

Feb 5th

Benyamin Asgari

great podcast

Feb 5th

Rhonda Galasso

I was diagnosed 2 years ago at age 63. Symptoms were tremor in right leg, loss of handwriting ability, and soft voice. I also have difficulty rising from a seated position and have balance issues. I started out taking only Azilect, then Mirapex, and 6 months ago Sinemet. Several months ago I started falling frequently, hence the reason for Sinemet. I tried every shots available but nothing worked. In June 2018, my neurologist and I decided to go with natural treatment and was introduced to Natural Herbal Gardens natural organic Parkinson’s Herbal formula, i had a total decline of symptoms with this treatment, the Tremor, falling frequently, stiffness, body weakness, balance issues, depression and others has subsided. Visit Natural Herbal Gardens official website ww w. naturalherbalgardens. com. This treatment is a breakthrough for all suffering from Parkinson’s, don’t give up Hope. Keep Sharing the Awareness, herbs are truly gift from God.

Oct 10th


This is such an incredible podcast. This episode is brilliant. Thanks guys. I would add, how I can get SPM's ???

Oct 9th


Brilliant show. I'd never heard of PRM's etc to treat chronic and general inflammation

Sep 13th
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