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April 14, 2024

Five science podcasts to listen to while you pipette

By ELLIE ROSE MATTOON | February 9, 2023



Science podcasts are a great way to entertain oneself during mundane tasks and learn something new. 

One piece of research advice I wish I had before starting out: If you plan to be in a wet lab where you’re pipetting or performing any combination of tedious tasks, be sure to have some podcasts ready to binge. I don’t think I could have gotten through pipetting 96-well plates if it were not for my headphones giving me the illusion that I was eavesdropping on an interesting conversation between two people. For legal reasons, I must say that some more complicated procedures in the lab don’t mix well with podcasts and require your full, uninterrupted concentration to be done safely.

Even if you’re not in a science lab right now, it’s possible you still need some podcasts to feel like you're talking to someone on your commute to campus or while you’re stress-baking at night. Hopefully, the podcasts below will be entertaining while immersing you in the wonderful worlds of science!

1. This Podcast Will Kill You

As an epidemiology nerd, I loved listening to the first few seasons of this podcast back in high school. The two hosts, both named Erin, dedicate each episode to any given disease, from HIV to influenza to chikungunya. One Erin explains the biological pathology of how any given bug makes you sick, and then the next Erin takes over to explain the disease’s history in human spaces. Best of all, each episode comes with a recipe for a pathogen-themed “quarantini” for listeners to make as they listen along from home. Even for those that don’t drink, there’s also an option for a non-alcoholic “placebo-rita.”

2. Ologies

Not sure what kind of STEM person you are? Ologies can show you all your options. Host Alie Ward chooses a different “ology” to explore with the help of a guest each week. Depending on what episode you tune in to, you could be in for a deep dive into mycology (the study of fungi), selenology (the study of the moon) or even scatology (the study of poop!). Ologies is also a great place to find even more podcasts to try out, as many guests will plug their own shows as they introduce themselves. 

3. 99% Invisible

This podcast isn’t entirely a science podcast, but then again the boundaries between science and non-science were never black and white. 99% Invisible describes itself as a podcast about “all the thought that goes into the things we don’t think about.” Luckily, each episode is designed to be “evergreen,” which means that you can still get something out of them even if they are a few months or a few years old. While I don’t listen to 99% Invisible regularly, one of my favorite episodes is “Invisible Women” from 2019, an exploration of the lack of built spaces or scientific investigations designed with women in mind. 

4. This Week in Virology and This Week in Microbiology

Forgive me for being biased toward podcasts about microbial pathogens, but I can’t help recommending something I find so interesting. This Week in Virology (popularly called TWiV) and its sister show are both run by the American Society for Microbiology. For both, the host is Vincent Racaniello, a Columbia University professor who seems like the kind of cool guy who would hold a nerdy party for all his students at the end of the semester. 

With guest hosts, expert interviews and clinical updates, Racaniello and his team explain the latest studies in the microscopic realm. It’s like a journal club that you don’t have to participate in! While this podcast is accessible to anyone willing to listen carefully, after listening for a while you’ll start to realize how much you’ve learned by how much of the terminology you start to recognize.

5. Science Friday

Let’s say that you can’t commit an entire podcast episode to a single science topic. You just want to know everything that the wide world has to offer you. Science Friday is the solution for you. Each episode provides a wider overview of what’s going on in the field of science. If you’ve ever wanted to learn about birding for people who are blind, how many glasses of water people actually need in a day, road salt polluting the Mississippi and a sci-fi novel all in one episode, you could find it in Science Friday’s edition from Jan. 27, for instance.

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