SR Feature in HelloBio’s “Podcasts by Scientists” Blog Series
This article was featured on HelloBio’s blog series Podcasts by Scientists
Podcasts by Scientists: Science Rehashed
By Sam Roome PhD | September 2021
In the latest in our Podcasts by Scientists series, we’re finding out more about Science Rehashed! Created by founders Mehdi Jorfi and Shen Ning and supported by a passionate team of staff and ambassadors, this podcast aims to make recent scientific breakthroughs and their impacts more accessible to the public and to other scientists around the world.
We spoke to Carla D’Avanzo, a neurobiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital who co-directs the podcast, oversees fundraising and runs the associated Ambassador programme. Carla told us how the podcast came about and why accessibility is so important to the Science Rehashed team.
Hi Carla! Can you tell us a little bit about your background as a scientist?
I currently work at the Mass General Research Institute in Boston as a Senior Research Alliance Manager and Instructor in Neurology at Harvard Medical School. I am a neurobiologist with over 10 years of experience in Alzheimer’s disease (AD) research. I promote translational science by helping to build partnerships between industry and academia. Prior to joining the Strategic Alliances team, I was a research fellow at the Genetics and Aging Research Unit at MGH led by Dr Rudolph Tanzi, where I worked on ion channel physiology in AD and the development of a unique 3D human stem cell culture AD model. I hold a Ph.D. in neuroscience, a MS in pharmaceutical biotechnologies and BS in healthcare biotechnologies from University of Naples, Federico II, Italy.
Where did the idea for the podcast come from?
The podcast was created and launched two years ago by my lab co-worker Mehdi Jorfi and colleague Shen Ning. Mehdi grew up in Iran and Shen in China, where there is no easy access to top-tier journals and scientific publications. In the U.S. and in wealthy western countries, scientists and students can access the latest papers with a few easy clicks thanks to their university’s subscription, but it’s not nearly that easy for scientists in the developing world. Mehdi and Shen wanted to solve this problem by podcasting for free and sharing interviews with the authors of the forefront scientific research publications.
What is your role with the Science Rehashed team?
I’m currently co-director together with Mehdi. I oversee hiring and retention of qualified volunteer staff, and I work with staff to ensure that the mission is fulfilled through programs, strategic planning, and community outreach. I oversee fundraising and develop other revenues to ensure the financial health of the organization. I also run the Ambassadors program.
Who is the podcast aimed at?
The podcast addresses two communities: 1) scientists and students in resource-poor countries, who do not have the means or institutional support to obtain very recent scientific papers in life science to enrich their research or education and 2) young scientists and graduate students in more academically well-funded industrialized countries who juggle the daily demands of academia, research, grant writing, and professional development while trying to stay up-to-date with recent scientific advances.
The podcast is “on a mission to bring scientific discoveries to anyone with internet access for free” - why is this so important to you and the team?
Scientific information should be universally accessible, but outside of high-income countries, it can be very challenging and difficult to obtain. Neither researchers nor universities/research institutions can afford the subscription rates for accessing top-tier peer-reviewed journals. The podcast was launched in August 2019 with the mission to increase accessibility to science through reviewing and expounding upon forefront scientific research publications. We are an internationally diverse team, mostly scientists, young professionals, or students and, we all have either experienced ourselves the lack of resources in our home countries or we know someone that has. We all share a passion for science communication, and we are passionate about working together to offer a window onto paywalled life science research to anyone in the world with an internet connection.
The podcast also has an Ambassador Program. Can you tell us a little more about this?
Last year we launched the Ambassador program with the goal of recruiting students or young scientists from around the world to represent Science Rehashed and promote it as a resource to their own countries and communities. We have ambassadors from Iran, Italy, Peru, Switzerland, Turkey, India, Pakistan, Norway, USA, and New Zealand. We have been extremely impressed by the passion of our ambassadors and their dedication to our goals. Through their hard work, we were able to increase listenership in those countries and due to their feedback, we are working on translating each episode to different languages on our new YouTube channel as a part of our commitment to equal access. We are about to launch the second cycle of the program and introduce the new ambassadors from Africa, Mexico, India, Slovenia and Greece by the end of October.
Which has been your favorite episode of the podcast so far?
I loved the “Jennifer Aniston Neuron” episode. I’m a neuroscientist and I’m always fascinated by all topics related to the brain, such a powerful and mysterious organ. This episode is focused on Dr. Quian Quiroga’s finding of the “concept neuronal cells”, specific cells that are in the brain region called hippocampus, crucial for forming memories.
What topics do you have planned for future episodes?
We are in the process of scheduling interviews for the next episodes. A few ideas we are working on include a 360-perspective episode on Alzheimer’s disease, evolutionary biology, eye diseases and cancer biology.
What are the team’s plans for the podcast long-term and how do you see it growing?
We are looking into securing funding for the next year to sustain our non profit organization by applying for grants and/or getting sponsorships. This will enable us to compensate our talented team of volunteers, keep producing high quality content for our followers and increase our outreach globally.
What advice would you give to other scientists who are keen to get into podcasting?
Surround yourself with passionate, skilled people. It is not easy, it requires time and patience, and it may not pay back in terms of money, but it rewards with the love and recognition of your listeners and guests.
Aside from Science Rehashed, which other science-themed podcasts would you recommend?
My favorite is Hidden Brain produced by NPR, it is the one that got me into podcasts. I also like Mayim Bialik’s Breakdown.
How can our readers listen to your podcast?
All of our episodes are available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcast, or YouTube.
How can our readers support what you do?
We are a registered non profit organization and if you would like to, you can support us through PayPal and/or Amazon Smile to enable us to carry out our mission of making recent scientific breakthroughs and their impacts more accessible to the public and scientists from all over the world. We’d also love to hear your suggestions for papers to feature in our future episodes! Email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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