Lab Talk with Laura: STEM research meets comedy on the radio

Laura A. Fattaruso

Published August 10, 2018, SCEC Contribution #8376, 2018 SCEC Annual Meeting Poster #319

In January 2018 I started producing a weekly STEM-themed radio show, Lab Talk with Laura, on the UMass Amherst radio station WMUA. The show is also distributed as a podcast on iTunes and Soundcloud, and promoted via Facebook and Twitter. I host each episode and have two or more researchers as guests on each episode, along with a rotating cast of comedians as co-hosts to bring humor and a non-science perspective to the dialogue. Researchers interviewed on the show include undergraduates, graduate students, postdocs, and professors at a variety of career stages. A wide range of STEM fields from Chemical Engineering and Computer Science to Food Science and Molecular Biology have been represented on the show. Topics discussed on the show have included wearable photovoltaic technologies, genetic engineering of food crops to enhance nutrition, climate science from a range of perspectives including ecology, paleoclimate, and forecast modeling, and biomechatronic manipulation of sea slug brains, just to name a few. I plan to record interviews at the 2018 annual SCEC meeting to make an earthquake science themed show.

Each episode is an hour long and features long-form open discussion of topics that arise from conversations about individual’s research. Each episode ends with a game called GTA: Guess That Acronym to acknowledge and break down the communication barriers created by scientific jargon. Researchers from a variety of backgrounds have been interviewed on the show including people who are first-generation scientists, POC, foreign-born, and LGBTQ, to highlight the wide range of people who contribute to STEM fields. The show aims to humanize scientists and the research process, and make complex research accessible to a broad audience. I faced challenges in meeting some of my initial goals for the show, such as transcribing each episode so it would be accessible to deaf and hard of hearing communities, or promoting the show effectively to wider audiences. These are challenges that could be accounted for in the planning stages of future communication work. The show has also been successful in many of its goals: providing an outlet for scientists to share their research in their own voice, humanizing scientific research, and reaching a non-science audience.

Fattaruso, L. A. (2018, 08). Lab Talk with Laura: STEM research meets comedy on the radio. Poster Presentation at 2018 SCEC Annual Meeting.

Related Projects & Working Groups
Communication, Education, and Outreach (CEO)