Podcasts by Scientists: BrainCast
Our Podcasts by Scientists series is back, and we’re shining the spotlight on the BrainCast podcast! Produced by students at the University of Sussex, UK, this interview-based podcast aims to showcase the breadth of innovation and creativity across psychology and neuroscience within the University of Sussex, and beyond!
We spoke to Alice Cox of the Sussex Neuroscience Society who recently took over management of the podcast, to learn more about the team and their plans for future episodes!
Hi Alice! Can you tell us a little bit about your background as a scientist?
I’m currently an undergraduate student in Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of Sussex, so I’ve been studying the brain and its interaction with the rest of the body since I was 18. I have always had an interest in the cross-over between psychology and neuroscience; how the brain controls all our behaviours, and acts as the biological hub of our personalities, thoughts, questions, and life decisions.
How did the podcast come about?
BrainCast was founded and set up by Imogen Moore, a (then) master’s student in Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Sussex, in collaboration with the Sussex Neuroscience Society. One of the things we believed to be lacking at Sussex was the bridge between student-researcher communication, and the transmission of Sussex-led neuroscientific research to students. Many of us knew briefly what our lecturers and professors were researching, but the processes, techniques and findings were kept largely in the dark. We first started posting interviews with faculty members on the Sussex Neuroscience YouTube page so other curious students could learn about the department in greater detail.
Who is the podcast aimed at?
Since the podcast is run by students at the University of Sussex (most of which are involved with the Neuroscience Society) and started with interviewing researchers at our university within the field, the audience has primarily been Sussex students as a way to gain further insight into the work being conducted by their lecturers and professors. We also like to think of the podcast as a useful tool for other faculty members within the departments, as a way to explore the work of their colleagues. As the podcast has grown over the years, we are introducing new guest speakers from universities further afield, such as UCL, and making the podcast more accessible and well-known within the neuroscience podcast world, hoping to gather an audience of students/early career scientists from across the country and the rest of the world.
Is this the first podcast you’ve been involved with?
Yes! Earlier this year, I never thought podcasting would be something I’d be interested in managing, nor something I’d ever have the confidence to do! But after listening to the podcast since its first release, as well as many other podcasts of various topics, I decided to take the leap and give it a go, and it has been one of my proudest achievements so far.
How many people are involved in producing the podcast?
We like to get as many people involved as possible. Anyone within the Sussex Neuroscience Society (or within the department, were not super fussed!) has the opportunity to become a guest host, and so far, we’ve had around 10 different interviewers feature on the podcast. This is one of my favourite parts of the podcast, and one of the things that makes us different from others out there; we try to use the podcast as a tool to help current students improve their public speaking/interviewing skills, gain confidence talking to academics, and learn about new areas of research within the department. In terms of the behind-the-scenes work, that is usually carried out by me, so we have lots of people coming up with ideas for new episodes and people to interview, but a very small team of editors and producers.
What do you enjoy most about making this podcast?
For me, it’s the expression and creativity that comes with editing and designing each episode and its cover art. Doing a very content based, scientific degree (which I love!), there is little opportunity to explore the world outside a lab, so being able to use my artistic side to communicate current topics in neuroscience in a way that (hopefully) anyone can understand is something that I will always be grateful for. I love the idea of creating something that students can both use and be involved with, and being part of the wider scientific communication field, which I think is extremely important in translating research findings into the community.
Which has been your favourite episode so far?
I love the new mini-series that my colleagues and friends Emily Kirkby and Ray Das have created called Hidden Disabilities. This is such an important topic that doesn’t receive half as much attention as it should. Each episode is focused on a different hidden disability (so far, we’ve spoken about Functional Neurological Disorder and Hereditary Neuropathy with Liability to Pressure Palsies), where they talk to a sufferer about their experiences within the healthcare and educational system, and what they think needs to be done to make society more accessible for those with hidden disabilities. We have a couple of new episodes lined up which I’m super excited about.
What other topics do you have planned for future episodes?
One of our new episodes aiming to be released later this year will be focused on Mitochondrial Diseases and their influence on brain health. This is a very exciting new episode, as it is the first to feature a guest speaker outside of Sussex. Aya Tarabeine of UCL will be talking to us about her research on the molecular basis and pathophysiological mechanisms of primary mitochondrial diseases, as well as some fundamental aspects of mitochondrial biology.
If you could interview absolutely anybody, who would be your dream podcast guest?
It would be a dream to interview Bessel van der Kolk, the author of the fantastic book The Body Keeps the Score, which I have just finished reading. I think it is vastly important for neuroscientific research to be translated in a way that can be used by therapists and behavioural/clinical psychologists, and integrated into clinical practices, so that we can continue to improve the healthcare system. This is explored within van der Kolk’s book, so to learn more about his experiences as both a scientist and therapist, and how he continues to weaken the barrier between psychology and neuroscience, would be amazing.
How do you see the podcast growing/what are your plans for it long-term?
I would love to see BrainCast continue to grow in the direction it is currently going, where we expand our group of interviewees to outside of Sussex, bringing in research from across the country/world to further give our students the opportunity to speak with professionals and learn about their work. I would also like to work alongside individuals outside of the research sector, such as those in the biotech or scientific publishing industries, to tell their stories about how/why they moved outside of academia, and the benefits of these careers, since so much we have previously done is focused on PhDs and staying within university environments.
What advice would you give to other scientists who are keen to get into podcasting?
Coming from someone very new to the science podcast world, with very little experience, all I can really say is if you have an idea for a potential podcast, just go for it! It will seem very daunting at first, and may feel out of reach, but once you settle into it and find a rhythm, it is a lot of fun and will provide lots of exciting experiences/opportunities. Also, it takes a while to come up with a theme that you can stick to in order to create episodes that all work in a similar way, so don’t get too disheartened if the first few episodes act as a trial in order to find a structure that works well for you.
Aside from BrainCast, which other science-themed podcasts would you recommend?
Navigating Neuropsychology is one of my favourites at the moment. John and Ryan interview brain-behaviour experts about various topics within the neuropsychology field, such as loneliness and rehabilitation after Acquired Brain Injury.
How can our readers listen to your podcast?
And finally, is there anything else you’d like to tell us?
Alongside BrainCast, Sussex Neuroscience Society also has a blog called BrainPost, where students across the university are able to write an article on a topic of their choosing relating to brain-science, which are then later published on our website. We have lots of interesting articles up at the moment, so if reading about neuroscience is more your thing, check it out at https://sussexbrainpost.uk/.
Thank you for speaking to us Alice! Keep up the great work!
Discover more great Podcasts by Scientists...
Take a look at some of the other podcasts we have featured in our spotlight series:
- Podcasts by Scientists: The Genomics Lab
- Podcasts by Scientists: Darwin's Black Book
- Podcasts by Scientists: The Lead Candidate
- Podcasts by Scientists: I Belong Here
- Podcasts by Scientists: The Caring Scientist
- Podcasts by Scientists: Science Rehashed
- Podcasts by Scientists: Unravelling Science
- Podcasts by Scientists: The Struggling Scientists
- Podcasts by Scientists: The Lonely Pipette
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