Bonus! Q&A with hosts Deboki and Sam

Tiny Matters

Bonus, bonus! This week on Tiny Matters, get ready to learn a bit about hosts Sam and Deboki. Who are they? Why do they love talking about science so much? Who are their science writing idols? Are they self-conscious about what their voices sound like? Answers to those need-to-know/certainly do-not-need-to-know questions are coming your way!

Transcript of this Episode

Sam: All right. I think my audio is going. I'm just going to go for it. So this bonus episode of Tiny Matters is very different from the actual episodes of Tiny Matters. This is just a getting to know you episode featuring Deboki and I asking each other questions. The reasoning behind doing this, I felt starting a new podcast and not really introducing who we were might be, I don't know if off putting is the right term, but people might want to kind of know who we are and why they should listen to us talk about science.

Deboki: At the very least I want to know who you are. Yes. I feel like. We can at least get to know each other with doing this.

Sam: Yes, yes. So this is an opportunity for Deboki and I to get to know each other better and for all of you to get to know us. So this is going to be very informal. This is not scripted as our full episodes are. So this will be kind of fun and weird and not something that I ever do. So that is why I'm so awkward about it. Okay. Deboki, do you want to kick things off? Just talk about your very general path to what you're doing now.

Deboki: Yeah. How did I end up here on this microphone with you?

Sam: Yes.

Deboki: So my background is in bioengineering. I went to Caltech for undergrad, did bioengineering and English there as my majors, which was a lot of fun. It was a good combination to make sure that I was still reading books. Then after that, I went to grad school, I went to Boston University, did my Ph.D. in biomedical engineering there and sort of halfway through, well, I sort of went into grad school knowing that I might not want to do research and want to do science writing instead, but I didn't fully commit to it until about halfway through my Ph.D., and so from there, I was not quite sure what I was going to do. So for some reason the idea, the thing that stuck with me was I'm going to start my own YouTube channel.

And you would think like, hey, if you want to go into science writing, you would start a YouTube channel about science. Instead, I was like no, I'm going to do it about books. I'm just going to sit here and talk about books and then talk a little bit about doing my Ph.D. So not necessarily the most direct path into science writing, but it did get me to learn how to make videos. And that helped me get an internship after I graduated at Scientific American and then after that helped me go into this whole scicomm world, kind of focusing mostly on video and podcast, which has been a lot of fun. It's not the straightest path, not the most direct path there, but it worked out.

Sam: Yeah. I feel that there's definitely some overlap with our experiences. So I grew up in the Boston area and I ended up going to Vassar College in New York for my undergrad. And I majored in biology, but also secondary science education. And I actually got my teaching certificate to teach secondary science ed in New York state. But I was kind of just playing with the idea of research and I felt I wanted to push myself to, I don't know, try out research on a level beyond undergrad. And so I ended up actually working the summer after I finished my undergrad in Woods Hole at the Marine Biological Laboratory. And I was a course assistant for an embryology course. And I got to just kind of play around with a bunch of different model organisms. So you have things plenary, then you also have all these different types of snails and frogs and it was just really, really cool.

And so I ended up actually working as a research technician for a little over a year in Kansas city at the Stowers Institute for Medical Research, worked in a stems cell research lab, liked it enough to continue on to a Ph.D., but like you Deboki, I did not go in thinking I need to stay in academia after this. I was never dead set on truly anything, but I knew that it was not for me, staying in academia was not the end of all of what I wanted to do with my life. And a couple of years in, I started realizing that I definitely did not want to stay in academia, but I also probably didn't want to go into biotech and I liked lab work okay, but it was not something that I wanted to just continue to do for years and years and years.
So I started just going to every career fair that I could find, and I went to one on medical writing and I left it thinking, okay, I don't want to be a medical writer, but I'm really curious about this writing thing. And it's funny because I think with all the teaching stuff that I did as an undergrad and just out of undergrad, it made sense to me that I liked explaining science to people, but I kind of never put two and two together until then and I took a science writing course through UC San Diego where I was doing my Ph.D. And I just absolutely fell in love because I think a lot of times people think of science writing or science communication as one thing. But in this course, my mind was completely blown I guess when it was like, no, you could write press releases.
You could write for journalistic outlets, you could write features, you could produce videos, you could make podcasts. So this was like, yeah, I was blown away by how intrigued I was, yet I had no idea what I was going to do. So then I finished my Ph.D. And then I ended up actually my last few years or last couple of years of my Ph.D. especially, I ended up getting a very small internship where I was working with a public information officer—people who write press releases for universities and institutions. And so I kind of learned how to do the sort of newsy science writing, and I convinced other institutes around the area to let me just write for them, they have to pay me, just let me write for them so that I could gather up those clips and then apply for positions.
And so I did, and then as soon as I graduated or fended my Ph.D., I got a job as an assistant editor for chemical and engineering news at the American Chemical Society. And then from there very quickly after got into science video and podcasting, and now I am primarily podcasting, but also doing some freelance writing for different journalistic outlets. So yeah, I guess I'm still figuring it out, but yeah, that was my very winding weird path to realizing that I could combine science and writing.

Deboki: Yep. Yeah, no, it was funny too when you were saying how going to learn about science writing and realizing how broad it is. Because one of the things that I remember when I started saying I think I want to do science writing, it felt such a funny litmus test of whoever I told it to what they thought of immediately when I said that, because a lot of people were like, oh, so you want to be a journal editor? And I was like, no, that's not the one.

Sam: Right.

Deboki: That's not the thing I'm thinking of, but that is a very big part of science writing and that is a pretty integral role, and so I've had other friends who have gone down that path and I was like, right, we're all science writing and science communication is such a vast thing because there's such a big ecosystem around how to get science communicated between different scientists, between different institutions and also between the science where it's happening and then the public at large, it's such a big ecosystem and there's so much to find out in there.

Sam: Yeah, no, absolutely. Actually, this made me think of my favorite response to me saying I'm a science writer. So someone said to me, what do you do? And I said, oh, I'm a science writer. And they said fiction or nonfiction? And I was like I wish I was a writer of science fiction, but no, unfortunately, non-fiction.

Deboki: Yeah.

Sam: So yeah. I loved that. Yeah, no, I think that's the thing. Science writing, science communication, there are just so many formats and I think part of the appeal to me of podcasting is that I feel I can reach a lot of people with very diverse interests and maybe I'm reaching people who wouldn't normally want to click on an article and read it, but they would while they're folding laundry pop their earbuds in and listen to an episode of Tiny Matters. So yeah.

Deboki: Yep. Totally. I still definitely remember listening to so many podcasts when I was in grad school, like all the time. If I was running an experiment, if I was setting stuff up, I always had a podcast on.

Sam: Yeah.

Deboki: And part of the fun of it is that feeling that a lot of people talk about of being in on a conversation of getting to feel you're in a room with people who are talking about the thing and it was one of those things where I was like, oh, this is cool. That would be so cool to get to do.

Sam: Yeah.

Deboki: Now we get to do it.

Sam: I know. I know. It's very fun. Yeah. I feel I became "friends" with so many podcasters while I was just hanging out, waiting for my cells to just incubate or something.

Deboki: Yeah.

Sam: Yeah. So, okay. So I think that gives people a pretty solid idea of how we got here or at least a general idea. So now, Deboki and I have come up with a handful of questions each that we are going to ask each other. Do you want to kick things off or do you want me to kick things off?

Deboki: I can kick things off since I started with my intro.

Sam: Okay.

Deboki: So one of the things that I'm curious about is you've done this switch from a lot of different things. You did the science, the education, and also working on the PIO side, working on that public information side, and now moving over to the more kind of direct, I guess, engagement side. I don't know if that's the right way to phrase it.

Sam: Yeah.

Deboki: The working on the podcast side. So I guess of the things I'm really curious about is along those different steps, did working in any of those different things and moving along those different parts of the path, did that change the way that you see science itself?

Sam: I think it's made me appreciate the scientists who are really transparent about their work and are really open about what's succeeding, what's not succeeding? What still needs to happen with the field?

Deboki: Yeah.

Sam: So I think that a lot of times when you are in the science, you're in the research or really in this niche thing, and you're surrounding yourself with other people who are super amped about that same niche thing that I think sometimes you sort of lose your perspective. It's easy to get kind of wrapped up in that when you're in the research, because everything's so exciting. But I think that I've been able to as a science communicator, take a step back and look at the relevance of certain findings within a certain context and for certain people and also evaluate things like, okay, have you only shown this in cells? In addition, yet it's somehow being extrapolated to the public as this is going to cure x, y, and z in humans. I've become more aware of this over hype of science and I've gained a greater respect for researchers who really tell you where the holes are in their research.

Deboki: Yeah.

Sam: And tell you what the exciting findings are, but you know, there are always caveats. There're almost always caveats and there are upfront about that.

Deboki: Yeah. That totally makes sense. It's interesting because I feel one of the things that happened for me when I was making the switch over is there's the way that I think when you're in the science world, when you're doing the research, the way that you process the media that's about science and there's a lot of mixed feelings. I don't know what your experience with this is, but that's something that I saw a lot and experience too, where you see these headlines and you see the way that things from your field are being talked about that don't feel fully accurate. And so I think there's the way that you see that when you're a scientist and then also the way that you then see that when you're on the media side where you start to understand why some of those choices get made, which doesn't make it better.

But you start to understand it a little bit more, especially things headlines, which are so frustrating. And I totally get why writers and other people in the audience and why the public finds it so frustrating. And I also totally understand why the headlines get written a certain way, and so you're just kind of like, oh yeah, now I see it from both sides and I still have my feelings about it, but understanding a little bit more of why those things that feel dysfunctional are dysfunctional, why those things exist has been really interesting.

Sam: Yeah, absolutely. No, it totally goes both ways. I think I just didn't... When you're in the science, you don't recognize certain things and then you leave it.

Deboki: Yep.

Sam: And you see, oh wow, this felt like a really, really important thing and somehow there are things that sometimes blow up and sometimes that stems from the media, but sometimes it stems from the scientists themselves just kind of being a little bit detached from the reality of how important a finding might actually be.

Deboki: Yeah.

Sam: Yeah. Is there anything that you would say has changed in terms of how you see science now that you've been a scicommer?

Deboki: Yeah. I mean, I think it's sort of related. It's just that idea of being able to see the bigger picture that all of this operates in. I think one of the things that I was worried about when I was making the switch is that I was going to really miss being engaged with the nitty-gritty of daily lab life and getting to know so much, so deeply about a topic. But I think one of the things that surprised me after making that switch is realizing that the bigger picture perspective is really so much more fascinating to me and it's made science a lot more compelling to me to get to learn. I think there's obviously so much value in that really deep technical knowledge that people spend their whole lives in. But for me, being able to see science from this bigger picture perspective and getting to dabble in other parts of it, like the science history side, seeing how it intersects with other parts of our life that are not necessarily things that you're going to observe in the lab, that's just been really, really satisfying.

Sam: That's a really good point. It's true. And when I think about it since I left academia, I have the number of topics that I've covered through podcasting, video work, and writing, it's just kind of wild how much my knowledge base has expanded and move out of that niche focus. And so, yes, I'm never going to be able to learn something as deeply as I learned it in my Ph.D. I'm never going to be the first person to discover a thing in all likelihood, because I can't imagine what that thing would be, but I feel I just have a much broader higher level understanding of the science world, like the natural world. And so yeah, the big picture stuff for sure, that totally resonates with me.

Deboki: Yeah.

Sam: Yeah. I guess my question for you is semi-related. So I'm curious, what are your favorite science topics to cover?

Deboki: So I think one of the things that when you go into the scicomm world, a thing that people will tell you, especially if you're coming from the science side and that I have realized is true, is that it is probably easier or you're writing will be better if it's on a topic that's not related to what you did your research on. So that's definitely something I've come to appreciate, but even still, one of the things that I work on as a freelancer is I'm a writer for this YouTube series called Journey to the Microcosmos. So Journey to the Microcosmos is a show about essentially microbes, mostly it's about things that you can see through the microscope. We have this incredible footage from our master of microscopes and he gets just these really, really cool tiny little microbes that I just did not imagine existed.

Deboki: And it's been so cool diving into the world of microbes because my background experience was in genetic engineering and working with T-cells for cancer therapies. And so I had a lot of familiarity with mammalian cells from my grad school experience. And I shared lab space with people who were working with yeast and bacteria, but I didn't really fully appreciate them, and now working on this channel has been such a good crash course and learning about microbes and being like right, so these tiny little things that are all over the place have their own lives that have existed for billions of years before us. And so I think that's become one of my favorite things just to look into because our understanding of them is so wild too. There're things about them that we know so well, and there's so much we don't understand it all. And yeah. So I think maybe microbiology is just in general become one of my favorite things to understand, because you're just like what's going on in there?

Sam: Yeah.

Deboki: What are these tiny little creatures doing? And how do they do it?

Sam: For sure. Are there any science topics that you're anxious to cover?

Deboki: On the same note, and this is terrible and it'll show up if you've watched the show, you've seen it come up. Optics is the weirdest thing. Anything related to light in optics is one of those things I've realized you have to think about it for the exact right length of time, you have to think about it just long enough to understand it. But if you think about it for a second longer, it will stop making sense. You will just be like actually this doesn't make sense anymore. And so when you're working on a show about microscopes and you have to explain how microscopes works, that inevitably becomes a challenge and it's been fun to work through that, but it's still a thing that every time we're going to have to understand something new and figure out not just how the microscope that we're going to explain works. I have to understand that and also I have to figure out how to explain that to other people. I'm always just like, oh no, okay. This will be good for me.

Sam: Yeah.

Deboki: I know it's going to be good for me, but it's starting out on a long run where you're like I know this will be good for me, but right now I am not looking forward to it.

Sam: Yeah. That's a great metaphor.

Deboki: Do you have your own topics that you love and also do not necessarily get excited for?

Sam: Yeah. So I feel the topic that I'm most anxious to cover is kind of similar to yours. So I would say it's more generally physics and I feel anything physics-related that has to do with space. When was it that the image of the black hole came out?

Deboki: Oh, yeah. That was a few years ago.

Sam: I must have read something about... I must have read seven different things about that to try and conceptualize how they were able to get that image. None of it stuck. None of it. I think there would be moments where kind of what you were saying with there's a certain window of time that you can spend on something before then all of a sudden none of it makes sense anymore.

Deboki: Yeah.

Sam: And for me, I think that was 15 minutes and then all of a sudden it was I had short term memory loss that it was gone. I don't know what it is, but it's so hard for me to grasp those concepts. And I think I've always been kind of anxious about physics and math for I'm sure plenty of society based reasons. But I think for me biological sciences just came so much more easily and they also interested me more for whatever reason. I mean, it sounds ridiculous to say that space is not interesting to me. Of course, it's interesting to me, it's this great unknown, it's incredible but I think because to me, at least, maybe because I don't understand the scientific bases for a lot of our knowledge, it's really hard for me to wrap my brain around.

Sam: And there's something about it that maybe I'm just less interested because it feels fake. I know it's not, but I think it's harder for me, but I guess then yeah, so some of my favorite science topics to cover are definitely more biomedical related and my Ph.D. was in biomedical science. So you mentioned that it can be a problem, right? Because I'm so comfortable with the jargon, the more esoteric terminology. And I don't necessarily pick up on when I'm including things that are not public knowledge or that are not going to resonate with someone who doesn't have a high school level of education in terms of who doesn't have beyond a high school level biology understanding.

I think I'm really, really fascinated by diseases. I know maybe that makes me seem a little bit weird, but I'm very, very fascinated by the things that try to invade our bodies and the things of how we fight them off or don't, I think I'm also really interested in death and decay and that kind of stuff. I was definitely the kid that was like I'm going to read this book on the hundred forensic studies that changed how we understand crime scenes or how collecting certain bits of evidence from x, y, and z could help you draw conclusions about an event. I have this kind of morbid interest in things and I can't fully explain it.

Deboki: No I think that's totally a real where sometimes these things that are so scary, not always, but there are times where being able to break it down into what is happening biologically makes it feel like especially with something that's concrete, but until any of us have gone through it, it's abstract, but something like death where we're not going to know, being able to understand whatever we can understand biologically makes it feel I don't know, tangible without having to be immediately there.

And so it makes it not necessarily always easier to process, but there are definitely times where in the right mindset stuff that's scary that I'm like, oh, if I understand biologically what's happening, it makes it a little bit more interesting and also a little bit less terrifying.

Sam: Yeah. Absolutely. I'm definitely someone who’s like “gives me the information!” When people talk about, oh, well, would you want to know your genetic results for x, y, and z? I'm like, yeah, give me that info. I'm so that person who wants to know the things, not knowing is way worse than knowing and just dealing with it to me at least. Can you tell I like control?

Deboki: See, I'm the opposite because I love control too, but there are definitely so many things where I'm like, if I don't know how I'm going to use this information, I don't want to know. So stuff like genetic testing where I'm especially because there's so much confusion and ambiguity around genetic results and we could have a whole conversation about that, about consumer and genetic testing. But for me, it's been one of those things where I'm like, unless I know how I'm going to use the information I most of the time, or at least I have to have a good sense of like, I don't need to know exactly what I'm going to do with it, but I have to have good sense of how I'm going to process it.

Unless I have that sense, I'm very like nope, don't need to know. I'm going to hold off.

Sam: Interesting.

Deboki: So I think that’s a different form of control.

Sam: Yeah.

Deboki: I think there are people who could use their curiosity productively in that way. And I just am not one of them. You were talking about the books that you read about death and stuff, growing up and that kind of segues into one of the questions that I wanted to ask, which is, were there either growing up or also along the way, were there specific science writers, TV shows, books, podcasts, anything that specifically inspired you?

Sam: Yeah, so actually very much in line with my discussion of death. One of the first sort of popular science books I remember reading was Mary Roach's Stiff, which is about death. And in it she actually visits a body farm. I won't go into all of the details, but essentially these are I mean usually open areas, but they're outdoors and they are research sites that are used to study what happens to people's bodies when they decay. Someone has died, they donate their body to a body farm and then researchers put them in a variety of positions, it sounds horrible, but maybe they're in water, maybe they're out open to the elements, maybe they're in a car. So the idea is to kind of gauge what happens to a body as it decomposes and then use that information to try and understand let's say a crime scene or if someone, or if a body is found to try and determine what happened to them, how long they've been there all of that information.

So it's not just some bizarre horror show, there is a real scientific reason for doing this. And so actually that's the first time I had heard about that and just like a quick side note, we're definitely going to do an episode of Tiny Matters on body farms, because as you can tell, I'm very fascinated by them and I think they're really, really actually the very important things that exist and they exist all over the world in different climates to try and understand how different climates would impact decay, all of that stuff. So anyway, so, yeah, Mary Roach is a very well known science writer, but I think one of her first books, I can't remember if Stiff was her first book or if Gulp was, she has a bunch of them and she had one just come out this past summer called Fuzz actually.

But yeah, so that was kind of my, I don't know if it was my foray into the popular science writing world, but I loved that book. And then I would say the other person who comes to mind is Ed Yong, who won a Pulitzer Prize in 2021. So yeah, just last year for his writing during the pandemic. I just think that I started reading his writing when he was writing more about just weird animals doing cool stuff. And he still does some of that and he actually has a book coming out I think this summer where he is focused more on that and not focused on the pandemic to my knowledge, but his writing style, just the way that he constructs sentences, his word choice, just the structuring of stories that he uses is really, really impressive. He has a real way of taking something that's very technical and making it publicly accessible. And I think that's something that I strive to do.

Deboki: Yeah. Yeah. If I think about this question, for sure, especially when I was in grad school, I remember getting to the point where I felt I could identify an Ed Yong article just by the headline and the tweet or whatever. There's something about the phrasing where I know the combination of the phrasing and the subject. Yeah. And I think one of the things that, especially for me really struck me when I was reading his writing, especially at that point is he's not the first science writer to be literary in any way, there are a lot of incredible nature and science writers who've been doing that for a long time.

But I think especially in the world of popular science journalism at that time, I hadn't seen much of that and I really was so struck by how well he combines literary references with a lot of the science that he's describing. Because I felt like it brought some of that artistry and also made the science feel accessible in a different way that wasn't just like I'm going to make a comparison. It wasn't just like I'm going to make some kind of metaphor or similarly, it was combining it with other references in a way that was just to me really, really interesting. And I was like this is cool. I would want to learn how to do that.

Sam: Yeah. Oh yeah. I mean, for me, it's a goal. A big goal.

Deboki: Yeah.

Sam: Is there any other podcasts, TV, other writer, anything that yeah you feel like sort of inspired you in your scicomm journey?

Deboki: I feel the big one is The Magic School Bus.

Sam: Oh.

Deboki: Whenever I think just science communication that shaped me. That's the thing that I remember just from when I grew up, but also everything about it sticks with me now, that feeling of how it makes you feel so immersed in a topic in like such a fun way and somehow gets accesses because it has this whole... As a kid, I don't think I was thinking about it in this way now from the side of the writer, when I think about it, I'm dissecting all the things that it did so well. And I'm like, oh right, they have all of these different kids who embody different aspects of what it's to learn the science, someone who's really scared.

Deboki: Someone who's really into the gross stuff. Someone who's really curious, there's so many different aspects of it that they're able to cover and then they make you feel so drawn into the story. They have the thing at the end. I remember watching a few episodes when I was older and being really struck that they had the section at the end where they pretend to answer to listener comments about the episode and it's really for them to address the things that their episodes get wrong. But basically the things are wrong because they're working within the constraints of whatever thing they're trying to write a story around. So it was a really cool way of being able to kind of confront that head on and just be like, yep, we got that wrong technically or we showed this to you wrong because we needed to but we still want you to know what would've been accurate or what would've been more true or we think would've been more through. And I thought, yeah, that's so cool.

Sam: Yeah. That's a very fun version of a fact check.

Deboki: Yep. Yeah, totally.

Sam: I need to go back and watch it because I watched it all the time as a kid, but I have not seen an episode since I was probably 10. So I need to go back and watch and pay attention to that stuff. That sounds really cool.

Deboki: I need to watch the new ones.

Sam: Oh, I didn't know there were new ones. Okay.

Deboki: Yeah, I think Netflix has the new ones. I'm not sure though.

Sam: I don't remember everything. Yeah. Cool. That's awesome. So, all right. Deboki, I want you to finish this sentence. The first time I heard my voice in a podcast or on tape, meaning it could have been in a video. I felt…

Deboki: I felt so awkward. So the first time... I mean, this is not definitely not the first time, but the first time I definitely experienced it heads on was when I made my first YouTube video and I had never done anything that. I didn't really fully have the equipment. So it was an old laptop webcam and me talking into it. So kind of awkward, very stiff and just very self conscious. And then that was me on the tape and actually watching it after was reliving that. But I do think one of the things that was great about doing my own YouTube thing is you get really inured to that so quickly. You're like okay, whatever, that's my face. That's my voice. It's whatever. And part of it is you get more comfortable being on camera.

And part of it is you just accept that that's what you look like on camera and that's what you sound like. But I've noticed for some weird reason it is much easier for me to see myself on video than to just hear my voice. When I've done podcast projects that are just me recording myself and then having to edit my own audio., I feel so much more awkward than watching myself maybe because when you're watching yourself, there's something about being able to put, I don't know, what you're doing physically with what you're saying that makes it feel more complete, whereas when you're just a disembodied voice, I don't know. It's somehow more awkward.

Sam: Yeah. Yeah. I actually have to say that I felt the same. The first time I saw myself on camera in a YouTube video, I felt semi awkward, but not super awkward. But yeah, the first time that I heard myself played back after recording a podcast cast episode, which would've been, I guess now about three years ago, I definitely had the moment of does my voice actually sound that? Because I think you have a perception of how you sound and how you look and all that stuff and then like you said, once you hear this disembodied voice, you're like is that coming out of my mouth?

Deboki: So yeah.

Sam: But yeah, I think the big thing for me was when you record a podcast or I think with videos this is also the case, whatever level of energy you feel you're giving, you have to give at least 50% more to sound or look normal. It's this bizarre thing. So when I listen to really early podcast episodes, so not Tiny Matters, a different podcast way back, when I listen to those early episodes, I sound like I'm half asleep and I wasn't, I was very much awake, but I didn't really understand the concept of take a moment. I think my former boss would say smile as you're talking a lot of times. You have to do these weird things with your body and sort of your mouth to just get in the mode of delivering lines and not in a way that's inauthentic, but just keep in mind that however energetic you feel in that moment, it's going to come off a lot less energetic once you're just listening to your voice.

Deboki: What you're saying kind of reminds me of when we were talking about the difference between how we see media when you're on the science side, versus when you're on the scicomm side. Because I think the same thing happens when you're watching people or listening to them host where it's so easy to be like, huh, that's weird, why are they doing that? And even I had filmed my own YouTube videos, but once I started doing hosting stuff that was actually for people, so one of the things that I've done as a freelancer is hosting crash course organic chemistry on YouTube and doing crash course hosting is very different from sitting at home and just filming into my camera.

Deboki: For one, I think it's easy to just be kind of casual and whatever, but also I can talk super, super fast if I'm at home. I can talk super off the cuff. And also it's just me with a camera. It's such a different experience having someone else in the room with you while you're reading off a teleprompter and you're trying to explain chemistry, you have to talk a little bit slower, but also you want to be still energetic. I thought I understood hosting just from doing myself and then I learned how to do it in this other context. And I was like, oh right, this is still so different. It was a learning experience.

Sam: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. Let's do maybe one more question for each of us. One more question for each other.

Deboki: Yeah. Okay. So it's been a few years since you've been in the lab. Is there anything you miss about it?

Sam: No.

Deboki: I love it.

Sam: Not at all. I mean, so I, of course, miss a lot of the people, the fellow graduate students and the postdocs who are in the lab with me, I definitely miss those people, but if I could just see them at a happy hour every so often that would be fine. I don't miss anything about lab work. It's funny because I was asked that question a lot the first year after I finished my Ph.D. and left academia and started as a science writer and never once did I feel that way and I truly never think about it. I really have not once since my Ph.D. ended thought did I make the right decision by going scicomm and not staying in academia? Even two years before graduating I already was 100% certain that I was over it. I was done. And not to say that I don't have so much respect for the people in academia and see the immense value and necessity of academic research and basic science research, but I'm not that person. So yeah, the answer is hard stop no. What about you?

Deboki: Yeah, definitely I do not miss. Well, okay. So it's the same where I miss people and I miss working on things with people in the way that I did in lab, but I don't miss lab. And especially, I think one of the things I thought I was going to miss was just the feeling of I was an engineer and so getting to work on a kind of engineering type project, I thought I was going to miss that and then I got into this and I realized that it's kind of the same thing. I do a lot of the same things that I did as working in the lab, it's just with a very different set of techniques. I have to think about out what my different parts are that I'm working with. I have to think about what my constraints are.

Deboki: I have to think about whatever other consideration this there is. And writing a script feels a lot engineering to me, it feels a lot with words, figuring out what the right wording is, all of that stuff feels so satisfying in the way that working in a lab did, but in a medium way, that is actually what I want to do. I also hit that point where I was like I don't think I want to spend the rest of my life pipe heading. I also don't really want to spend the rest of my life supervising people who are pipe heading. So where does that leave me? It leaves me in a completely different space that is not really in the lab world at all, but gets to watch it.

Sam: Yeah, yeah. I get to appreciate it. I think I appreciate it far more not being in it. I think that I can sort of step outside of my personal feelings toward my own research and really appreciate all of the very cool stuff that scientists are doing around the world.

Deboki: Yeah. Yeah. I think the only times I miss it are when I realize that I have been sitting at my computer all day. So there's something about the movement that I miss, but I can do other things. I can go for a walk and that will hopefully scratch that itch.

Sam: Yeah, for sure. Okay. So my last question for you is why do you explaining science to people?

Deboki: I think this is kind of selfish of me, but I think it's just because I find talking fun. I like talking to people and I like talking about things that I just find really exciting. I will sit down, I'll talk about books, I talk about reality TV and I also talk about science, it's those three things and maybe my cat but those are the things that I will talk about. If you just give me the slightest prompting I will talk about any of those things for like an hour uninterrupted and science is wild.

Sam: Yeah.

Deboki: That's not the most eloquent way to describe it, but there's just so many different things going on and so many different things to understand that I just very selfishly need a way to process that and release that into the world. And so this is one way to do that. And I think what I'm also finding really interesting is on the less selfish note is thinking about it in terms of the conversation, thinking about it in terms of what other people are bringing as an audience and thinking about what their concerns are, what their different levels of understanding of are, what they might find interesting as well and what I need to do, it's been good to be kind of forced into position where I can't be as selfish and I have to actually think about what the audience is going to react to and that's a really fun challenge as well.

Sam: For me, the big thing that I think made me want to be a science communicator was that moment when someone gets something and I think I liked that when I was teaching as well, when a concept is just not really clicking, not really clicking and then you find a way of explaining it or demonstrating something or finding some sort of metaphors, like something that allows someone to come at the same subject from a different angle and all of a sudden they get it. I love that moment. And it's not like I'm seeing that reaction a lot of times. Sometimes with family and friends when I explain something yes, but I love if someone comments on a video or on let's say an episode of Tiny Matters or something that saying I never realized that this was important for x, y, and z or like, oh, I've always wondered about this and it never made sense. Thanks for helping it make sense.

Those kinds of things. And again, this is also kind of selfish, because it makes me feel good. I did a good job because someone is getting it and they haven't gotten it before, that feels really good. I think also I see that depending on your upbringing, where you grew up, just so many different factors, you are going to have more or less access to science and you're going to feel science is more or less for you to understand. I think it's really important for people to feel like science is for them in the sense that they can understand and question it and not just say, oh, it is what it is. You know, science isn't what it is. It's this ever moving target, right? We're learning more and more, but the more that you learn, the more questions that seem to crop up and that's normal. That's a good thing. That's why science is exciting.

Deboki: Yeah. Yeah. I don't have a good eloquent follow up. I think that's a really great way of looking at it and thinking about what the goal of science communication and science writing is overall.

Sam: So Deboki, do you feel you know me better than you did 45 minutes ago?

Deboki: Yes. Yes. For sure. I can answer a quiz. I know things, I know that you really like dead bodies.

Sam: Perfect. A +. That's a hundred. So I guess all I want to close out with is thank you to everyone who is listening right now, I appreciate it. Also, in terms of just kind of I guess thinking about what we were both just talking about sort of why we explaining science to people. You know, if you have feedback on the podcast, whether it is positive feedback or constructive feedback, please be constructive. I'm not going to respond to really, really mean emails that have no constructive element to them. So if there are things that you feel like oh my gosh, this was such a great explanation and you want to share that, that makes us feel great. If you also feel like oh my gosh, in this episode, I feel you left out x, y, and z, and why did you leave it out? Did you know about this thing and whatever?

I also want to hear that absolutely. So please send us an email. So it's and that also goes for if you have cool episode ideas or other things that you want to share, please shoot an email and I'm the one who gets those emails. So I promise I will read it. Let's see. And then yeah, things that you can look forward to with Tiny Matters. I mean, we publish every other week, every other Wednesday, so there's always stuff kind of lined up and ready to come out. We have a cool episode coming out on memory actually. I believe it's the next one. So kind of understanding what a memory is and how we store our memory and why we lose memories. So that'll be a cool one. And then just kind of like gearing up for the many months after that, there will definitely be an episode on biological warfare, bioterrorism, a focus on in particular anthrax, but also kind of the history of biological warfare. So that one should be, I think, very informative and interesting. There are a lot of things that I just did not know about before starting to outline that episode and then let's see. I mean, there's a lot of things. I guess the last one I'll say, which I already mentioned was we'll definitely do a body farms episode. And then I was thinking the other day, there are a lot of really cool episodes or really cool ideas that might be around Halloween time, mainly the historical basis or rather the medical basis for certain undead creatures. So that's way in the future, but these are just the things that are coming to mind right now. Yeah.

Deboki: And really scary and talking about physics.

Sam: Oh my gosh. I know if anyone listening has a physics episode in mind, no promises, but actually it would be a really good challenge for Deboki and I to talk about it. And, of course, we always talk with experts. We always get fact checkers. So I think we'd probably be all right, but I'm super interested if you think that there is a physics/chemistry related episode that people would be interested in, shoot me an email.

Deboki: Yeah. If you have any questions, let us know and we'll see if we can figure it out.

Sam: Are there tiny things? I mean, physics is just all tiny things.

Deboki: Yeah.

Sam: Yikes. Yikes. It's like I signed on for that.

Deboki: Yeah.

Sam: Well, Deboki, do you have anything else that you would like to say or share?

Deboki: Share with the class? No, I really enjoyed getting to know you better, Sam.

Sam: You as well. This was fun. This was a fun hour and I hope that the people listening had a little bit of fun too.


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