In spring 2024, neuroscience senior seminar students embarked on a unique assignment: choose a neuroscience “big idea” that fascinates them, interview a neuroscientist about that topic, and create a podcast. Students took this assignment and ran with it — conducting fascinating interviews about brain chemicals, deep fakes, and traumatic brain injuries — and learned a lot of science along the way. Biology professor and chair of neuroscience Heather Rhodes also pushed them to think about science communication: How could they share these big ideas with a broad audience?

Students created their podcasts and entered them into the Denison Podcast-a-thon, an annual all-campus podcast competition sponsored by the journalism department.

Neuroscience student Sophia Sobota ’24 beat out more than 80 other student podcasts to win both the top prizes: the Buzzy award for best podcast, as judged by a group of media professionals, and the People’s Choice Award, voted on by Podcast-a-thon attendees.

Sobota spent many hours distilling and editing her interview with Professor Eve Valera of Harvard Medical School. She told a compelling story about how traumatic brain injuries affect victims of domestic violence.

Neuroscience seniors Mary Kate Healy and Parker Smith earned honorable mentions for their podcasts with Denison psychology professors. Healy interviewed psychology professor Susan Kennedy about her fascination with drugs and neurotransmitters, while Parker interviewed psychology professor Nestor Matthews about the ways new technologies interact with our sensory systems.

“I’m so proud of the students and all the podcasts they made,” Rhodes said. “It’s so important for scientists to be able to communicate what we learn with others. The students really embraced that mission, sharing their curiosity and knowledge through their podcasts.”

May 10, 2024