Why a podcast for a final project?

Social media has been a tremendous force for scientific outreach. Websites like IFLS, podcasts like Science Collider and Radiolab and talk shows like Star Talk have done much more than creating a simple and effective avenue for science communication: they have ignited the public interest in science and even prompted the rise of “Community Labs.” While non-profit and private entities (WNYC, NPR, Dana Foundation) have led the expansion and democratization of scientific information, academia has lagged behind. Despite many outreach efforts, we are still not engaging the public enough about the true process of scientific discovery. Moreover, outreach efforts typically happen outside the undergraduate classroom. As I mused about how to structure my new class, I thought,  what about a podcast?  Supposedly podcasts are easy to make, awesome to listen to, and they reach many people. Plus, making a podcast series with the students would also mean incorporating outreach efforts into the classroom and teaching students to be both outstanding scholars and communicators. Clearly, a path that goes from “scientific oligarchy” to “scientific democracy” is not only beneficial, but also crucial for both Science and Society: engaging our young scholars with this process is a superb way to catalyze this transition. Since starting this project in 2016, this webpage has been visited more than 100,000 times, quite an impact!

Many thanks to our contributors

The Center for Research on Learning and Teaching, RELATE, and Instructional Support and Services, as well as Carina Yiu, Krupa Patel, Brendan Chen, Danielle di Franco, and Samantha Ratner for editing and reshaping the website in 2022.

MCDB 458 Neuroepigenetics, from Environment to Genes to Behavior  

Have you ever wondered how life experiences are translated into changes in the DNA and how these in turn affect behavior? While genomes are hidden inside cells, they are also influenced by the “experience” of cells and organisms. These experiences, which come in the many forms, from diet to pollutants to stress, alter the chemical nature of the genome, and in turn, its function. This is particularly crucial in the brain, as its function is linked to behavior. This class will cross the lines between neuroscience, molecular biology and epigenetics to uncover the effect of the environment and life experience on brain function and behavior. We will examine how genes determine complex behaviors, and analyze in depth how maternal care, stress, drugs of addiction and more contribute to brain function and dysfunction. This course involves critical reading and class discussion of recently published research articles in the field of neuroepigenetics.

Learning Goals

  • Critically read the primary literature in this field and put it in the context of what you have learnt in other neuroscience and genetic classes.
  • Understand the basics of epigenetic processes in the brain and how they contribute to mental health and disease
  • Understand the technical approaches to study neuroepigenetics
  • Communicate new findings in this field to the public via social media and a website.