Science Sound Bites; a Podcast for STEM Teachers

Everyone is a scientist. We all make discoveries in our own world. It shapes how we live, how we interact, and how we co-exist. Some of us are casual scientists and some of us do it for a living. For those of us who do it for a living, the questions we ask are designed to further human understating of the world we live in. To help, to inspire, to cure, to prevent harm. microphone-21Benefiting human life and health are the core reasons why we do what we do.

We as scientist understand we can’t do it all alone. United we stand in trying to solve the health problems that plague our society. We need people. People like you to not only support what we do to help humanity, but to understand what we do as well. Thus, we need to inspire early and often. Early as in going into schools to provide real world applications of the crucial lessons students are learning right now. To show that there is more to science than just what is in a textbook.

So what if there was a way to get a scientist into classrooms when teachers needed them?

What if there was a way to link what that scientist did with current middle school and high school science curriculum?

I’m Michael Johnson, a postdoc at St Jude Children’s Research Hospital. A group of us here came up with the idea to interview scientists about their current research. But more than that, we want to breakdown our science in a way that everyone can understand and relate to, while drawing parallels to current middle school and high school science curriculum; things that you the teachers are going over right now. In each episode, I will chat with a scientist for about 15 minutes and include a slide or two about what we are talking about. It is my hope that you the teachers can use these interviews as a tool to supplement your lessons and inspire your students. Welcome to Science Sound Bites Presented by the Postdocs of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

If you are interested in using these podcast, please send me an email at Please include who you are, where you are from, what grade and subject you teach (if applicable), and what you will use it for. I need this information to generate institutional support and so I can keep you up-to-date on new podcast. These podcast are and will always be 100% FREE. Since this is a limited release, please feel free to email me back with feedback on what you want to hear, what you thought was an appropriate grade level for the interview you heard, and how your students responded. Also, if you know someone who is interested please share this information with them. Here is a sample.


Michael D. L. Johnson Ph.D.



State of the Scientific Union

Ladies and Gentlemen of the nation, it is with great disappointment I say that we, the scientific community, have failed you. We have hidden on our false intellectual pedestal. We throw around phrases like “you wouldn’t understand” and when we do try to explain, we start so far down the rabbit hole, it might have been better if we did not speak at all. For that, we cannot blame you for your ignorance. We cannot blame you when you become complacent about the importance of science or the lack of support (read funding). We cannot continue to complain to our colleagues, preaching to the choir, because in this case, the choir is not above reproach.

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We as scientists need to begin to cultivate relationships with our surroundings, not look down on them. We need to stop combating faith, but instead find common ground and work together (we are not enemies). We need to work with politicians, instead of always calling them out for their attack on science (again, we are not enemies). We must educate the public. The job of a scientist has changed. Each one of us is a scientific ambassador, whether or not we want to answer that call.

Above all, we need to stop saying “we need to” and simply just go “do.” If your involvement is minimal with the public, it is likely that your impact will be as well. Please allow me a moment of clarification though, we all have gifts and we naturally like to work within them, but changing the status quo will require us to step out of our comfort zone. Some scientist are better in the lab than in the public eye, but if that is you, find a constructive way to express, or have someone else express, the value of your contribution. Some people are much better in the lab, and some can hopefully do as I am right now, which is sounding the alarm, leading the charge from the trenches, and not standing on the hill. Reach out and reach often.

Moving forward, and moving now, I have a task for you. Find your “why.” Dig deep and truly reflect on why you do science. When you have it, write it down so you can draw inspiration from the reason. Next, express that to others. Notice I did not ask you to tell them what you do yet, or how you do it, I simply said just tell the why. If the public doesn’t know why we do something, then they will never care what it is that we do. If you find and communicate your why, I will guess that they will want to know “the what” of your science. But again stand firm, and state first the why. Why is it important to them, why is it relevant to them? Frame your problem in such a way that the listener wants to know what can be done. Then and only then, should you tell them the “what” and “how.”



Happy New Year Challenge!!

Happy New Year Everyone!!!


Ok scientists, I have a question, if I have to categorize you using an -ist, what would you call yourself (based on what you do, not your degree). Then a dash and what you do, then dash and what your degree is in. For instance I think I would be a microbiologist – biochemical host/pathogen interactions – biochemistry/biophysics. I’m curious to see how many categories we can get!! Use #ScienceClassify to keep track.