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Science Talks: A conversation hosted by the University of Arizona’s BIO5 Institute

Science Talks: A conversation hosted by the University of Arizona’s BIO5 Institute

By BIO5 Institute
In our Science Talks podcast, we share the important research and innovation happening at the University of Arizona BIO5 Institute and how it impacts all of us, our state, and our world. BIO5 brings together hundreds of multifaceted experts that include world-class bioscientists, engineers, physicians, and computational researchers in a team science environment designed to creatively solve difficult problems.
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Episode 39: PHighting PHthalate exposure to improve PHertility
Infertility is the inability to get pregnant after one year of trying to conceive. It is estimated that 15% of couples will have trouble conceiving, and globally, nearly 50 million couples experience infertility every year. Many factors can contribute to female infertility, including exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDC), which are highly present in many of our everyday products. Reproductive toxicologist Dr. Zelieann Craig is working towards reducing the incidence of infertility by improving our understanding of how these chemicals interact with the female reproductive system. Dr. Craig is a BIO5 member, associate professor of physiological sciences, as well as the assistant dean for research in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
August 01, 2022
Episode 38: Deciphering mental illness and supporting women in medicine and science
Neuropsychiatric illnesses are mental disorders which include schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depressive disorder. These illnesses are rooted in identifiable problems within the brain. They are complex conditions whose origins aren’t well-understood, and they are a leading cause of disability in the United States. Physician-scientist Dr. Amelia Gallitano is the Director of Women in Medicine and Science at the UArizona College of Medicine - Phoenix, as well as a professor of basic medical sciences, psychiatry, and neuroscience, and is a member of the BIO5 Institute. She’s a board-certified psychiatrist who studies how the environment interacts with genes to influence risk for neuropsychiatric illnesses.
July 19, 2022
Episode 37: Tackling COVID-19 with research and science communication
Infectious diseases are the leading cause of death in developing countries and ignite grand challenges like pandemics. BIO5 researchers are working to develop better prevention, diagnostic, and treatment strategies to decrease the global burden of these diseases. BIO5 member Dr. Deepta Bhattacharya is a professor of immunobiology, and associate professor of surgery, genetics, and cancer biology. Dr. Bhattacharya merges stem cell biology and immunology to understand the development of white blood cells and to devise novel strategies to fight illnesses such as COVID-19, influenza, and Dengue virus.
July 04, 2022
Episode 36: Outshining the sun to squash skin cancer
Residents of the sunniest state – Arizona – are no strangers to ample sunshine. While sun exposure is beneficial to our wellbeing, it’s also a major cause of skin cancer, the most common type of cancer in the U.S. At least 5 million people in our country are treated for skin cancer annually, resulting in more than $8 billion in medical expenses. Physician-scientist Dr. Clara Curiel-Lewandrowski is a professor of medicine and Director of the Multidisciplinary Cutaneous Oncology Program at the UArizona Skin Cancer Institute. Dr. Curiel-Lewandrowski is also the interim chief of the Division of Dermatology, member of both the BIO5 Institute and UArizona Cancer Center, and Program Director for the Dermatology Residency Program. Her research and innovative approaches to solution-based translational science addresses important clinical gaps in skin cancer prevention and early detection.
June 20, 2022
Episode 35: Big tools for big data
Some of science’s most difficult challenges like solving world hunger and curing disease involve more than just traditional science fields such as plant and cell biology. Data science brings together computational, statistical, and mathematical techniques to expand our knowledge from big datasets collected from the bench, field or computer. Handling these large datasets can pose a challenge, especially to researchers who might not be familiar with or have the infrastructure to handle big data. Nirav Merchant is the co-principal investigator for CyVerse and Director of the UArizona Data Science Institute. Nirav is an expert in developing computational platforms and enabling technologies towards improving research productivity and collaboration for interdisciplinary teams and virtual organizations.
June 09, 2022
Episode 34: Regenerating hearts and overcoming failure
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in both the U.S. and world. To lessen this large disease burden, researchers are actively investigating why and how people develop heart disease. Cardiovascular researcher Dr. Jared Churko takes a single-cell approach to studying the mechanisms of heart disease. Dr. Churko is an assistant professor of cellular and molecular medicine, physiological sciences, genetics, and biomedical engineering, as well as BIO5 member and Director of the iPSC Core.
May 23, 2022
Episode 33: Tackling traumatic brain injury head-on
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is the leading cause of death and disability for individuals under age 44 with an estimated 1.7 million cases occurring in the U.S. every year, and concussion is dubbed a silent epidemic. TBI dismantles circuits in the brain, leading to short and long-term cognitive dysfunction. Dr. Kaveh Laksari utilizes biomechanics to study the underlying processes of TBI and model the injury to aid in prevention and accurate diagnosis. Dr. Laksari is an assistant professor of biomedical engineering, aerospace-mechanical engineering, and neuroscience, as well as a BIO5 member.
May 09, 2022
Episode 32: Sleep, inflammation, and COVID-19
Breathing, sleeping, and good health go hand in hand. People with lung diseases and allergies often have problems getting a quality, healthy night’s sleep which in turn can lead to further health challenges. Physician-scientist Dr. Sairam Parthasarathy is a BIO5 member who works at the intersection of chronic illness and sleep. Dr. Parthasarathy is a professor of medicine and clinical translational sciences at the University of Arizona, as well as the College of Medicine’s Division Chief of Pulmonary, Allergy, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine. He’s also the medical director of the Banner – University Medical Center Tucson Center for Sleep Disorders and director of the UA Health Sciences Center for Sleep and Circadian Sciences.
April 25, 2022
Episode 31: Vertical farming: a sustainable solution to feeding more with less
Sustainable agriculture is quickly becoming the wave of the future as we find ways to feed a world of 10 billion by 2050. Our BIO5 researchers are developing novel solutions that enable the production of more food with less use of resources. Using the framework of sustainable agriculture, Dr. Joel Cuello is looking up for answers in the form of vertical farming. Dr. Cuello is a professor of agricultural-biosystems engineering, applied biosciences, and arid lands resources sciences, as well as a BIO5 member.
April 11, 2022
Episode 30: Where blood flow meets brain diseases
Certain diseases like Alzheimer’s and high blood pressure are known to alter the link between brain activity and blood flow changes in the brain, leading to improper blood flow delivery to brain cells. This eventually leads to the death of brain cells and cognitive decline. Dr. Paulo Pires, assistant professor of physiology and surgery and BIO5 member, studies how blood flow to the brain changes between healthy and disease states, with an eye on possible therapies that can improve blood flow to mitigate disease.
March 28, 2022
Episode 29: Bringing hope to pediatric transplant patients and their families
Treatment for patients with blood cancers like leukemia or lymphoma may include a bone marrow transplant to replace unhealthy tissue to increase odds of recovery and survival. Transplants can be lifesaving but are complex and challenging, especially for children. Physician-scientist Dr. Emmanuel Katsanis not only performs transplantation, but also actively researches tumor and transplant immunology. Dr. Katsanis is a professor of pediatrics, medicine, immunology, and cancer biology, and is a BIO5 member. He discusses his three decades of expertise in the lab and clinic as the Director of the Blood and Marrow Transplant Program and Division Chief of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology at the University of Arizona, as well as directing his own research lab.
March 14, 2022
Title: Episode 28: Seamless wearable and implantable devices to support our lives
From smart watches to pacemakers, technology is essential in helping us lead happy, healthier lives. Because this tech can be bulky and a little intimidating at times, creating inconspicuous devices that carry a big impact is at the forefront of tomorrow's life-changing innovations. Dr. Philipp Gutruf, assistant professor of biomedical engineering and BIO5 member, specializes in creating new kinds of wearable and implantable devices that seamlessly integrate with living systems to ultimately change the landscapes of health diagnostics and neuroscience.
February 28, 2022
Episode 27: Little sensors solving big problems
Biomarkers are measurable substances inside our bodies that give scientists and medical professionals a hint that we might have a certain disease, like cancer or Alzheimer’s, or have been exposed to a toxic chemical. Biomarkers are typically measured in blood samples or biopsies, which can range from a minimally invasive sample taken from the skin or a more invasive sample from within the body. Dr. Judith Su, the director of the University of Arizona’s Little Sensor Lab, is looking to change the way we detect biomarkers with her tiny, non-invasive optical sensors. Dr. Su is an assistant professor of optical sciences and biomedical engineering, assistant research scientist in chemistry and biochemistry, and BIO5 member.
February 14, 2022
Episode 26: Inspirational female leaders in STEM
Description: Women make up nearly half of the U.S. workforce, but only 27% of the STEM workforce. The University of Arizona and the BIO5 Institute are working to combat this gender inequity, and Dr. Betsy Cantwell, Senior Vice President for Research and Innovation, and Dr. Jennifer Barton, BIO5's director, are leading the charge. Cantwell and Barton share tips for succeeding as a woman in STEM, particularly engineering, as well as how they navigate the intersection between STEM and business to bring valuable innovations to their stakeholders.
January 18, 2022
Episode 25: Increase your ZZZs with three simple tips
About one-third of Americans aren't getting the right amount of shut-eye on a daily basis - but how many hours should you really be getting? Can you make up for poor sleep with a nap? How can you fall asleep - and stay asleep? Dr. Michael Grandner, Director of the UArizona Sleep and Health Research Program and Director of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Clinic at the Banner-University Medical Center, gives us the secrets to a better night's sleep. The professor of several disciplines also tells us why good sleep is not just important for our mood, but it's essential to promoting cardiovascular health, as well as preventing obesity and diabetes.
January 04, 2022
Episode 24: Female education and empowerment
Hormones like estrogen and progesterone typically get a bad rap, as they’re often blamed for heightened emotional expression during menstruation, pregnancy, and postpartum. Dr. Alicia Allen is changing the way we think and talk about female reproductive hormones. The assistant professor of family and community medicine, clinical translational sciences, and public health shares how her epidemiological and intervention studies are geared towards educating, empowering, and helping women combat their addictions.
December 06, 2021
Episode 23: Culture counts
The University of Arizona is on the land and territories of Indigenous Peoples, and today, Arizona is home to 22 federally recognized tribes, with Tucson being home to the O'odham and the Yaqui. There is a disproportionate burden of contaminant exposure in underserved populations like Native Americans, and because their culture and traditions are closely woven with the environment, special strategies must be used to study and help these groups. Dr. Paloma Beamer, professor of public health, research scientist in the Asthma and Airway Disease Research Center, and director of the Community Engagement Core at the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center, shares how she takes a culturally-informed approach to conduct research with and devises interventions for Indigenous Peoples.
November 22, 2021
Episode 22: Innovation happens one breath at a time
One in every 13 Americans suffers from asthma. UArizona Regents’ Professor, Dr. Fernando Martinez, also a former director of the BIO5 Institute, describes how witnessing his mother’s asthma attack ignited his passion to research and treat patients with this condition. The Director of the Asthma & Airway Disease Research Center shares what the buzzwords “transdisciplinary” and “innovation” mean to him, and how he keeps both of these factors in mind when studying genetic and environmental interactions when thinking about potential treatments and a cure for asthma.
November 08, 2021
Episode 21: Racing cars, hunting microbes, and mentoring diverse scientists
Microbes such as bacteria, plants and fungi far outnumber the human population on Earth. BIO5 member Dr. Paul Carini shares how these microscopic organisms are essential to our health, as well as how they support life on Earth through their roles in the carbon cycle and beyond. Carini, an assistant professor of soil/subsurface microbial ecology genetics and plant sciences  also discusses the importance of supporting diversity in STEM by not only providing opportunities for underrepresented groups, but by tailoring mentoring to each individual.
October 25, 2021
Episode 20: Tortoises, genetics, and core facilities
Transdisciplinary research unites researchers from different backgrounds to integrate and move beyond discipline-specific approaches to address today’s grand bioscience and biomedical challenges. Dr. Taylor Edwards, clinical manager and development scientist at the University of Arizona Genetics Core, shares how the UAGC core facility brings together researchers and samples across the university to tackle projects spanning COVID-19, environmental science, and more. Though the projects vary, Edwards says that a common theme of DNA unites them.
October 11, 2021
Episode 19: Drugging the “undruggable” targets in GI cancers
Gastrointestinal cancers collectively represent one of the greatest public health challenges, accounting for more than one-quarter of all global cancer cases and more than 35% of all cancer-related deaths. Many of these cancers, including pancreatic and biliary, have been historically hard to treat. Dr. Rachna Shroff, Associate Dean of clinical and translational research and chief of GI medical oncology at the UArizona Cancer Center, discusses her genomic profiling approach to developing personalized treatments for cancer patients. She also shares how she supports other researchers and clinicians in connecting their findings at the bench and bedside to discover new therapies through her role as director of the Arizona Clinical Trials Network.
September 27, 2021
Episode 18: Pathogens of the female reproductive tract
Bacteria were among the first forms of life on earth, and while some strains cause infection or spoil food, others are essential to providing nutrients to plants, fermenting foods, and supporting our gut and reproductive health. Dr. Melissa Herbst-Kralovetz, associate professor of basic medical sciences, as well as obstetrics and gynecology at the College of Medicine – Phoenix, explains how the delicate balance between “good” and “bad” bacteria affect the health of the female reproductive tract. She shares how her research will ultimately help to develop better diagnostics, preventatives and treatments for sexually transmitted infections, gynecological cancer, and more.
September 13, 2021
Episode 17: From laboratory research to science communication
Pursuing a doctorate in STEM doesn’t mean one is destined for a life at the lab bench. Dr. Brittany Uhlorn, coordinator of marketing and communications at the BIO5 Institute, shares why she transitioned to science communication after obtaining a doctorate in cancer biology. She also discusses how her training as a bench scientist benefits her new career writing stories for lay audiences and co-hosting Science Talks.
August 30, 2021
Episode 16: Predicting drug toxicity and flood risk with data science
Some of the biggest challenges in STEM are so large that they can’t be addressed at the lab bench. Dr. Walter Piegorsch, director of statistical research & education at the BIO5 Institute and professor of mathematics and public health shares how he uses the power of data science and informatics for environmental and health risk assessment.
August 16, 2021
Episode 15: Tackling neuro-infectious diseases as a physician-scientist
Ever wonder why pregnant people shouldn’t scoop kitty litter? They might come into contact with toxoplasma gondii, a parasite that infects up to one-eighth of the world’s population that can cause lifelong infection in the central nervous system. Dr. Anita Koshy, associate professor of neurology and immunobiology and BIO5 member, talks about her research to better understand this pesky parasite. She also shares her journey to becoming a physician-scientist, and how she spends her time away from the clinic and lab.
August 02, 2021
Episode 14: Transforming through BIO5 engagement
By engaging students in hands-on experiential learning and providing them with a world-class education, these budding young minds can blossom into productive members of the STEM workforce. Ryan Hunt has taken advantage of several opportunities provided by the BIO5 Institute, including the KEYS high school internship program, undergraduate research, and a student job with the public affairs team. Hunt shares how each role within BIO5 has impacted him both personally and professionally. He also talks about his love for art and science, and how the two can be combined to communicate science with researchers and the public alike.
July 19, 2021
Episode 13: Uncovering the role of soil microbes on climate change
Microbes living in the soil play a vital role in global photosynthesis by producing and consuming trace gasses in our atmosphere. Dr. Laura Meredith, assistant professor of ecosystem genomics, genetics, global change, and hydrology and atmospheric sciences, discusses her work to better understand the relationship between microbes, plants, and the atmosphere. She talks about her current field work in Alaska to decipher how this relationship impacts climate change. Dr. Meredith also shares how she thrives as a woman in STEM and how she supports her fellow female colleagues and students.
July 06, 2021
Episode 12: Building self-confidence through near-peer mentorship
High school and undergraduate students are tested academically and personally by lessons learned during these transformative years. While seasoned professionals can help to guide students by sharing their knowledge, near-peer mentors can often have a bigger impact through similar experiences. BIO5 Public Affairs Student Assistant Jordan Pilch discusses how her roles in the KEYS summer internship program - both as an intern and as a mentor - have not only shaped her career path but also taught her a lot about self-confidence and self-efficacy. She also shares how she imparts this wisdom as a facilitator and near-peer mentor for the BIO5 Ambassadors Internship.
June 21, 2021
Episode 11: Giving back through mentorship and opportunity
Budding professionals, especially those representing historically underserved identities, greatly benefit from mentorship and programs designed to advance their educations and careers. Dr. Michael Johnson, assistant professor of immunobiology at the BIO5 Institute, discusses his passion for mentoring and outreach, as exemplified by two successful programs that he’s spearheaded in recent years: the BIO5 Postdoctoral Fellowship and the National Summer Undergraduate Research Project (NSURP).
June 07, 2021
Episode 10: Transforming the textbook into a real-world experience
Most high school students - let alone college students - ever receive the opportunity to apply lessons learned in their STEM textbooks to solving real-world problems. Keep Engaging Youth in Science (KEYS) coordinators Brooke Moreno and Kelle Hyland discuss how the BIO5 Institute’s flagship high school research internship program solves this problem. They’re also joined by two KEYS Crew leaders - BIO5 Outreach and Engagement Specialist Marissa Romero and BIO5 Public Affairs Student Assistant Robyn Pratt - who share what makes this program so unique as they gear up for the launch of 2021 program on June 7.
May 25, 2021
Episode 9: Supporting the next generation of STEM professionals
Not all career paths are linear, and most budding professionals need support along the way. Dr. Uwe Hilgert, associate research professor and director of Industry Relations, Workforce Development and STEM Training at the BIO5 Institute, discusses his career journey from the lab bench to working in education and outreach. He also talks about his essential roles in two Discover BIO5 events and making the transition to a virtual Keep Engaging Youth in Science (KEYS) summer research internship program.
May 10, 2021
Episode 8: Personalizing treatments with the power of computers
In the era of precision medicine, scientists and physicians are constantly looking for ways to innovate and personalize disease treatment. Dr. Yves Lussier, former BIO5 Associate Director and Associate Vice President and Chief Knowledge Officer at UArizona Health Sciences, discusses how technology and a bioinformatics approach can help us better understand diseases like COVID-19 and tailor treatments to each individual.
April 26, 2021
Episode 7: The importance of storytelling and collaboration
Today’s biggest scientific questions cannot be conducted "in a vacuum.” Dr. Kate Rhodes, a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Maggie So’s lab, shares how the BIO5 Institute fosters the cross-disciplinary work that is necessary to solve these problems. She also talks about her research on a bacterial strain that causes gonorrhea, a highly prevalent sexually transmitted infection. Dr. Rhodes, a two-time recipient of the BIO5 Postdoctoral Fellowship, discusses how she employs storytelling through grant writing and public communications.
April 07, 2021
Episode 6: Viruses, vaccines and advocacy
The emergence of a novel vaccine can be both a scientific triumph and point of uncertainty for the general population. Dr. Robert Jackson, a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Koenraad Van Doorslaer, discusses his research on human papillomavirus - the most common sexually transmitted virus and cause of 5% of all cancers worldwide. Dr. Jackson, a recipient of the BIO5 and Canadian NSERC Postdoctoral Fellowships, also talks about his passion for communicating the scientific method, or process, to the public, specifically as it relates to sharing the utilities of both the HPV and COVID-19 vaccines.
March 26, 2021
Episode 5: Infecting others with a love for science
Human cytomegalovirus persists in the majority of the population worldwide and is the leading cause of infectious disease-related birth defects. Dr. Felicia Goodrum, a professor of cellular and molecular medicine, cancer biology, genetics, and molecular and cellular biology, discusses her work on this public health concern. She also shares how she “infects” others with a love for science through science communication and public outreach. The self-proclaimed lifelong learner also talks about the importance of a two-way mentorship relationship.
March 11, 2021
Episode 4: Finding our new normal
Now a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, we're eager to return to life as it once was - but is that possible? If not, what does our "new normal" look like? Dr. Bonnie LaFleur, a BIO5 member and research professor of biostatistics, discusses how the different COVID-19 testing methods and vaccination efforts will enable us to one day go back to our old ways of lives. She also stresses that building "social contracts" with those in our inner circle are essential to keeping ourselves and others safe.
February 25, 2021
Episode 3: Pursing wellness amid COVID-19
Over the past year, many have become more interested in ways to support their mental, physical and emotional well-bring. Dr. Floyd "Ski" Chilton, BIO5 member and Director of the Precision Nutrition and Wellness Initiative discusses the upcoming Precision Wellness in the Time of COVID-19 public series that aims to educate the public and help them pursue health, both during the pandemic and for years to come. Chilton also shares how he pursues mindfulness and well-being, and how he imparts these messages on others through his research, outreach and books.
February 10, 2021
Episode 2: Novel treatments for COVID-19
Soon after the pandemic started, more than half a million dollars was rapidly reallocated to supply 13 interdisciplinary teams with immediate funding to pursue basic science, technology, clinical or population-based research projects that directly address COVID-19. Dr. Jianqin Lu, BIO5 member and assistant professor in the College of Pharmacy, discusses his two BIO5 COVID-19 seed grant projects. The first focuses on the use of nanotechnology to improve efficacy and minimize toxicity of anti-malarial drugs against COVID-19, while the second project explores whether enhancing COVID-19 patients’ immune systems can treat their infections.
February 04, 2021
Episode 1: A public health approach to overcoming the pandemic
Soon after the pandemic started, more than half a million dollars was rapidly reallocated to supply thirteen interdisciplinary teams with immediate funding to pursue basic science, technology, clinical or population-based research projects that directly addressed COVID-19. During the course of this and future episodes, we will learn more about the inspiration behind some of the team projects, what the rapid funding allowed them to do, and the progress they have made towards their goals. Dr. Kristen Pogreba Brown, assistant professor of public health specializing in epidemiology and biostatistics joins us to share more about her work on the COVID-19 pandemic.
January 27, 2021