Speaking of Science Podcast

Dr. Meredith Shiels — Health in Numbers

Epidemiologists are the watchful guardians of public health. They collect and analyze data to track the status quo. When there are deviations, they crunch the numbers to understand who is getting sick, where, how, and why. Dr. Meredith Shiels is an epidemiologist and senior investigator at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) studying cancer mortality rates to discern what populations might be at higher risk, figure out ways to mitigate those risks, and evaluate whether those measures are working.

Dr. Veronica Alvarez and Dr. Bruno Averbeck — On the Pulse of Compulsive Behaviors

Despite negative consequences and the desire to stop, millions of people with compulsive behaviors can’t break the self-destructive cycles that disrupt their daily lives. Dr. Veronica Alvarez and Dr. Bruno Averbeck from the National Institute of Mental Health run the Center on Compulsive Behaviors (CCB) which brings together NIH scientists to understand what drives these repetitive and often detrimental behaviors. The CCB strives to decipher the neural circuitry that leads to compulsive behaviors in hopes of improving treatments and designing new interventions.

Dr. John Hanover — The Bittersweet Study of Glycobiology

Sugars, also referred to as carbohydrates, aren’t just substances we add to make coffee taste less bitter or food sweeter; they are an entire class of molecules necessary for life. The study of these carbohydrates is called glycobiology. Dr. John Hanover is a glycobiologist and the chief of the laboratory of cell and molecular biology at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). His work is advancing scientists’ understanding of the sugar structures responsible for rare diseases and genetic transgenerational inheritance.

Dr. Sharon Milgram — Making the Most of the Trainee Experience

None of the groundbreaking research taking place in the IRP would be possible with the hard work and dedication of trainees. While they work to support the NIH’s mission to turn discovery into health, the Office of Intramural Training and Education (OITE) works to supports trainees in their professional pursuits. Dr. Sharon Milgram is the director of OITE and a strong proponent that good training begets good science. In this episode, she talks about the many ways OITE supports students and fellows so that they can achieve their best work and make the most of their experience in the IRP.

Dr. Steve Holland — Sussing Out Susceptibility to Sickness

For Dr. Steve Holland, the mystery of why some people are more prone to disease is as much a curiosity as it is a calling. Dr. Holland is the scientific director and chief of the immunopathogenesis section at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) where he searches for signs to explain differences in susceptibility to certain infections. In this episode, he discusses how the immune system can thwart its own defenses by producing antibodies that block the chemical signals it needs to put up a fight.

Dr. Hari Shroff — The Science and Play of Super Resolution Imaging

NASA recently unveiled the first images taken by the James Webb Telescope. But the distant cosmos aren't the only ones coming into focus. While astronomers point their instruments up to peer into the stars, microscopists like Dr. Hari Shroff are focusing their gaze down to capture life on Earth. As chief of the Section on High Resolution Optical Imaging at the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB), Dr. Shroff engineers new microscopes to render the invisibly small in new and improved resolution.

Dr. Joyce Chung — Gathering Helping Hands to Grasp Mental Health

Finding treatments for mental health conditions doesn’t just deal with the people who live with them. Healthy volunteers play a critical part in the science of understanding our brains and behavior. But what qualifies as “healthy” can vary across labs and skew how scientists interpret study results. Dr. Joyce Chung, the Deputy Clinical Director at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), is changing that. She is creating a pool of vetted volunteers to bolster the integrity, efficiency, and safety of mental health research.

Dr. Lauren Porter — Molecular “Transformers:” Switching Form and Function

Science is receptive to new information that can refine the theories we use to make sense of the world. Such is the case with Dr. Lauren Porter, a Stadtman investigator jointly appointed at the National Library of Medicine and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, who is helping redefine the way we understand how proteins behave. She is looking at a new class of proteins that can change their structure and function much like the famous Transformer robots that morph into different machines. Understanding how these proteins switch their shape could help scientists understand the molecular basis of certain diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s.

Drs. Elaine Ostrander and Heidi Parker — Unleashing the Dog Genome

Centuries of selective breeding have given rise to a staggering variety of dog breeds, each with its own traits and behaviors. But shallow gene pools have also put some breeds at higher risk for disease. Dr. Elaine Ostrander runs the Dog Genome Project at the National Human Genome Research Institute. Her team includes Dr. Heidi Parker. Together, they are digging for clues to understand how genes code for dogs' diversity and disease. Clues that might also inform the health of their two-legged caregivers.

Dr. Matthew Memoli — A Better Shot Against the Flu

The annual flu vaccine is the best way to prevent yourself and others from getting sick. But sometimes the antigens the vaccine trains your body to fight are not similar enough to the strains of influenza circulating that year. This mismatch allows viruses to fly under the radar and spread undetected. It's a problem scientists hope to solve with a universal flu vaccine. Dr. Matthew Memoli is an influenza expert at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). He is preparing to test a new vaccine candidate that could offer broader protection from more flu strains and for more people.

This page was last updated on Friday, January 14, 2022