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View the full Tim McKay interview transcript.



Highlights from This Episode


  • 17:26 – “You never know what you are going to need to figure out in order to make your experiment work...No one’s trained to do these things. You just are trained to have the right kind of attitude and the right kind of critical thinking, so that I think you could give me any problem, and I have some skills for working on that, almost no matter what it is.”
  • 20:30 – “It’s another great set of lessons I learned: How do scientists come to confident conclusions? What is the process that the community of scientists uses to move from hypothesis or hesitant expectancy to confident?”
  • 23:43 – “They were going to come together to build a new telescope that was going to map the universe. Now, they weren’t actually going to map the whole universe–it’s a big universe. But they were going to make the biggest map of the universe that had ever been made.”
  • 27:01 – “When I think about telling other people about science, it’s not some system that just rewards excellence in some perfect way. I wish it was, but it probably can’t be, and it certainly isn’t. There’s a lot of chance and good fortune that governs who succeeds in science, so if you’re a young scientist, and you’re struggling, you can’t take what happens as entirely a judgment on you as an individual or your qualities. And yet, we so often do that.”
  • 27:45 – “Once I was here, the opportunity space opened up in all kinds of really great ways, and I kept getting reinforced in this notion: If you see something new, and you think it’s interesting, maybe you should do that. It might not be crazy or the wrong choice; it might actually be the right choice to pursue something new that’s interesting to you, even though other people might advise that that’s risky.”


This episode serves as the grand finale of the debut season of LSA’s How to Science podcast. If you haven’t heard them all yet, catch up on the rest.

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Scientist Bios

How to Science host Monica Dus is a professor in LSA’s Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology (MCDB) who studies how the brain responds to the presence and absence of sugar. She wants to figure out how neurons sense and respond to the nutrients eaten as food. Her research relates to feeding behavior, energy balance, physiology, and obesity. She loves her three dogs, whose names are Cupcake, Sprinkles, and Brioche.

Learn more about Monica Dus’s research.

Tim McKay is a certified forklift operator. He's also a professor in LSA’s Departments of Physics and Astronomy, along with the School of Education, and directs the Digital Innovation Greenhouse. A scientist who can speak to decades of experience in astrophysics research, McKay has found new inspiration in making higher education broadly accessible.

Learn more about Tim McKay’s research.




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Podcast produced by Elizabeth Wason and Monica Dus
Illustrations by Julia Lubas
Photo of Tim McKay by Luna Anna Archey