The How to Science podcast–new from the University of Michigan’s College of Literature, Science, and the Arts–lays bare the scientific method. It democratizes science for diverse listeners. Its overarching message is that science is beautiful, accessible, personal, and human. And any listener can science, too.

This podcast series offers the rare chance to hear a scientist–not a journalist–talk about research from the inside. LSA Professor and How to Science host Monica Dus might be a nerd, but at least she’s fun to talk to.

After six weeks of casual conversations with real researchers, what have we learned from our peek under the lab coat at how scientists are made?

  • That these scientists definitely are people and not robots
  • That first-generation college grads can turn into scientist heroes
  • That every failure is a chance to learn how to do something new or better
  • . . . Listen to some episodes below and hear for yourself!


What do your ears crave? Let us listen to you with a quick click through this seven-minute survey.


Episode 1

The demands of doing science “9 to 5” can make researchers forget what it’s like to have fun in the lab. Podcast guest Trisha Wittkopp avoids the grind by celebrating breakthroughs with donuts and champagne. Her lab loves it.

Scientist Trisha Wittkopp is a professor in LSA’s Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology (MCDB) and LSA’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (EEB). She’s a geneticist to the core who wonders deeply about how changes in genes produce differences in living things.

Episode 2

Tracking a path from preaching against evolution, to dropping out of college, to driving a carriage-for-hire in south Texas, Ph.D. student Abby Lamb now considers herself an evolutionary biologist. One important thing she’s learned in graduate school: The club ain’t as exclusive as it appears. If she can science, then you can science, too.

Scientist Abby Lamb is a Ph.D. student in MCDB at the University of Michigan. She converted from a fundamentalist, proselytizing about Christianity and creationism, to an evolutionary biologist who advocates for science.

Episode 3

In this episode, Meghan Duffy talks about her love of tiny water creatures, sampling lakes with pantyhose, and why she wouldn’t want to live in Antarctica (ever again).

Scientist Meghan Duffy is a professor in LSA’s EEB department. She sunk to a low point in her life and career when some of her early experiments in graduate school failed, but she recovered enough to eventually score a faculty position at U-M, and she recently snagged an invitation to speak at the March for Science in Washington, D.C. She posts articles with ideas, opinions, commentary, advice, and humor at the Dynamic Ecology blog. She’s an ecology professor who takes her responsibilities seriously as a mentor in science, especially to young students of color. At U-M, she’s active in a program that brings the scientific method–and full-tuition scholarships–to young students in underserved high schools.

Episode 4

Mature adults say that pulling all-nighters for tests is a flawed, short-term strategy. But scientist Orie Shafer says that even standard 9-to-5 work hours can make people unhealthy. This episode holds more insights about life, science, and flies.

Scientist Orie Shafer is a professor in MCDB who obsesses about biological clocks, which determine rhythms of activity in organisms. He studies networks of clock neurons in the brain to figure out how they orchestrate rhythmic behaviors.

Episode 5

A conversation between scientist host Monica Dus and guest researcher Sara Aton, whose curiosity about the science of sleep gets her out of bed every morning.

Scientist Sara Aton, a professor in MCDB, grew up making visual art and planning to make art her career. (You can tell by looking at her website, where she’s posted a painting by the artist Henri Rousseau.) Now, Sara is a neuroscientist trying to figure out why we sleep and how sleep helps us learn.

Episode 6

Tim McKay tells stories from his early science days–when he had to defend his research equipment against mice, scorpions, and rattlesnakes in the desert–to his tamer, more recent efforts to welcome people into the fold of higher education.

Scientist 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.


How to Science host Monica Dus is a professor in LSA’s MCDB department 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.





Podcast produced by Elizabeth Wason and Monica Dus
Photos of Duffy, Aton, and McKay by Luna Anna Archey
Photo of Shafer by Suzanne Tainter
Illustrations by Julia Lubas