By Gabrielle-Ann Torre
Along with the 75 million monthly listeners in America (Washington Post), I'm a shameless podcast aficionado. The recent surge of pop-culture hits such as Sarah Koenig's 2014 Serial marked a noticeable increase in media interest on podcasts. The expanse of available podcasts has been overwhelming since iTunes' inception of a Podcast section in 2005, but winnow through the mass, and you'll find a great podcast marked by a strong host, worthwhile guests, and interesting topics. To power through tedious lab days, cue podcasts--the minimalist way to stay informed and entertained. Below are my picks to stream in lab:
For the podcast newbie: Serial
Sarah Koenig (of This American Life; see below) follows a murder mystery set in Baltimore, where high-schooler Adnan Syed is accused of murdering ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee. Koenig does a phenomenal job of generating and sustaining suspense, and the fast-paced "whodunnit" is an ideal introduction for podcast newbies. Season Two is forthcoming, which producers say will follow a new story, so hop on the Serial hype while it's still fresh. Warning: Be prepared for heated arguments with friends over the murder trial outcome.
For the non-stop science geek: Radiolab
Radiolab is the perfect synthesis of science and stories. If your brain just can't take a break from science, this podcast is expansively edifying but achieves where many of us scientists fail: delivering scientific facts to a non-scientific audience. Unique to Radiolab is its eccentric sound design, which blends sound bits and commentary in a way that's bound to keep you awake in lab. Personally, I'm drawn to the great scientists who have been featured on the show, and I can't wait to hear one of you Scientistas being interviewed on Radiolab.
For the cultural fiend: Fresh Air
Do you like knowing everything about anything? (Well, I like to pretend.) Fresh Air is a godsend for the well-rounded scientist. Recent topics covered by Fresh Air: ISIS, Pixar, and comedian Aziz Ansari. Host Terry Gross is the English professor we all admired in college. She asks the hard questions, reminds us about the broader ethos of humanity that engulfs our television, music, and film, and, when she's not relentlessly probing our society, makes us chuckle. If you're willing to cry in your lab cubicle, listen to a particularly moving episode on Maurice Sendak.
For the full-force feminist: Stuff Mom Never Told You
Because it's lunchtime, and you just want to talk about online dating, what "fleek" means, and the glory of yoga pants. Hosts Cristen Conger and Caroline Ervin get you, girl. Conger and Ervin chat about general topics and, with feminine punch, explore the role of women in the modern world. Importantly for women, Stuff Mom Never Told You is unapologetic about its stance on pop culture and the myriad ways it affects female identity without straying from a light-hearted delivery. Grab your soy latte and enjoy.
For the all-American: This American Life
This American Life is the most historically popular podcast to date. Topics that are seemingly quotidian become novel via host Ira Glass--you'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll wonder how modern life is so idiosyncratic and wonderful. You'll wonder whether your life will ever be interesting enough to warrant a podcast episode. With 20 years of podcasting, This American Life boasts a hefty list of episodes; check out their favorites here if you need a filtered start.
About the Author
Gabrielle-Ann Torre is a Ph.D. student in Neuroscience at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. Find more of her writing here!