Learn Real Good

Hosted ByVinny Francois & Katie Pagnucco

Learn Real Good is a podcast that brings science to the masses by combining comedy and cutting-edge science. We create a friendly and casual atmosphere to discuss STEM research with grad students. We want to peel back the curtain on how science is done and what it means to be a scientist while improving scientific literacy in the general public. We also want our audience to laugh their butts off.

All Episodes

E40: Sensing hydrogen leaks with Jonas Welsch

Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe. We have a lot of it on Earth and if we can safely use hydrogen fuel then it becomes a very appealing energy source because it turns into water when it burns. Because it’s such a small molecule, storing it is tricky because any tiny cracks or gaps will cause it to escape, which is generally a bad thing. This is why Jonas Welsch, a PhD student in Electrical Engineering at the University of British Columbia, is studying ultrasonic transducers and how they can be used to monitor for leaks. Katie and Vinny talk about hippos and teeny pulses of light.

E39: Turning chicken fat into jet fuel with Zak Kaal

The world is built around fossil fuels. Cars, shipping, air travel, it’s all powered by carbon emitting combustion engines. What if we could use something else? What if we could use chicken fat?? That’s exactly what Master’s student Zak Kaal is researching at the University of Alberta .Vinny and Katie talk about asteroids and immune systems.

E38: Transforming yeast into factories with Asia Vighi

Yeast is everywhere. We use it to make bread and beer but it’s a fungus with its own biology. Science is turning to yeast once again to make wonderful things for us. We can bioengineer it to turn its natural processes into building compounds that humans can use, like medicine. That’s the research being done by this episode’s guest, Asia Vighi, a PhD student in Bioengineering at McGill University. Katie and Vinny talk about heat sensing and how babies feel pain.

E37: Connecting cannabinoids to mental health with Lyne Baaj

The human brain has receptors for cannabinoids which the body naturally produces to regulate stress. The connection between cannabis use and mental health has long been discussed but still requires much study. Lyne Baaj is a Master’s student in neuroscience at McGill University examining the effect of cannabis use on depression and anxiety. Vinny and Katie talk about early humans and treating obesity.

E36: Understanding Topology through Donuts with Christopher Mahadeo

Kids learn about shapes from a very young age. Circles, squares, triangles are familiar territory. But when it comes to high-energy physics, the topology gets a good deal more complicated. Recent PhD grad and mathematician, Christopher Mahadeo, joins us to talk about the geometry of shapes that are used in cutting edge physics. Vinny and Katie talk about detecting radioactivity and the human genome project.

E35: Fruit flies tasting salt with Sasha McDowell

Anyone who enjoys potato chips knows how great salty foods are. We, as humans, need salt for so many of our functions including our neurons and muscle contractions so it makes sense that we find it so enjoyable. But how do our brains know when we’re getting some of that salty goodness? We talk with zoology PhD student Sasha McDowell from UBC who is studying the neurology of how fruit flies taste salt to give us insight into our own brains. Katie and Vinny talk about Venus and cork trees.

E34: Making video games accessible with Georgia Loewen

Gaming is a multi-billion dollar industry more than double the size of the movie and music industry combined. But for the longest time a huge group of gamers, people with physical disabilities, were excluded due to the nature of the controls, whether it’s controllers or keyboards. That’s rapidly changing and people like Carleton University’s Georgia Loewen, a Masters’ student in Human-Computer Interaction, are working on improving accessibility to games. We discuss the growing field of wearable technology. Vinny and Katie talk about special frogs and a problem with Voyager 2.

E33: Methylating DNA with Dorothy Lin

Epigenetics is the study of which parts of our genetic code are turned on or off based on environmental signals. Dorothy Lin, a graduate in medical genetics, takes a statistical look at the factors that can affect childhood development. Katie and Vinny talk about playing rats and next-generation urinals.

E32: Protecting cows from stable flies with Saif Nayani

Mosquitos are a real pain when you’re going camping. But cattle get pestered by bugs even when they’re hanging out on the farm, more specifically by stable flies. They can number in the hundreds on any given cow, bite painfully, and feed on their blood. Saif Nayani, a Master’s student in biology, studies how stable flies find cows through the chemicals they emit and then using those chemicals to build a trap. Katie and Vinny share facts about the thymus and sexist cars.