Grad Student Highlight
Each week, we highlight a graduate student to highlight their achievements and to bring a human touch to science that affects us all. Hear about their work in their own words in the episodes linked below.
Susanna Harris @SusannaLHarris
Ph.D. student in Microbiology University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.
Susanna’s research seeks to understand how microbial communities and bacteria can protect plants and agriculture. Farmers have known for centuries that certain fields are better for raising crops, and in the the 1970’s researchers found that beneficial bacteria in the soil may be one reason for this. One issue though is that these beneficial bacteria don’t seem to perform as well outdoors as they do in the lab, and Susanna’s investigating why.
In addition to her research, Susanna is active in the SciCommunity (@thescicommunity) to connect science communicators on social media, and she has also founded the online group PhDepression (@ph_d_epression) to increase conversation and break the stigma of mental illness in academia.
Check out her interview in the episode Is Oumuamua an alien spacecraft?
Ph.D. student at MIT’s Nuclear Science & Engineering Department.
Jacob’s research is really cool (like, -400 degrees farenheit cool). At these very low temperatures, certain materials exhibit super conductivity, a state where their electrical resistance vanishes. Super conductivity has broad applications in research like nuclear fusion and even measuring small changes in the magnetic fields of neurons in your brain. Jacob’s research is investigating how to develop a micro cooling device that could bring these super cool temperatures to applications outside of the lab.
Check out his interview in the episode How many faces do you know?
Alex Barth @AlexTBarth
Ph.D. student studying inorganic chemistry at Cal Tech.
One of the most important chemical reactions for life is called nitrogen fixation, which is making ammonia out of nitrogen gas in the air. People do this industrially to make things like fertilizer, but it takes immense temperatures and pressures and consumes ~2% of the world energy consumption. Nature is able to do so in bacteria at completely ambient conditions, and Alex’s research is helping us to understand how!
Check out her interview in the episode Should we kill all the mosquitos?
Jazmine Benjamin @J_I_Benjamin
Biomedical science Ph.D. student in Dr. Elizabeth Sztul’s lab at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
Jazmine studies membrane trafficing and protein degradation in the secratory pathway. By understanding these secratory pathways, Jazmine’s research can gain insight into how diseases present themselves differently in different people, allowing us to develop new medications and treatments. She loves biology because it’s the only science where multiplication is the same as division!
Check out her interview in the episode Can we terraform Mars?