For many people, nanoscience and nanoengineering are a mystery, but a student-led podcast that’s gaining ground at Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering (JSNN) is out to change that.
“Navigating Nano” lets listeners in on the types of challenges leading scientists, engineers, and others working in the fast-growing fields of nanoscience and nanotechnology are solving – and the ones they personally face.
Guests discuss a wide range of topics: their research, insights on how they have overcome obstacles to achieve success, issues in their fields, and much more.
A Local and Global Reach
“Navigating Nano” also has a more intimate component. Its in-person, on-campus recording sessions are open to any university student who wants to listen to and ask questions of nano experts from around the world.
The podcast’s co-founders are Faith Zablon and Gerald Boadu, both JSNN students pursuing doctoral degrees in nanoengineering. Kyle Williamson, a JSNN doctoral student in nanoscience, and JSNN Dean Sherine Obare also contributed to the podcast’s growth.
As a leader in JSNN’s Materials Research Society, Zablon started the podcast last year and continues to lead the effort. She has involved several other doctoral students. Boadu records and edits the podcast. And Hillary Dimig and Ashley Herring-Nicholas, who both specialize in gene editing, pitch in as hosts.
Stories Both Professional and Personal
Zablon says she hopes listeners gain an understanding that nanotechnology is not as complex as it may seem, that it’s beneficial, and it draws on expertise from many disciplines. One guest, for example, talked about how he was applying his background in psychology and aerospace engineering to nanotechnology.
“My hope is that people who engage in these very diverse fields can find a relationship between whatever field they are in and nanotechnology,” Zablon explains.
Members of the podcast team say they have built collaborations with students and professors at other universities, gaining new skills and new perspectives on research.
Zablon says that hearing from international guests has been particularly rewarding. She is from Kenya, and the stories they share on their successful journeys have given her insights on navigating the transition to the United States. “They’ve given me the inspiration that I can have a rewarding career despite coming from another country,” she says.
Similarly, Dimig says hearing from women scientists who have made it through the so-called “publish or perish” phase of their academic careers while raising young children has given her more confidence that she can succeed in academia.
Life Beyond Nanotechnology
Guests’ stories about other aspects of their lives have also been informative. Boadu says such stories have allowed him to realize that nanotechnology professionals can have a life beyond work.
And Herring Nicholas agrees with Boadu, noting that the podcast allows scientists and engineers to tell stories that make personal success seem accessible to people from a wide variety of backgrounds.
One of the team’s favorite episodes was produced for Black History Month. It featured Dr. Wumni Sadik of the New Jersey Institute of Technology and Dr. Barrett Caldwell of Purdue University. Herring Nicholas said the episode resonated with her.
“I could see myself in these scientists – in the path they had taken, where life takes you somewhere unexpected, but you still end up having a lot of great experiences along the way. You learn a lot, you experience a lot, and you grow,” she says. “It inspired me as a scientist to keep going on this path.
“Sharing their story, especially in the context of this podcast, makes it more relatable to a wide variety of listeners,” she adds, “not just to those in nanoscience or not just to those in science, but for those in pretty much every field.”
Story by Dee Shore, AMBCopy LLC
Photography by David Lee Row, University Communications
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