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The promise of tissue engineering and wound closure technology

Note: this interview was broadcast by the WGBH affiliate WCAI, the Cape and Islands NPR station.
In this Faculty Insight interview, Sujata Bhatia, a lecturer on biomedical engineering at Harvard, and the assistant director for undergraduate studies in biomedical engineering at Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, talks with Jenny Attiyeh of ThoughtCast about the science behind tissue engineering.

(This video features only part of the interview — to hear it in its entirety, click on the mike symbol below.)

Dr. Bhatia is also the thesis adviser to Suneil Seetharam, an Extension School biotechnology graduate student, who is working on an artificial tissue glue, which, down the line, could be used by doctors to close wounds.
He does much of his research at the Wyss Institute at Harvard. And this is where he and Dr. Bhatia meet, to take a look at a sample, and assess its strength.

Click here: (7:30 minutes).

Posted on December 19, 2013 in Faculty Insight, Harvard Luminaries, Ideas, Science
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Cosmic Evolution’s Predilection for Constant Change

Note: an audio version of this interview was broadcast by the WGBH affiliate WCAI, the Cape and Islands NPR station.

The theory of cosmic evolution is a relatively new addition to the field of cosmology, and attempts to answer the questions of who we are, where we are, and how we came to exist, among others, by taking the long view — from the big bang, to the present day.
Here’s another definition for you: “Cosmic evolution is the study of the many varied changes in the assembly and composition of energy, matter and life in the thinning and cooling Universe.”

This explanation comes from Eric Chaisson, a vigorous champion of the cosmic evolutionary theory. He’s an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, and a lecturer at Harvard Extension School, who is also the subject of this Faculty Insight interview, conducted by ThoughtCast’s Jenny Attiyeh.
And while it might leave more questions asked than answered, we hope it will give you the chance to stick your toe into deep astrophysic waters, and feel the tug of the cosmic tide…

Note:  Images of galaxies and other cosmic phenomena courtesy of Eric Chaisson. Thank you very much for their use!

Posted on November 7, 2013 in Faculty Insight, Harvard Luminaries, Ideas, Science
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Black Bear Orphans and the Man who Reads Their Minds

Note: This story was broadcast by the WGBH affiliate WCAI, the Cape and Islands NPR station. It is also featured on NHPR.org.

You’re about to hear a story about the bear whisperer of Lyme New Hampshire, Ben Kilham, and the abandoned black bear cubs he has rescued, rehabilitated and released back into the wild. Some of these cubs have formed such strong bonds with Ben, that even when they’re fully grown, they still treat him as a member of the family, so to speak, and allow him special access to their bear secrets and behavior. And on occasion, if I promise to be quiet, and obey the rules, I get to tag along –

This video of Squirty and Ben in the clearing is a rather noisy appetizer.
Click here: (17 minutes) for the story.

Ben Kilham is one of the foremost black bear researchers and rehabilitators in the country, and here he is, with one of his star bears, Squirty, now 17 years old. He took care of her and her siblings after they were separated from their mother during a logging operation that had disturbed her den. She, along with many other orphaned or abandoned cubs, has taught Ben the characteristics of black bear behavior, which share some surprising similarities to our own species. For one thing, once thought to be solitary, Ben has discovered that they are often quite social!

Photo by Ben Kilham
Ben’s featured in several nature documentaries, and he is also the author of two books — Among the Bears: Raising Orphaned Cubs in the Wild, and Out on a Limb: What Black Bears Have Taught Me About Intelligence and Intuition, with a foreward by Temple Grandin, which was just released this fall. ThoughtCast has also interviewed Ben’s sister and colleague, Phoebe, and the interview, accompanied by a slide show of their bear cubs, was posted on New Hampshire Public Radio’s website this spring, and can be seen here.

Posted on September 17, 2013 in Environment, Science
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The history and future of the New England Forest

Note: an audio version of this interview was broadcast by the WGBH affiliate WCAI, the Cape and Islands NPR station.

The forests of New England are, remarkably, a success story. They’ve recovered from attack after attack. The early settlers hacked them down, by hand, for houses, fences and firewood. Later on, the insatiable sawmills of a more industrial age ate up the lumber needed for our expansion.
Today, the forests contend with acid rain, invasive plants and exotic beetle infestations — evidence of our ever more global economy. And the future of these forests? Going forward, that’s a story that’s largely ours to shape, and narrate.

If only these trees could talk … Well, we have the next best thing – Donald Pfister, the Dean of Harvard Summer School, curator of the Farlow Library and Herbarium, a fungologist (the more erudite word is mycologist), and the Asa Gray Professor of Systematic Botany at Harvard University.
In this Faculty Insight interview, produced in partnership with ThoughtCast and Harvard Extension School, he tells the tale of the New England forest from as far back as the glacial Pleistocene era.
To help illustrate this tale, we’ve made grateful use of high resolution images of some dramatic landscape dioramas, which are on display at Harvard’s Fisher Museum, in Petersham, Massachusetts.

Posted on September 3, 2012 in Economics, Environment, Faculty Insight, Harvard Luminaries, History, Science
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“Why Does the World Exist?” with Jim Holt

Note: this interview was broadcast on the WGBH public radio affiliate WCAI, on the Cape and Islands!

Jim Holt (photo: Michael Todd)
Jim Holt (photo: Michael Todd)

In this ThoughtCast interview, science writer Jim Holt takes us on a jaunty tour of being and nothingness, existence and emptiness, quantum tunneling and the uncertainty principle. The author of Stop Me If You’ve Heard This: A History and Philosophy of Jokes, Holt lends his wit to a dissection of the puzzle of existence, which happens to be the topic of his just-published book Why Does the World Exist? An Existential Detective Story!  A frequent contributor to The New York Times and other publications, Holt approaches his subject with a personal, philosophical and scientific point of view. But does he solve the puzzle?… You tell me!

Click here to listen (28 minutes.)

Posted on January 9, 2012 in Ideas, Philosophy, Religion, Science
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The North Atlantic Right Whale: Our Urban Leviathan

Note: This interview was broadcast on WGBH radio, Boston’s NPR station for news and culture, on April 17, 2011!

Breaching North Atlantic Right Whale

Photo: courtesy US Marine Mammal Commission

The endangered North Atlantic Right Whale is probably our closest cetacean neighbor. There are only about 350 of them in total, and they live precariously near to shore, along the Eastern seaboard, in a horrendously busy commercial shipping corridor that stretches from Nova Scotia to Florida.  Scott Kraus, the vice president for research at Boston’s New England Aquarium, and the head of its right whale research project, has studied these whales for decades, and the aquarium’s efforts on their behalf have led to dramatic improvements in right whale habitat.

Fargo Meets Right Whale Calf

Courtesy Rosalind Rolland/New England Aquarium

But they remain nonetheless threatened — primarily by us humans.  ThoughtCast’s Jenny Attiyeh met with Kraus at the New England Aquarium recently, to discuss his latest book, which he co-edited with his colleague Rosalind Rolland, called The Urban Whale.

Click here (20 minutes) to listen!

And click here (4 minutes) to hear Scott Kraus read a poignant passage he wrote (about a baby whale) from The Urban Whale.

Posted on April 1, 2011 in Environment, Science
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