Podcasts – Nature and Imperial

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This week it’s all about the podcasts including the latest instalment from Nature and the release of Imperial College’s very own monthly podcast. Any self-respecting scientist is aware of the multidisciplinary science journal giant Nature, and their weekly podcast is a brilliant one-stop tour of all things science.

This week’s episode particularly caught my eye with the news story concerning CellTex. The Texas based biotechnology firm has come under fire from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treating patients without sufficient trials. CellTex is one of many companies that offer FDA unapproved stem cell therapy and their lack of trials has stirred debate; Federal regulations class the therapies as biological drugs, however; the company’s owner, Stanley Jones, insists they are tissue transplants as tissue transplants typically require fewer clinical trials. Nature reporter David Cyranoski spoke on this topic and summarised his February 13 article about how the rise is US stem cell treatments seems to be unavoidable – approval or no approval.

The Nature podcast makes further reading extremely easy by providing links to the relevant areas, however; as Nature is a journal that covers all areas of science, its podcasts offers the same. Although this could be seen as a good thing – offering something for everyone – not all areas will be related to your chosen discipline or interests. Being myself a biological based student, I often found myself switching off during the physics bits. With many science podcasts the lack of visual aids can often be their downfall as it leaves them unable to explain using diagrams, and so often a subject can go way over your head. The Nature podcast, however, does not suffer from this affliction and mostly explains things clearly and concisely, which enables it to cover a wide range of topics in its short 30 minute episodes. The Nature podcast is available online or for free on iTunes.

Since starting in October, the Imperial podcast presented by Gareth Mitchell has quickly become one of my favourites. The podcast is able to retain the charm of a radio broadcast, possibly attributable to Mitchell’s work on BBC World Service. This quality is difficult to explain but I would suggest it’s a sort of friendliness – like that of a radio show, which makes the podcast very easy to listen to.

But it’s hardly Steve Wright’s Sunday Love Songs and still maintains scientific integrity. As it’s based in college it has links to the world’s leading scientists and this week made use of one of its more high profile alumni – Brian May – who finally completed his PhD at Imperial in 2007. My support for this podcast isn’t just collegiate bias, I believe it can genuinely stand toe-to-toe with a podcast such as the Nature podcast, which probably has far greater resources. The Imperial College podcast is released about every month (but from what I can tell not at regular intervals) and can be found on the college website.

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