Assistant physics professor Viva Horowitz interviews science professors about their research on her podcast “Significant figures, which is broadcast on WHCL radio every Monday from 11 a.m. to noon. We asked him a few questions about the show.
Why do you interview science teachers about their research?
There is incredible science going on here on campus. The Science Center is full of professors who conduct cutting-edge scientific research in many disciplines. I don’t think it’s easy to learn all this variety of science. I love doing lab tours and seeing the equipment people are using. Even though I know a lot of people at the Science Center, it’s rare that I sit down and say, “Tell me about your expertise”. They’re subject matter experts and I want them to tell me that, but if I get them to talk, sometimes they’ll say, “I’m so sorry. I don’t know why I ended up spending 10 minutes talking to you about what’s avant-garde in my field. I am completely captivated and I say to myself: “Why are you apologizing? They know they are interested, but they are not sure the others are. I’m interested – I’m interested in all of this. This is my blessing and my curse. Everything seems fascinating to me.
You interview them for your “Significant Figures” podcast. Why a podcast and its name?
I had this dream of communicating science everywhere. Radio is such a great idea to transmit information. When I was talking to the exoplanet researcher, the professor [Adam] Alouette, we were talking about how we could possibly pass it on to other planets. Even aliens could one day listen to our radio transmission. This is what the radio can do: we send the signal everywhere.
[“Significant Figures”] has two senses. It’s about recognizing the imperfections of our numbers. The other meaning of “Significant Figures” is that my guests are important.
How do you select the guests for your show?
Is random. I know people. The point is, every professor here on this campus could spend an hour talking about their expertise. People are busy, so I keep sending emails. I hereby invite any science faculty that would like to be on the radio. I’m not nervous about telling someone about their science. For me, this is just pure happiness. I had the opportunity to learn a lot.
What did you learn from hosting the podcast?
Honestly, I’m not even sure I’m going to stick to my plan to stay with the science faculty. You can only take 32 courses as an undergraduate. It’s a tough choice, but thanks to a radio show, you can still listen to and preview a class you might want to take in the future.
People are listening. Every time a faculty member is on my show, I send them the link and say, “Send this to people. Someone who’s spent an hour on the radio can send it to their students, friends and family and say, ‘Listen to this. I think a lot of them will play their episode for their students. It’s recorded now. And that gives him legs.