LSU Experimental

LSU Experimental is a podcast series that shares the research and the “behind the scenes” stories of LSU faculty, student, and alumni investigators across the disciplines. Listen and learn about the exciting topics of study and the individuals posing the questions. Each episode is recorded and produced in CxC Studio 151 on the campus of Louisiana State University, and is supported by LSU Communication across the Curriculum and LSU College of Science. LSU Experimental is hosted by Dr. Becky Carmichael and edited by Kyle Sirovy.

Do you know a LSU faculty or student researcher we should feature? If so, tell us!

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Heidi NowakoskiEpisode 33: Heidi Nowakowski - The First Semester of Medical School

Pre-med is a popular major at LSU, but how do you prepare for medical school and what’s it like once you are there? We are highlighting former LSU College of Science students in different stages of their medical careers—from just getting accepted to the final stretches—to learn what it takes to succeed in medical school. This episode is featuring Heidi Nowakowski, LSU Spring 2019 College of Science grad. Heidi is currently in her second year in med school at LSU New Orleans, but we caught her in the middle of her first semester. She shares her insights into what it takes to get into medical school, the first semester transition struggles, and her advice on how to cope with med school stress.

close up of the South American flowerpiercerEpisode 32: Anna Hiller - Hybridization in Andean Nectar Bandits

In nature hybrid zones are where two species or varieties meet and cross fertilize, such as the classic donkey plus horse equals mule. A single hybrid zone is scientifically important for understanding how species diverge. So imagine the excitement of finding not just one, but two hybrid zones in the Andes of South America. And even cooler the hybrid zone is the home of a special type of bird, flowerpiercers, who steal nectar from plants using their pirate-hooked bills. Anna Hiller, LSU Museum of Natural Science Ph.D. candidate, tells us what hybrid zones are, what we can learn from them and how she is using the flower piercers as her model. She also shares adventures from her previous expeditions and how her passion to include women in science is informing her upcoming field trips to Peru and Bolivia.


Phil BartEpisode 31: Phil Bart - The Past, Present, and Future of Antarctic Ice Sheets

At this very moment, the ice sheets covering and surrounding Antarctica are dynamic, moving and receding in response to temperature and other factors. Some of the changes are abrupt and quite apparent, like calving events where large chunks of ice break off of glaciers and plunge into the ocean. Others are more subtle because the movement of the ice is occurring slowly, like it has done for over thousands of years. Dr. Phil Bart, LSU College of Science Geology & Geophysics professor, invites us to learn about the evolution of Antarctic ice sheets and how he investigates the movement of ice sheets and ice rises over geologic time to aid in predicting their future behavior. 

Keith Comeaux standing in an open field surrounded by rovers

Episode 30: Keith Comeaux - Engineering the Mars 2020 Rover mission 

What’s it like to launch an SUV-sized rover to another planet and ensure that, on arrival, the rover will be able to complete scientific missions AND be controlled from Earth? This is exactly what Dr. Keith Comeaux, Deputy Chief Engineer at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and his team are tackling for the Mars 2020 Mission. In this episode, Dr. Comeaux leads us through the complexities involved in designing Mars rovers his career path from LSU to NASA, and the potential prospects of discovery for the Mars 2020 Mission.


Valerie Derouen holding up a specimen for children to observe at the LSU Museum of Natural ScienceEpisode 29: Valerie Derouen - Packaging Science into Outreach Activities

Who is responsible for creating a bridge between the scientists asking questions and the curious public? The answer, Outreach Specialists. In this episode we speak with Valerie Derouen, the LSU Museum of Natural Science’s very own outreach coordinator. Valerie is tasked with packaging the hardcore science and conservation efforts done by museum researchers into activities that engage audiences of all ages. We learn what a typical day looks like for an Outreach Specialist, how to develop activities for public events and spaces, the curves in Valerie’s science career that led her to the museum, and how she hopes to inspire the next generation of scientists.


mosquito on tip of fingerEpisode 28: Rebecca Christofferson - Pesky Blood Sucker & the Arboviruses They Carry

Mosquitoes can cause more than an itchy welt. They are vectors of arboviruses. But what is an arbovirus? Dr. Rebecca Christofferson, Assistant Professor of Pathobiological Sciences from the School of Veterinary Medicine, presented her research on the transmission of these harmful viruses and how we can protect ourselves from them during LSU’s Science Cafe Talk in July 2017. Following her presentation, we continued discussing all things mosquitoes and dove into a range of topics including vector borne disease spread, the systematic spraying of Deet, mosquito trivia, and the vulnerability of different countries to these rapid outbreaks. 

lizard with its mouth openEpisode 27: Zack Rodriguez - Straight out of nature ... it’s green-blooded lizards!

Get ready for the weird! We’re learning all about green-blooded lizards - not from a sci-fi movie, but straight out of nature! Papua New Guinea to be exact. We’re joined by Zack Rodriguez, Ph.D. candidate in the College of Science’s Museum of Natural Sciences, to learn all about green-blooded lizards, the importance of studying green blood, and how Zack is preparing for an upcoming expedition to Papua New Guinea to discover more.

two female scientists posing for a selfie with 3D printed skull modelsEpisode 26: #ScientistsWhoSelfie with Dr. Paige Brown Jarreau

How can the problematic science stereotypes be dismantled? With selfies!

Dr. Paige Brown Jarreau and LSU Experimental host Dr. Becky Carmichael, along with Lance Porter from the LSU Manship School, Imogene Cancellare from the University of New Hampshire, Dr. Samantha Yammine from the University of Toronto, and Daniel Toker from the University of California Berkeley, explored the role of science self portraits play in addressing problematic stereotypes. In this episode, Paige and Becky discuss the inspiration behind the project, the results, and the next steps for changing stereotypes of scientists.

Virgin Mary statues in an empty fieldEpisode 25: Michael Pasquier - The Cultural Connections of People, Land, & Water in Louisiana

Michael Pasquier, Associate Professor of Religious Studies and History and the Jaak Seynaeve Professor of Christian Studies, begins our conversation with Our Lady of Prompt Succor and the prayers offered to protect the people of Southern Louisiana from approaching storms. The connections of the people to the land and water shape the culture of those that call Louisiana home. We explore these connections and how the stories of the past can help us prepare for the future.

Exterior of a Japanese internment camp in Alexandria, Louisiana

Episode 24: Hayley Johnson & Sarah Simms - Japanese Internment Camps in Louisiana

Did you know that over 1,000 Japanese men were interned in Louisiana during World War II? Hayley Johnson and Sarah Simms, passionate librarians from LSU Libraries, explore this buried history in our own backyard. We discuss who these Japanese men and their families were, the conditions at the Louisiana internment camps, and the crucial lessons we need to remember in order to fight against the discrimination of those who are different.

Researcher Mike Polito standing in front of a group of penguins in Antarctica

Episode 23: Mike Polito - Studying Penguins in Antarctica

Happy World Penguin Day! Penguins almost exclusively live in the Southern Hemisphere, most notably in Antarctica. So how do those cute, tuxedo wearing birds survive and what is it like to study penguins in the coldest place on Earth? We’re featuring an April 2017 LSU Science Cafe talk by Dr. Mike Polito, Assistant Professor Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences in the College of Coast & Environment, where he shared all things penguin - from what they eat to how they respond to environmental stresses. We then sat down with Dr. Polito to learn more about his research in the southern continent and why science collaborations so important for his work.

Cindy Nguyen reading a book in front of the Life Sciences building at LSUEpisode 22: Cindy Nguyen - Entering a Med School - Masters of Public Health Program

Are you wondering how to get into medical school? What better than to hear from someone who was just accepted into an MD-MPH program! We are featuring LSU students at different stages in their medical career, from getting accepted to entering rotations. We begin with Cindy Nguyen, CxC Distinguished Medalist and recent graduate with Bachelors of Science in Biological Sciences and Bachelors of Arts in Sociology. Cindy shares her insights from early academic struggles, identifying the right career path, prepping for the MCAT, medical school interviews, and general tips on making it into med school. 

a collection of Mayan artifactsEpisode 21: Heather McKillop - Preserving Mayan Artifacts with 3D Printing 

How do you discover ancient Maya artifacts buried underwater? And what do you do with the artifacts once you discover them? Heather McKillop, Thomas & Lillian Landrum Alumni Professor in the Department of Geography and Anthropology, presented her research on ancient Mayan civilizations during LSU’s Science Cafe in September 2017. We later sat down with Dr. McKillop, where she shared how her team has been able to study submerged Mayan villages, excavate artifacts and preserve those artifacts through 3D printing so we can better understand the livelihood of the Maya.   

Learn more about what is happening with Dr. McKillop on Twitter @underwatermaya or by heading over to to catch the latest adventures in science from the DIVA lab! You can also watch Dr. McKillop's LSU Science Cafe Talk and see the incredible artifacts and locations where she conducts her research. 

Whitney KroschelEpisode 20: Whitney Kroschel - Flooding on the Floodplains

Floodplains. The term conjures up images of iconic Louisiana swamps- cypress trees, alligators, and areas inundated with water. But what a floodplain really is, is a wetland ecosystem which periodically experiences pulses of floodwaters, bringing nutrients and sediment to the land. While these cyclic events can be beneficial to wetland communities, continuous flooding may be deleterious to the native species. Whitney Kroschel, Ph.D. candidate in the School of Renewable Natural Resources in the College of Agriculture takes us on an ecological journey through the floodplains to give us a perspective of how flooding is influencing Louisiana cypress swamps and the inhabitants within.

microscopic view of planktonEpisode 19: Malinda Sutor - Big Impact Tiny Creatures

Plankton provide the single largest source of oxygen and carbon sequestration on this planet all while nourishing the largest mammal on Earth, the blue whale. With the rise in temperature and acidity in the ocean an urgent question emerges; how will the environmental changes affect the plankton’s ability to maintain these global processes and provide the foundation of the world’s food web? Join us in our conversation with Dr. Malinda Sutor, from the Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences in the College of Coast & Environment, as we cover a range of topics including the challenges of quantifying zooplankton to her research into this puzzling question to the importance of quantifying these organisms from a national defense perspective.

Episode 18: Catherine Deibel - Uncovering Star Composition

When you look in the mirror, do you see a star? Of course you do! Your body is composed of the elements of stars. We met with Dr. Catherine Deibel, Assistant Professor of the Department of Physics and Astronomy, to learn about her research in experimental nuclear astrophysics, the importance of basic research in discovery, and explain how we are all made from the ashes of stars. 

Episode 17: Maria F. G. Wallace - The Gray Landscape of Education

How do scientists learn how to teach? With science of course! Maria F. G. Wallace, 2017 Ph.D. graduate of the School of Education in the College of Human Sciences & Education at Louisiana State University and current Assistant Professor of Education at Millsaps College, discusses her research on education of science teachers, both as undergraduates and as early career professionals, to highlight how science education involves a community process of shared experience and investigation among students and instructors.

aerial image of Baton Rouge neighborhood during 2016 floodingEpisode 16: Carol Friedland - Saving Our Homes From Hurricanes & Floods

In 2016, the Gulf of Mexico churned out one of the most active hurricane seasons on record. Devastation from powerful winds and life-threatening flooding left many homeless and distressed. We joined Carol Friedland, an Assistant Professor in the Bert S. Turner Department of Construction Management in the College of Engineering at LSU's Science Cafe, where she shares with us strategies for protecting homes against natural disaster effects, how to use flood maps, and what you should know about building codes. (Image source: Wikipedia: US Department of Ag August 2016 and is of BR Flooding)

John Pojman holding a salamanderEpisode 15: John A. Pojman - A Chemical Career

What connects frontal polymerizations, amphiumas, and pocket protectors? They are all aspects of Dr. John Pojman’s research! John A. Pojman, Professor in the Department of Chemistry and President and CEO of Pojman Polymer Products, LLC., joins us in the School of Library and Information Sciences recording lab to share his journey through research, invention, and collaborations as well as advice to those starting their science careers. We discuss zero gravity experiments, the development of 3P QuickCure Clay, and how the high density of amphiuma salamanders here in Southern Louisiana may help scientists understand the toxic chytrid fungus! 

mountainsEpisode 14: Peter Clift - Monsoons, Mountains, & Civilizations

How do the largest mountains on Earth drive one of the greatest climatic events witnessed by humans? Peter Clift, the Charles T. McCord Endowed Professor and Dr. Henry V. Howe Distinguished Professorship recipient in the LSU Department of Geology and Geophysics, shares how he uses sediment samples from oceans, rivers, and land to link the development of the Himalayas to the intensity of the Asian monsoon and even connections to the rise and fall of civilizations within the region.

Episode 13: Don Hood & Allison Barbato - Mineral Connections

What information about Mars is locked in minerals on Earth? How can we learn about possible life on Mars from these Earth minerals? Don Hood, PhD Candidate and Allison Barbato, B.S.,members of LSU’s Planetary Science Lab in the Department of Geology & Geophysics, are heading to Sri Lanka to investigate serpentine mineral deposits to learn more about their formation and possible links to the serpentine minerals discovered on Mars. They share with us aspects of their upcoming research trip, why your support is needed, and skills they have each gained along their geology careers to ensure a successful mission.

Episode 12: Edgar Berdahl - Creating New Electronic Instruments

Have you ever heard sixty metronomes slowly going out of sync? What about a line the size of a telephone wire being plucked like a string? Listen to how Edgar Berdahl, Assistant Professor of Experimental Music and Digital Media in the LSU School of Music and the Center for Computation & Technology, takes seemingly impossible ideas and make them a musical reality. Additional works can be heard at Experimental Music & Digital Media, including upcoming performances and projects.

entrance to a mobile home parkEpisode 11: Annemarie Galeucia - Mobile Homes in the American Cultural Landscape

When you think about a mobile home, what do you picture? Mobile homes may illicit many stereotypes that extend beyond the physical structure, affecting the people that inhabit them. Dr. Annemarie Galeucia, Student & Faculty Development Coordinator with LSU’s Communication across the Curriculum and from the Department of Geography and Anthropology, shares with us her dissertation research on mobile home communities and the common misconceptions people hold about them. 

Episode 10 : Melissa DeBiasse - Coping with Environmental Stress 

When an animal’s home conditions change, they have four options: move, acclimate, evolve, or die. Dr. Melissa DeBiasse, former postdoc in Dr. Morgan Kelly’s lab at Louisiana State University, shares how genetics can help determine which option they will choose, how she studies copepods and their adaptations, and what she’d tell her younger self now that’s she’s a postdoc in the Ryan Lab at the Whitney Laboratory for Marine Bioscience, University of Florida. 

Episode 9 : Metha Klock - Promiscuous Plants 

Can plant promiscuity address the 1.4 trillion dollar toll invasive species take on the world each year? Dr. Metha Klock, postdoctorial associate at Cornell University and former member of the Dr. Kyle Harms' lab in the Department of Biological Sciences, shares how the mutualism between plants and fungi can unlock the patterns behind species invasion and inform management of natural areas.

DNAEpisode 8 : Sabrina Taylor - Messages in Genes  

Coyotes vs wolves; how do we know which animal dominated the southeast U.S. 1000 years ago? Historic DNA of course! Dr. Sabrina Taylor Associate Professor from the School of Renewable Natural Resources shares how she uses historic DNA to unlock the mysteries surrounding century old changes in species population size, range, and disease susceptibility. Her lab not only answers these puzzling questions, but directly implements them into conservation management for endangered species.

Episode 7: Mette Gaarde - Using Light to Measure Ultrafast Electrons

How do you measure things that move really fast? With light, of course! Dr. Mette Gaarde, Professor of Physics in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, explains how ultrafast pulses of light - think a billionth of a billionth of a second - can be used to uncover very fast processes. We discuss how attosecond light pulses can be applied to learn about electron movement in reactions along with what inspired her to become a physicist.

Episode 6: Prosanta Chakrabarty - The TED Experience  

Not only does Dr. Prosanta Chakrabarty, Associate Professor of Biological Sciences and Curator of Fishes at Louisiana State University’s Museum of Natural Science, travel the world for science - he is an active science communicator! Prosanta is a past TEDxLSU and TED speaker, he was a TED Fellow - a group of “rising stars in their field” impacting the global community, and was recently named TED 2018 Senior Fellow. We catch up with Prosanta in his office following the announcement of being named TED Senior Fellow to learn more about his TED experiences, recent research adventures, and advice for for sharing your science.

Episode 5: Mark Benfield - The River of Plastic

We are surrounded by single-use plastic. We dispose of plastic bags, water bottles, and coffee stirrers quickly after their uses, yet their existence remains. These persistent plastics find their way into our waterways, leaching toxic chemicals and breaking down into smaller and smaller microscopic pieces, eventually corrupting the entire food web. Dr. Mark Benfield with the Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences in the College of Coast & Environment shares his recent research on microplastics in the Mississippi River, which may soon be known as the river of plastic.

Prosanta Chakrabarty in a boat casting a net into the waterEpisode 4: Prosanta Chakrabarty - Fishes are Evolutionary Puzzle Pieces  

How can small, blind cavefishes aid in uncovering the story of continental movement? Dr. Prosanta Chakrabarty, Associate Professor in Biological Sciences and Curator of Fishes at the LSU Museum of Natural Science, travels the world researching the morphology and DNA of fish species to uncover pieces of the world’s deep evolutionary and geological puzzles.

gloved hand holding a chip used to detect gravitational wavesEpisode 3: Jonathan Cripe - Detecting Gravitational Waves  

The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, LIGO, lab detected the first gravitational wave on September 14, 2015, and there has been a flood of detections ever since. How is it possible to discover cosmic marvels such as gravitational waves and black holes? Jonathan Cripe, a graduate student in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, provides insight into this question by sharing his experience working with LIGO and his involvement in developing the next generation of black hole detectors.  

cross section of a tree showing a pattern of ringsEpisode 2: Clay Tucker - Translating Nature's History

What stories are locked inside a tree? Clay Tucker, graduate student in the Department of Geography and Anthropology at Louisiana State University, discusses his research in dendroclimatology and how he uses tree rings to predict future hurricanes along the Louisiana Gulf Coast and advise residents on becoming more resilient to these natural disasters.

tree branches covered in iceEpisode 1: Vincent LiCata - Proteins with Superpowers

Dr. Vincent LiCata, Louis S. Flowers Professor in the Louisiana State Department of Biological Sciences, talks about his biochemistry research and gives us insight on how to get into biology on this inaugural Experimental (formerly Benchtop Talks) episode.