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Locally Sourced Science

LSS 93: Research Amid COVID-19

Dr. Kaylin Ratner (photo courtesy of Dr. Ratner)

In today’s show, we speak with a scientist whose research was upended by the COVID-19 pandemic. We also talk with a researcher who is using social media as outreach for scientists and the public who would like to learn more about microbial biology.

First, Jeff Pea interviews Dr. Kaylin Ratner, a recent PhD graduate in the Cornell College of Human Ecology. They discuss her study following a cohort of Cornell undergraduates that began their studies in 2016. She planned to survey the cohort at the end of their senior year, but these plans were altered after Cornell closed its campus due to the COVID-19 shutdown. One of her published studies can be found here

Dr. Ana Maria Porras (photo courtesy of Dr. Porras)

Later in the show, you’ll hear Smaranda Sandu’s interview of Dr. Ana Maria Porras. Dr. Porras is a Cornell Presidential Postdoctoral Fellow, and a researcher in Dr. Ilana Brito’s laboratory in the Cornell Meinig School of Biomedical Engineering.

In the interview, Dr. Ana Maria Porras discusses her research on the gut microbiome. She also speaks about her use of social media as a way to promote science. Porras serves as a AAAS If/Then ambassador, which is a program that encourages young women to enter STEM fields (

This interview initially aired on Sandu’s podcast, “Tidbits of Research” (

Producer: Liz Mahood

Interview of Dr. Kaylin Ratner: Jeff Pea

Interview of Dr. Ana Maria Porras: Smaranda Sandu

Music: Joe Lewis, Blue Dot Sessions

LSS 92: Citizen Science Amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic

Water20.tif by NRCS Montana is licensed under CC PDM 1.0

In today’s show, you’ll hear about two citizen science projects that are happening in our area.

First off, Liz Mahood speaks with Nathaniel Launer, outreach coordinator at the Community Science Institute, also known as CSI.  He will describe ongoing citizen science projects involving monitoring of local bodies of water.

For more information about Community Science Institute synoptic stream sampling, go to: 

Dr. Emma Greig (photo courtesy of Dr. Greig)

After that, you’ll hear Jeff Pea’s interview of Dr. Emma Greig.  She is the project leader at Project Feeder Watch based at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.  She describes how Project Feeder watch works and how the project concluded with an extra month this past season as the pandemic started to spread across North America.

For more information about Project Feeder Watch, visit:

Mural painted at “Plants Have Families Too” Judy’s Day, September 2018 (photo courtesy of Raylene Ludgate, Cornell Botanic Gardens).

To close out the show, we present an interview about a new, remote youth education program being run this August by the Cornell Botanic Garden.  It is called “Plants Have Families, Too”, and will provide materials to kids ages 8 to 11 so that they can get outside and learn about plant families.  Cornell Botanic Gardens hopes that this program will inspire young students to become budding scientists. To learn more, visit:


Producer: Esther Racoosin

Interview of Nathaniel Launer: Liz Mahood

Interview of Dr. Emma Grieg: Jeff Pea

Interview about “Plants have Families Too”: Esther Racoosin

Music: Joe Lewis, Blue Dot Sessions, Ben Jordan

LSS 91: Mentoring Future Scientists

2019 MBG REU Program Students (photo courtesy of Prof. Kelly Liu)

In today’s show, you will hear about different programs in which mentors help students learn more about science.

First, you’ll hear an interview of Dr. Kelly Jun Liu. She is a Professor in the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics (MBG) at Cornell University. Dr. Liu, Dr. Tim Huffaker and Dr. Volker Vogt direct the MBG Summer Research Experience for Undergraduates, also known as the REU program.  In the interview, Dr. Liu describes how the REU program introduces students to the experience of developing, working on and presenting a research project. 

The REU program was initiated in 2013 by Dr. Eric Alani. It has continued up to the present, although the 2020 program had to be canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The MBG program receives financial support from the National Science Foundation and several programs at Cornell, including the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, the Weill Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology, and the Division of Nutritional Sciences. The MBG program has received administrative help from Anne Dunford, Katelynn Wagner, Jennifer Robinson, and Joan Olson. More information can be found here:

Graduate Student Lisette Payero (courtesy of L. Payero)

In the second portion of our show, we hear an interview of Cornell graduate student Lisette Payero. She is a fellow in the Alfred P. Sloan Minority Graduate Scholarship Program.  Payero discusses the features of the Sloan graduate program, the mentor- training component of the program, and her research interests.

Display of photography exhibits from 2019 Youth 4-H Fair
(photo courtesy of Brenda Carpenter)

In the third segment of today’s show, you’ll hear about how local K-12 students are learning about Science Technology, Engineering, Art and Math fields in their 4-H clubs. These students are participating in the annual Tompkins County Youth 4-H fair. Brenda Carpenter, Cornell Cooperative Extension-Tompkins 4-H Coordinator, talks about how the 4-H participants have been able to move ahead with the fair amidst the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. To learn more, visit


Producer: Esther Racoosin

Interview of Dr. Kelly Liu; Interview of Brenda Carpenter: Esther Racoosin

Interview of Lisette Payero: Candice Limper

Music: Joe Lewis, Blue Dot Sessions, Ben Jordan

LSS 90: Highlighting Immunology Research By Cornell POC

Avery August, PhD (photo courtesy of Dr. August)

In today’s show, we highlight the work of three researchers at Cornell University who are people of color.  All three of the scientists study different aspects of how the human immune system responds to pathogens such as bacteria and viruses. 

The show begins with Scarlett Lee’s interview of Dr. Avery August.  He is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor of Immunology at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine.  Dr. August is also Vice Provost for Academic Affairs at Cornell.  In the interview, Dr. August reflects on how he was first introduced to the concept of doing laboratory research by an organic chemistry professor. He also discusses how he became interested in doing immunology research. Dr. August details his current research goals as well as his hopes for helping to increase the diversity of the Cornell faculty.

Graduate Student Jessica Elmore (photo courtesy of J. Elmore)

Later in the show, Candice Limper speaks with Jessica Elmore, a graduate student in Dr. August’ lab.  She discusses her research understanding the role of immune cells in the development of chronic lung inflammatory disease.

Graduate Student Kristel Joy Yee Mon (courtesy of K. Yee Mon)

Today’s show concludes with Liz Mahood’s interview of Kristel Joy Yee Mon, a graduate student who is completing her PhD research in the field of developmental immunology.  She is a member of the laboratory of Associate Professor Brian Rudd at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine.


Producer: Esther Racoosin

Interview of Dr. Avery August: Scarlett Lee

Interview of Jessica Elmore: Candice Limper

Interview of Kristel Joy Yee Mon: Liz Mahood