Hold That Thought: New Arts & Sciences podcasts make faculty research more accessible

How did World War II impact the way we grow food? Do our memories make us distinctly human? What can weedy rice teach us about evolution?

Hold That Thought, a new podcast series from Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, presents current research into sustainability, memory and other compelling topics.

Arts & Sciences launched the Hold That Thought website Oct. 1 to explain in-depth faculty research in everyday language using a radio “newsmagazine” format similar to Radiolab productions.

“I hope this project will help members of the community form closer ties to the university, develop an exciting feel for the depth and breadth of scholars living in our community, and realize what a valuable addition these experts are to the cultural life of St. Louis and beyond,” says Gary S. Wihl, PhD, dean of the faculty of Arts & Sciences and the Hortense and Tobias Lewin Distinguished Professor in the Humanities.

“I see great work being done on this campus every single day, and the question of how to bring this work to the general public is something I’ve been interested in for a long time. This initiative is one step in that direction. I also think it will ultimately benefit the faculty as much as the public.”

Each season will focus on a few select topics. For the fall semester, the series will explore issues around memory and agriculture, as well as provide stand-alone pieces on individual people, places and ideas.

A new podcast will be posted every Monday, and additional recordings will be added on Wednesdays and Fridays to provide more information on select topics.

In the first podcast, Glenn Stone, PhD, professor of sociocultural anthropology in Arts & Sciences, discussed multiple issues of “sustainability” and described his research on agricultural practices in Nigeria, India and the United States.

During a three-month beta test, Hold That Thought provided video interviews of faculty on topics ranging from the power of algae as a promising renewable energy source to the legal, ethical, scholarly and cultural issues surrounding ownership of the world’s cultural treasures.

The idea behind the Hold That Thought podcasts is to synthesize complex or technical faculty research and overarching ideas into a more accessible format for the general public.

Arts & Sciences hopes the podcasts will help make university research less intimidating to the general listener while expanding knowledge about the covered topics.

“We hope to break down those technical barriers and bring this world of discovery out into the open,” says Ebba Segerberg, PhD, director of Arts & Sciences communications.

“Our faculty members give freely of their time because they care about these things,” she says. “They want to get true and tested information into people’s hands.”

Upcoming episodes will delve into amnesia, false memories and early Native American agricultural practices.

To expand the conversation even further, future podcasts will feature research of faculty and students from other WUSTL schools, as well as researchers from other universities and experts from the St. Louis community.

Listeners can subscribe to the podcast series at no charge from iTunes University.

To suggest a topic or research to explore, email Claire Navarro, HTT editor/producer, at communications@artsci.wustl.edu.