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Working Scientist

Science & Nature Careers Podcast, Audio Job Advice & Tips


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  • Counting the cost of fashion’s carbon footprint

    22:42
    In many parts of the world these days garments are bought purely as fashion items, and discarded after just a few months or years. But as the global population grows and personal wealth levels increase, solutions are urgently needed to process increasing volumes of textile waste as consumption rises. This waste includes synthetic fibres, which do not degrade in nature.Sonja Salmon describes advances in enzymatic processes to deconstruct and then recycle mixed fibre garments made from both polyester and cotton, alongside the environmental costs of producing and transporting clothes in the first place. “Technically, there are going to be some challenges in it. But that’s why we’re scientists, right? That's what we do,” says Salmon, who is based at Wilson College of Textiles in Raleigh, North Carolina.How to Save Humanity in 17 Goals is a podcast series that profiles scientists whose work addresses one or more of the SDGs. Episodes 7–12 are produced in partnership with Nature Water, and introduced by Fabio Pulizzi, its chief editor.

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  • Why female students at an inner London school are seeing scientists in a different light

    17:46
    Draw a Scientist is a test developed in 1983 to explore children’s perspectives of scientists and how stereotypical views can emerge at an early age, influenced both by popular culture and how STEM subjects are taught in schools.In April, 50 images from Nature’s weekly Where I Work section, a photo essay which depicts an individual researcher at work, went on display in London’s Kings Cross district.The photographs were chosen to reflect the diversity of scientific careers, and in the words of senior careers editor Jack Leeming, to demonstrate that “scientists aren’t all wacky lab-coated, round-goggled people from the science fiction film Back to the Future.”In this Working Scientist podcast, Julie Gould visits the exhibition with a group of 12-13 year-old female pupils from London’s Elizabeth Garrett Anderson School, where she repeats the Draw a Scientist test, based on their perceptions of scientists. The children draw two pictures, one before and one after viewing the 50 photographs. Gould then asks them how their perceptions have changed, based on what they have seen.As one pupil put it after seeing the exhibition, which closes later this month: “You can be a scientist in almost any part of the world. You could be involved with flowers, with the ocean, with weather, with space. You can do anything.”
  • Using live transport data to deliver sustainable cities

    16:53
    Lynette Cheah’s research group collaborates with psychologists, computer scientists and urban designers to develop smarter and more sustainable ways of city transportation. “We can’t have sustainable cities without transforming the way people move and how goods are moved around,” says Cheah, an engineering systems researcher who is based at the University of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia.Cheah outlines some challenges to meeting targets in the eleventh of 17 Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations in 2015 (making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable) by 2030. In part these rely on more cities using the data-driven and centrally-planned approach taken by Singapore, the south Asian city state in which she grew up and worked until recently, she argues.Informal transport options such as tuktuk rikshaws in Thailand and shared taxi matatus in Kenya, for example, can present a barrier to delivering smarter cities, but they also have advantages. She explains why.“I am very optimistic that good science and knowledge does exist to help us, you know, track the path towards sustainable urban development,” she says. “It’ll take lots of work. It’ll take public-private partnerships. It’ll take some credible financing, lots of capacity building.”How to Save Humanity in 17 Goals is a podcast series that profiles scientists whose work addresses one or more of the SDGs. Episodes 7–12 are produced in partnership with Nature Water, and introduced by Fabio Pulizzi, its chief editor.
  • How artificial intelligence is helping to identify global inequalities

    27:10
    Francisco Ferreira’s first exposure to inequality of opportunity was during his daily ride to school in São Paulo, Brazil, and seeing children his age selling chewing gum on the streets. Ferreira, a former World Bank economist who now researches inequality at the London School of Economics, speculates on the wasted human talent caused by such hardships, and how many more scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs and writers there would be if inequalities could be tackled at an early stage in children’s lives. “I think it deserves even more attention than it already gets,” he says, before going on to describe progress toward delivering Sustainable Development Goal 10: to reduce inequality in and among countries, and how best to measure it. Ferreira outlines how machine learning tools are helping to identify the most powerful predictors of societal divisions and how income is distributed.How to Save Humanity in 17 Goals is a podcast series that profiles scientists whose work addresses one or more of the SDGs. Episodes 7-12 are produced in partnership with Nature Water, and introduced by Fabio Pulizzi, its chief editor.
  • Infrastructure projects need to demonstrate a return on investment

    21:23
    Power networks are humankind’s biggest engineering achievement to date, says Sinan Küfeoğlu. But ageing infrastructure in advanced industrialised economies, coupled with the fact that around one billion people in the world lack continuous power access, particularly in Global South countries, could threaten the delivery of Sustainable Development Goal 9 by 2030, he warns. The goal promotes resilient infrastructure, inclusive and sustainable industrialization, and innovation.Speaking in a personal capacity, Küfeoğlu, a senior policy manager at the UK government gas and electricity market regulator OFGEM, lists some of the hurdles ahead, based on his work as an energy systems researcher in Finland, UK, US, and Turkey, where he grew up.Many funding proposals, he says, pack in “buzzwords” such as green, sustainable, holistic, inclusive, and circular economy, but governments and other infrastructure project funders are often poor at measuring impact, and undertaking return-on-investment and cost-benefit analyses.How to Save Humanity in 17 Goals is a podcast series that profiles scientists whose work addresses one or more of the SDGs. Episodes 7-12 are produced in partnership with Nature Water, and introduced by Fabio Pulizzi, its chief editor.
  • 8. Decent work for all: why multinationals need a helping hand

    15:24
    In Kenya, where Moses Ngoze teaches entrepreneurship and management at Masinde Muliro University in Kakamega, micro, small and medium enterprises provide 75% of jobs and more than 80% of the country’s gross domestic product. Typically these organizations employ between one and 100 people and include subsistence farming, hospitality and artisan businesses, mostly operating in a jua kali environment, a Swahili term meaning “hot sun,” he says.Ngoze's research explores how the enterprises can help achieve full employment and sustained (and sustainable) economic growth by 2030, captured in Sustainable Development Goal 8, one of 17 agreed by the United Nations in 2015.He tells the How to Save Humanity in 17 Goals podcast that African economies and employment ambitions need more than multinational employers moving there. These firms only employ 10% of the world’s workforce, he says.Infrastructure improvements are also needed, Ngoze adds, alongside more reliable energy, stronger internet connectivity, and tax breaks for business. Government funding for university-based centres of enterprise development are also a priority.The podcast series profiles scientists whose work addresses one or more of the SDGs. Episodes 7-12 are produced in partnership with Nature Water, and introduced by Fabio Pulizzi, its chief editor.
  • How artificial intelligence is helping Ghana plan for a renewable energy future

    23:56
    Julien Harou’s career started in geology in his current role as a water management and infrastructure researcher now straddles economics and engineering, with a particular focus on using artificial intelligence (AI) to measure Ghana’s future energy needs. Harou is relatively upbeat about progress so far towards achieving sustainable and reliable energy for all by 2030, the seventh of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agreed by the United Nations in 2015. He points out that from 2015 to 2021, the portion of the global population with access to electricity increased from 87% to 91%, and last year about 30% came from renewable sources. Harou’s research at the University of Manchester, UK, incorporates computer modeling and artificial intelligence design algorithms to balance Ghana’s long term renewable energy and infrastructure needs. But AI also helps to address the environmental and human health impacts. For example, Ghana’s Volta River was dammed in the 1960s to create the Akosombo dam. But its arrival depleted fish stocks and increased weed and algae growth, providing habitat for vectors of waterborne diseases. It’s all about compromise, he tells the seventh episode of How to Save Humanity in 17 Goals, a podcast series that profiles scientists whose work addresses one or more of the SDGs.Episodes 7-12 are produced in partnership with Nature Water, and introduced by Fabio Pullizi, its chief editor.