Nerdette Podcast A safe space for nerding out about all the things you're watching, reading, listening to and encountering in real life. Hosts Tricia Bobeda and Greta Johnsen talk to people about their obsessions: from science to science fiction, great lady nerds of history to Beyoncé. Because what the world needs now is not another superhero, but for the glasses-clad alter ego to make you a podcast.
Nerdette Podcast

Nerdette Podcast

From WBEZ Chicago

A safe space for nerding out about all the things you're watching, reading, listening to and encountering in real life. Hosts Tricia Bobeda and Greta Johnsen talk to people about their obsessions: from science to science fiction, great lady nerds of history to Beyoncé. Because what the world needs now is not another superhero, but for the glasses-clad alter ego to make you a podcast.More from Nerdette Podcast »

Most Recent Episodes

Get That Money.

How does one ask their employer for more money? The short answer, according to Refinery29's Lindsey Stanberry, is just do it. "It's hard. And it's not fun," Stanberry tells Greta this week. "I mean, you just have to ask." It's a new year. And now — RIGHT NOW — is the time to get your finances in order. So we're talking with a financial expert who's going to tell you to know your numbers, to know your worth, and — most importantly — to get out there and get that money. Stanberry is the author of "Money Diaries: Everything You've Ever Wanted To Know About Your Finances... And Everyone Else's." She's also the work and money director at Refinery29, an online magazine. She's full of invaluable tips for taking charge of your money situation. So get excited: You're about to be the boss of your bank account.

End Of The Year Homework!

The year is at its end. And in 2018's honor, Greta talked to four people who've made some amazing things about their favorite thing of the year. Make sense? It's kind of like a miniature phone tree but for books, music, and TV. Or like a binder's worth of homework dumped on you hours before the end of the semester. (You're welcome!) Here are our guest professors: Celeste Ng, author of the 2017 novel Little Fires Everywhere Curtis Sittenfeld, author of a 2018 collection of short stories titled You Think It, I'll Say It Dessa, a singer, rapper, and writer responsible for both an album called Chime and a memoir called My Own Devices in 2018 Jenny Han, author of To All The Boys I've Loved Before, which became a smash-hit Netflix movie To make things as easy for you over-achievers as possible, you can find a list of all their recommendations here.


Nerdette host Greta Johnsen has a rare genetic disease that CRISPR might be able to fix. As a four-year old in Juneau, Alaska, Greta was diagnosed with an eye condition known as "Best disease." That name is somewhat of a misnomer in that "Best disease" causes premature macular degeneration — but curiously it happens to be among the best diseases for experimenting with CRISPR, a genetic engineering tool that can be used to edit DNA. CRISPR has been in the news a lot lately (Google it) so we're rebroadcasting this very special episode, one that follows the story of Greta, her father, and Dr. Bruce Conklin, a scientist who's currently developing a CRISPR system to inject into some Johnsen family eyeballs. Plus, you can't have a conversation about experimental gene editing without discussing the ethical implications of making irreversible changes to human evolution. "We'd be permanently altering the course of evolution if we decide that we think it's OK to edit human embryos," says Megan Hochstrasser, a science communications manager and CRISPR expert. "Is that something we want to be able to do as a society?" That's a great question. Let's talk about it.

How Killer Snails Could Save Your Life

In a curious twist, snails — venomous, killer sea snails — are helping scientists make some incredible biomedical advances. Dr. Mandë Holford is the head of the Holford Lab in New York City, but her line of research often means she's taking nighttime scuba dives in seas and oceans across the globe. "The whole point of our lab is to try to change these snails from agents of fear into agents of hope," Holford said on this week's Nerdette podcast. "Yes, a snail can kill you," she added. "But a snail can also help you! In various, various ways. And that's what our lab is investigating: The power of these snails and the venom that they have to transform organisms and to transform lives." Holford is also an associate professor in chemistry at Hunter College and the Graduate Center at City University of New York, with scientific appointments at the American Museum of Natural History and Weill Cornell Medical College. She told Nerdette host Greta Johnsen how snail venom can help relieve pain and treat cancer, how she's giving back with a line of science-based board games, and how it feels to be on a "Top 100" list that includes Beyoncé. Below are highlights. How a snail might help save your life Mandë Holford: The way that snails can save your life is through the compounds that are found in their venom. ... We're extracting individual components that are found in the venom, and these things are very good at manipulating signals related to diseases and disorders that humans have. Two areas that we concentrate on is pain and cancer. So we've found novel peptides in our snails — peptides are the components in the venom — we found novel ones that seem to be treating pain in ways that are not addictive, which is important. And we've also found our first peptide that we've actually patented in the lab that seems to be having an effect on stopping liver tumors from proliferating. Greta Johnsen: That's insane! Holford: Yeah, I know. It's crazy. Who would think a snail could have so many outputs? [Laughs.] Another reason why you should love nature and save our planet. On promoting science through a series of games Holford: Knowledge is power, and science is the way to unleash that power. And so it shouldn't be something that we shy away from. It should be something that we try to champion kids into wanting to use and to play with. As you've heard before, children are naturally inquisitive. All you need to be a scientist is to be inquisitive, and you're born with the tool that makes you so. ... We have to let kids know that science is fun. We need female champions, too, to demonstrate that you don't have to be a specific gender to be a scientist, you don't have to be of a specific race, or a specific culture. We're all born with the tool that a scientist needs, and that's a brain. And we're all born with a functioning brain. So it's like the cheapest entry-level career that you can have, because it costs zero. [Laughs.] On being #84 on a list of the 100 most influential African-Americans aged 25 to 45 Johnsen: What is it like to be on a list of people that includes Beyoncé? Holford: I know! I was so surprised when I saw it. And actually, I didn't know about it until I was in a meeting and I came out of the meeting, and I checked my phone and my Twitter thing had all of these notifications, and I was like, "What's going on?" And then I saw the picture and I was like, "My God! There's Serena and Beyoncé and all of these great people that are doing amazing things, and then there's Mandë!" [Laughs.] It's amazing but you never think — I don't think of myself on their scale. Serena's a powerhouse. I think she is phenomenal for what she's doing for women and athletes, and what she's doing now for working moms and illustrating all of the pitfalls and joys that happen. And Beyoncé similarly, another powerhouse for setting the stage of what can be done if you focus and you work hard and you put your head to the grindstone and just keep grinding. "Stop interrupting my grinding" is one of my go-tos that I tell people who are bugging me. [Laughs.] I'm like, "You're interrupting my grinding and Beyoncé said not to." [Laughs.] This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. Click the "play" button to listen to the entire conversation, which was produced and adapted for the web by Justin Bull.

Redefining Representation With 'Well-Read Black Girl'

A little while after Glory Edim created an Instagram account under the name Well-Read Black Girl, she said she started getting a lot of messages from young women thanking her for creating a space that offered reflections of themselves. "It's not only just an Instagram account, but people don't see themselves reflected in their libraries, in their bookstores, in everyday conversation," Edim says on Nerdette podcast. "The common theme is: People don't feel fully heard. And I'm doing my best to change that." Well-Read Black Girl has since become a wide number of things, including a collection of essays, a Brooklyn-based book club, and an online community "that celebrates the uniqueness of Black literature and sisterhood." Edim spoke with Nerdette host Greta Johnsen (and special guest host Arionne Nettles!) about how she got to where she is and what she's still trying to accomplish. Music: This episode features music from The Marching 100, Florida A&M's precise and innovative marching band.

Barbara Kingsolver Calls Her New Novel 'My Love Letter To Millennials'

Barbara Kingsolver says her new novel, 'Unsheltered,' is "my love letter to millennials." "Today's problems can't be fixed by yesterday's people," she tells Greta. "They're going to be fixed by tomorrow's people." Kingsolver is the author of several award-winning books, including 'The Poisonwood Bible' and 'The Bean Trees.' 'Unsheltered' is set both in the run up to the 2016 presidential election and in the aftermath of the American Civil War, and she says it's about "how people behave when it seems like all the old rules have stopped working." Kingsolver tells us about the end of the world, why she's still optimistic, and what it's like to narrate the sex scenes when she records her own audiobooks. ("You just try to get through it all in one take"). She also answers one of Greta's more poignant questions: "Are we just %#&!ed?"

Salt, Fat, Acid, Ask For What You Want (With Samin Nosrat)

Samin Nosrat is the chef behind 'Salt Fat Acid Heat,' a book and a new Netflix series of the same name. She's also a proponent of articulating your dreams. "I do think taking a little bit of time, a couple times a year, to articulate your goals and your dreams and your desires is helpful because it helps orient you toward them," Nosrat says. She also tells Greta about the culinary value of those four primary elements, the importance of embracing your cooking mistakes, and she gives great homework!: Write down your goals in a manifestation journal, "Even if they change or don't come true, that's fine. It's just nice to have a record."

Jodie Whittaker And The New 'Doctor Who'

Hey! Today we're talking with Jodie Whittaker! She is the first woman to play the lead role in the long-running, time-travel-based BBC television series Doctor Who. You'll hear her tell Greta the story of how she got the role, how so many lovely Doctor Who fans have reacted to her casting, and why she thinks her character's gender, "more so than probably any other role I've ever played, is irrelevant."

The Author Of Greta's Favorite Book! (Of 2018): Madeline Miller On 'Circe'

If you were bored by Homeric epics and Greek mythology in high school and college, Nerdette highly encourages you to reconsider. "There is a reason these stories have lasted for 3,000 years," said Madeline Miller, author of Greta's favorite book of 2018, a novelization of The Odyssey called Circe. "[These stories] are incredibly insightful about human nature," Miller said. "Culture has changed and the way we go to war has changed, but the stories we tell about war and about loss and grief – even things like post-traumatic stress disorder – the Greeks understood all of that." Miller said she novelized the story of Circe, a witch from The Odyssey who turns men into pigs, because she wanted more freedom to explore the character. "There were things I couldn't answer in papers that I wanted to answer in a different way," she said. Miller talked with Greta about the book, what makes literary canon, and more about turning men into pigs.

The Author Of Greta's Favorite Book! (Of 2018): Madeline Miller On 'Circe'

The Gender Pay Gap

Aileen Rizo was working as a math consultant at the Fresno County Office of Education when she discovered a recently-hired male colleague was being paid significantly more than her for the same work. Aileen had more experience and education than this colleague. What then began as a fight for herself quickly turned into a fight for equality for women everywhere. Aileen talked about the tough decisions she's made for herself and her family on a recent episode of the WBEZ podcast The Trouble. On this week's Nerdette, you'll hear that exceptional episode of The Trouble in full, followed by a conversation between Shannon Cason, host of The Trouble, and Nerdette's Greta Johnsen. Plus, a suggestion for you, dear listener: Ask for a raise.

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