The Free Energy Interviews: Scientists and Journalists Collaborate in a Cross-Disciplinary Research Journey

Susan L. Rowland, Ann Damien, Kurt T. K. Giuliani, John Harrison, Makerita T. N. Ieremia, Mahitha Ramakrishna, Carl L. E. Smith, Clarissa B. G. Wilson


Many students in high schools and universities view science and scientists as “other”. Students have few mechanisms that they can use to access information about “who” a real scientist is, and “what” they do all day. In 2010 we began a project to address this information gap by (i) producing a series of recorded interviews with working science graduates and (ii) supplying these to undergraduate students in a large mixed-interest biochemistry class. We named the project “Free Energy”. Initially a science academic interviewed other scientists alone, however in the second iteration we included student interviewers as well. To obtain course credit these students, who are all co-authors on this paper, used Free Energy as the basis for their Summer Undergraduate Research Experiences. We present a description of the development and delivery of Free Energy and explain how we used it as the subject of student research projects in a Science faculty. We also explain what we as academics and student interviewers have learned from the process of interviewing science graduates in a working radio studio and delivering these recorded interviews to large groups of undergraduate students.

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