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History Professor Launches Podcast on History of Science

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Elizabeth Green Musselman, associate professor of history, recently launched a podcast on the history of science, medicine and technology.

Elizabeth Green Musselman originally wanted to be a science journalist and although she ultimately decided to go into academia and teach history, her love of science never faded.

Green Musselman, associate professor of history, recently launched a podcast on the history of science, medicine and technology. Podcasts are radio programs that are available online, usually for free, for listening at any time. “The program is designed to help make my discipline more accessible to a wider audience,” she says.

Her podcast, “The Missing Link,” is released monthly. Her first podcast was called “Stranger than Fiction” and considers some of the ways that science fiction has drawn inspiration from planetary science. Her second podcast was called “Opposites Attract” and examines the issue of men and woman as opposites. A third episode, featuring the history of science and medicine in Berlin, will be released at the end of September.

The podcasts are available online at http://missinglinkpodcast.wordpress.com/ and through iTunes. Each episode is approximately 30 to 45 minutes.

Many of the podcasts also feature audio essays by students in Green Musselman’s History of Science classes. “As final projects, the students research, design and record essays on topics of their choosing,” Green Musselman says. “I am encouraging listeners and fellow historians to contribute their own material as well.”

Southwestern student Amber Hoerauf wrote an essay featured in episode two. Her essay discusses how the scientific study of hormones has been shaped by attitudes about gender and sexuality. She says that the objective of composing a successful podcast is to be interesting, using background music and telling stories, but not so much as to distract the listener from the main points. “I enjoyed the way this project blended science with creativity, and the final product is more entertaining and memorable than a paper,” she says.

Green Musselman says that in just two months, her podcast has already gained an international following. Listeners from 18 countries, including Australia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Mexico, Sweden and Taiwan have visited the site, as well as listeners from all over the United States.

Green Musselman says she became interested in podcasts while knitting – a favorite hobby of hers. “Podcasts are beneficial for people who are looking for things to feed their mind during other activities,” she says. She hopes her podcasts will bring science to a broader public and provide them with an outlet to think about the history of science.

Green Musselman received an award from the Sam Taylor Fellowship Fund in 2006 to develop her podcasts. The fund provides monetary awards for faculty members of United Methodist colleges and universities in Texas.

Although it takes a while to master all the technology required to produce podcasts, Green Musselman says they have many advantages for students and faculty members alike. “Podcasts can help free up class time for more one-on-one interaction,” she says. “For scholars, they also allow the immediate and inexpensive release of information.”

They also give students an opportunity to get their ideas out. “The students are scared at first because their ideas are going to be seen and heard by others besides their professor, but once they get into it, they really enjoy it,” Green Musselman says.

Green Musselman’s podcasts have encouraged other Southwestern faculty members to pursue the medium. Michael Cooper, associate professor of music, has started making podcasts for his music history classes. He has done three so far and hopes to have 10 more up by the end of the semester.

“So far the students are excited and impressed, and I have enjoyed having class time a bit less cluttered because of taking this content out,” he says. Cooper’s podcasts are available at http://www.gcast.com/u/cooperm/main.