Imagine Otherwise: Elizabeth Wayne and Christine Yao on Podcasting Across the STEM/Humanities Divide

Feb 6, 2020 | Podcast

What happens when a biomedical engineer and a literary studies scholar set out to produce a podcast about academia, culture, and social justice across the STEM/humanities divide? That’s exactly what the guests on this episode—Elizabeth Wayne and Christine Yao—have been doing for the past four and a half years with PhDivas.

In episode 104 of Imagine Otherwise, I interview Elizabeth Wayne and Christine Yao about what it’s like to produce an academic podcast as a form of public scholarship, the transnational and discipline-specific ecology of activism, why the future of academia is public engagement, and how building spaces for folks to thrive is how Liz and Xine imagine otherwise.  

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You can also read the transcript and show notes on the Ideas on Fire website, which have links to Liz and Xine’s work and all the concepts, people, and events we discuss on the show (great for teaching!).

Guest: Elizabeth Wayne

Elizabeth Wayne is an award-winning biomedical engineer, TED Fellow, speaker, and advocate for women in higher education. She is the cohost of PhDivas, a podcast about academia, culture, and social justice across the STEM/humanities divide, as well as an assistant professor of chemical and biomedical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University. Her current research uses macrophages to deliver therapeutic genes to solid tumors.

In 2016, Elizabeth earned her PhD in biomedical engineering where her work in immune cell-mediated drug delivery resulted in several publications and a technology patent. Afterwards, she completed a National Cancer Institute Cancer Nanotechnology Training Program Postdoctoral Fellow in the Eshelman School of Pharmacy at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Elizabeth is a strong advocate for women in science and entrepreneurship. She has been a chief organizer in the Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics (CUWIP), is the recipient of the Constance and Alice Cook Award for advocacy, and in 2017, she was featured in Super Cool Scientists: A Women in Science Coloring Book.

Elizabeth Wayne wearing a lab coat. Text reads: I'm a scientist who really thinks we need the humanities. Science is political, science is definitely racist and sexist at times, and we have bias. Just because we can measure something plus or minus a certain percentage doesn't mean that how we shape our questions or who gets to answer those questions doesn’t matter. Imagine Otherwise podcast

Guest: Christine “Xine” Yao

Christine “Xine” Yao is a lecturer in American literature to 1900 at University College London. 

Her book Disaffected: The Cultural Politics of Unfeeling in Nineteenth-Century America is under contract with Duke University Press. Her scholarly essays have appeared in J19Occasion, and American Quarterly

Xine’s interests include affect studies through critical race and ethnic studies, queer of color critique, history of science, and the question of solidarity in relation to comparative racialization. Xine’s primary field is early and nineteenth century American literature but her research has also engaged graphic novels and Avatar: The Last Airbender.

Xine is the co-host of PhDivas, a podcast about academia, culture, and social justice across the STEM/humanities divide, and a judge for the Orwell Prize for Political Fiction. Her honors include the ASA Yasuo Sakakibara Essay Prize and her research has been supported by grants from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. 

Christine Yao wearing a red blazer. Text reads: Higher education in general relies on a divide and conquer tactic, pitting disciplines against each other, particularly STEM and the humanities based on the idea that we have opposing ideologies. This makes it easy to splinter efforts for change in the university, be it for labor conditions for our students,  ourselves, or cleaning staff. But really we are all in this together. Imagine Otherwise podcast

Key quotes

I’m a scientist who really thinks we need the humanities. Science is political, science is definitely racist and sexist at times, and we have bias. Just because we can measure something plus or minus a certain percentage doesn’t mean that how we shape our questions or who gets to answer those questions doesn’t matter.

– Elizabeth Wayne on episode 104 of the Imagine Otherwise podcast

Higher education in general relies on a divide and conquer tactic, pitting disciplines against each other, particularly STEM and the humanities based on the idea that we have opposing ideologies. This makes it easy to splinter efforts for change in the university, be it for labor conditions for our students, ourselves, or cleaning staff. But really we are all in this together.”

– Christine “Xine” on episode 104 of the Imagine Otherwise podcast

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