UC Science Radio

Welcome to UC Science Radio. Join us as we explore topical issues and meet the people behind the science. Enjoy interviews with UC scientists on the big issues facing our world and what science is doing to help.

Hosted by MSc student Molly Magid, the shows are interesting, challenging, entertaining and accessible. Listen in and learn something new!

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Latest episode: Developing language for learning

We know language development predicts learning outcomes at primary school, so how do we give our tamariki the best chance to succeed? Speech and Language Therapist and University of Canterbury Master's student Catherine Sivertsen wants to get the world excited about language and is encouraging parents and educators to give the gift of words

Explore past episodes

Season 2

Is our kai moana radioactive?

Should we be worried about radioactivity in our kai moana? Sarah Guy is the person to ask.

Sarah is a University of Canterbury PhD student researching emerging environmental contaminants that may affect human health. Specifically, she looks at exposure to radioactivity through ingestion of shellfish. In this episode, hear about what she’s learned, how she came to study at UC, and why it’s a perfect fit for her.

Inspiring the astro-curious

As a Year-13 student, Rosemary Dorsey’s interest in our solar system was ignited by an outreach event she attended at UC. Now studying towards a PhD in astronomy, she’s returning the favour.

Rosemary’s research focuses on solar system science and characterizing small body populations. She also engages in science outreach to inspire other students to study physics. Hear about her fascinating field and how she’s fostering a new generation of astrophysicists in this episode of UC Science Radio.

Satellites and sea ice

Gateway Antarctica PhD student Rodrigo Gomez-Fell explains what satellite imagery can tell us about sea ice movement, sea level rise and climate change.

Rodrigo’s research focuses on ice tongues – narrow sheets of ice that form at the end of glaciers and move rapidly from the coastline into the ocean. He uses remote sensing data from satellites and other tools to monitor the mass balance, flexure, and movement of ice tongues in Antarctica.

Solving the suicide crisis

Growing up in rural New Zealand, Taylor-Jane Cox felt first-hand the impact of losing people she knew to suicide. Now, she is investigating what’s behind our country’s alarming suicide statistics and seeking solutions to support our most susceptible group – young men.

The truth behind mapping

David Garcia’s research takes the spotlight off maps themselves, and instead shines it onto the people who make and use maps. He’s particularly interested in how people shape maps according to their own biases, and how today’s digital tools can help democratise the production of geographic knowledge.

Computers that think

Josh Mallinson’s PhD goes beyond investigating physical substrates and electrical pathways to furthering our understanding of consciousness itself. With potentially ground-breaking outcomes in terms of energy efficiency, neuromorphic computing is definitely a field worth learning more about. Josh Mallinson enlightens us in this episode of UC Science Radio.

Geomorphology and mātauranga Māori

When a geologist looks at the impact of an earthquake, the natural inclination is to focus on landscape change. But how do these events impact people, and how can Indigenous knowledge inform our response?

When Clare Wilkinson started her PhD, her project was strictly within geology and geomorphology, but her research into how Kaikoura rivers responded to the 2016 earthquake grew her appreciation of the event’s cultural impact and the valuable intersection of mātauranga Māori and western science.

Capturing carbon with seaweed

Finn Ross is an honours student studying ecology. His research is about using seaweed to capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. He won the UC Centre for Entrepreneurship 2019 Social Enterprise Challenge for his business plan based on his research called "The Seaweed Solution." Hear how it works in this episode of UC Science Radio.

The dirt on plastic

We’re all familiar with marine plastic pollution, but what about our productive soils – are they becoming a hotbed of microplastics too?

PhD candidate Helena Ruffell gets out her trowel, tweezers and Fourier-Transform Infrared Spectroscope to shed some light on what’s happening in the ground. Here’s what she’s discovered so far.

Bioplastics from bacteria

Imagine a bioreactor, fuelled by bacteria, that converts harmful methane gas into biodegradable plastic.

That’s the idea behind UC MSc student Flynn Adcock’s research, and the win would be tremendous. Less methane gas wreaking havoc in the atmosphere, and plastic that degrades naturally in the environment. It’s not up and running yet – but it may not be as far away as you think. Hear all about it from Flynn on this episode of UC Science Radio.

Culture, science and storytelling

What do a bicultural virtual field trip, choose-your-own digital volcano adventure and Magma Pop smart phone game all have in common?

They’re three innovative ways to bring scientific research to a general audience. Geoeducation PhD student Dr Sriparna Saha’s research investigates how digital communication tools can make scientific information more accessible and engaging – and ultimately more useful for us all.


Season 1

Episode 12: Igniting the flame of learning

It’s incredible what one conversation with the right person can do. For UC marine biologist Dr John Pirker, it was a kōrero with his neighbour and some of his Ngāi Tahu kaumātua that set him on the path of becoming a scientist. John’s now on a mission to “ignite the flame of learning” in today’s rangatahi. Learn more in our latest episode of UC Science Radio.

Go to Episode 12

Episode 11: The business of science

A wonder gel for wound healing, birth control for possums, and beating antibiotic resistance in cattle worms – it’s all part of the job for UC chemist and entrepreneur Prof Rudi Marquez, on this episode of UC Science Radio.


Episode 10: Science on thin ice

In this episode, award-winning teacher and glaciologist Dr Heather Purdie talks about studying endangered glaciers, research, passion for the environment, and why virtual teaching will never really replace real-life experiences with nature.

Go to Episode 10

Episode 9: Wellbeing at work

If you’ve ever walked in the door and complained about your work, you’re not alone. What if, instead of being a source of stress – our work (and workplaces) were good for us?

In this episode of UC Science Radio, Professor of Psychology Katharina Naswall talks about the world of work in uncertain times, how to reduce stress and increase health and wellbeing in the workplace, and how to make sure it’s good for us.

Go to Episode 9

Episode 8: Words and worlds collide

What’s the difference between a poet and an astronomer? Nothing, if you’re UC astrophysicist Dr Michele Bannister.

Dr Bannister is an expert in the discovery and characterisation of minor planets in the solar system. She’s been involved in the discovery of more than 800 minor planets and even had an asteroid named after her! She’s also an avid creative writer. The poet, planetary astronomer, hunter of new and strange worlds, and self-described ‘connoisseur of fuzzy dots of light’ is our guest on this episode of UC Science Radio.

Go to Episode 8

Episode 7: Micronutrients for the mind

When it comes to food – we often think of our bodies first. But what about our brains? The food we eat, our environment and stress levels all impact our brain function and mental health. In this episode, UC Professor of Clinical Psychology, Julia Rucklidge, discusses the fascinating relationship between nutrients and mental health, and explains the research she’s been doing to help reverse the mental health epidemic.

Go to episode 7

Episode 6: Shedding light on dark matter

Dark matter makes up the majority of the universe but remains a mystery to science. In this episode, physicist Dr Chris Gordon shares his passion for the shadowy substance, and how studying the universe benefits us here on earth – like giving us WiFi and the World Wide Web.

Go to episode 6

Episode 5: Ending our love affair with plastic

Lightweight, strong, waterproof – plastic is a wonder material, but it’s not so wonderful for nature. In this episode, environmental chemist Prof Sally Gaw explains what plastic is doing to our environment, where it’s ending up, and how we can fix the problem.

Go to episode 5

Episode 4: Rocking out with volcanoes

In this episode, award-winning educator, volcanologist and Professor Ben Kennedy discusses his teaching methods and the interactive games he co-developed to engage students in science and technology through educated play. Prof Kennedy also talks about his research into volcanic eruptions and why it’s so hard to predict them.

Go to episode 4

Episode 3: It's like Tinder...for birds!

Conservation geneticist, aka ‘genetic matchmaker’ Assoc Prof Tammy Steeves talks about finding the ideal mate for some of Aotearoa New Zealand's most endangered native species; and about how kindness is changing the way we do science - for the better.

Go to episode 3

Making sense of molecules

Structural chemist Associate Professor Sarah Masters, from the School of Physical and Chemical Sciences, talks about her work as a 'molecular detective': she investigates how molecules behave, what they do, and how we can use them to create everything from new technologies and materials to life-saving vaccines.

Go to Episode 2

Designing cities for better health

Our first guest is Dr Simon Kingham, Professor in Geography at the School of Earth and Environment, and Chief Science Advisor for the Ministry of Transport.  Simon studies people and how we move around our towns and cities.

In this podcast Simon talks about the impact of city spaces on our mental health, why cycleways are thriving in Christchurch, and his role as Chief Science Advisor for the Ministry of Transport.

Go to Episode 1

We’ll be regularly updating this page with new podcasts. Meanwhile, if you have any questions or suggestions feel free to email us: scienceoutreach@canterbury.ac.nz or send us a message on our FacebookInstagram or Twitter. Thanks for listening!