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Podcasts showcase stories, science and secrets behind UW-Madison research

February 4, 2016 By Lika Balenovich

Imagine getting an intimate sneak peek at the research happening behind the scenes at one of the world’s largest research universities, as well as a glimpse at the human stories behind that research. Did we mention you can do it on your smartphone?

On Jan. 25, UW–Madison’s Division of Continuing Studies launched the Science Narratives Project, which will offer free learning experiences to a broad audience, making use of UW–Madison expertise. Stories will be shared in the form of audio and video podcasts focused on cutting-edge science and social science research and the human stories behind it.

The podcasts won’t be lectures, but fully produced, mini feature narratives.

The first season of Science Narratives addresses social robotics and highlights the work of Bilge Mutlu, associate professor of robotics in the Department of Computer Sciences and director of the Wisconsin Human-Computer Interaction Lab. Mutlu and his colleagues use human-centered principles and methods for designing robotic technologies.

Mutlu, a former product designer, became inspired to think about how robotics technologies could be applied to solve human problems — and about how we must understand people’s lives to better design technology. He looks forward to sharing his work through Science Narratives.

“I would like to let people outside our scientific communities know what problems we are working on and where the state of the science and technology is,” Mutlu says. “We want to know what people who we are designing and envisioning our technologies for think about it, what their expectations and values are, and what they would like to see.”

Each Science Narratives season consists of five 3- to 5-minute video podcasts released monthly, some of which will be accompanied by longer audio podcasts. Season one will span January to May, 2016. This season’s audio podcasts will take a deeper look at concepts discussed in the videos. The first of these podcasts, The Amazing Gaze, is now available on the Science Narratives website and on iTunes.


Another important goal of the project is to use the podcasts to help faculty meet some of the outreach requirements of their grants in a new way, through digital channels and short media, according to Mary Thompson, assistant dean of academic affairs in the Division of Continuing Studies.

“We want to provide a digital space for our faculty to share their research through stories that matter. We hope viewers and listeners will be delighted to learn more about the vast array of research at UW and leave wanting more, because we have piqued their intellectual curiosity,” says Thompson.

“Faculty with funded research can disseminate their research and meet certain broader impacts requirements with Science Narratives. At the same time, the Division of Continuing Studies will provide a new venue for lifelong learning,” she says.

Science Narratives is a collaborative project of the Division of Continuing Studies, DoIT Academic Technology and

Watch Episode 1: Birth of the Bots