Planet PhD
Alex Kolliari-Turner: steroid use, muscle memory & performance bans in competitive sport

Alex Kolliari-Turner: steroid use, muscle memory & performance bans in competitive sport

October 21, 2019

In this episode we speak to Alex Kolliari-Turner about his research at the University of Brighton. Alex studies how using anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS) can cause a 'muscle memory' effect where muscle fibres retain a greater number of myonuclei - potentially leading to enhanced athletic performance far into the future. We discuss what this could mean for the length of performance bans in competitive sports. 

We also speak about the widespread issue of doping in sports, a famous case of using guinea-pig testicular extract to enhance vigour, and even the use of performance-enhancing substances by the ancient Romans. 

Alex is addressing a scarcity of human participant research that is crucial for this field - see below for how to get in touch if you're interested in contributing to this exciting research.

***RECRUITMENT CALL!*** Alex' next sampling weekend is coming up on 26, 27 and 28 October! Find out more on his Facebook page and please get in touch with Alex ( if you're interested in participating. As we discuss in the podcast, it's fun and you get body mapping info and images of your muscle fibres as a reward!

NB: There are also sampling dates for 2020, so if you can't make it this weekend ask Alex about the 2020 dates.

Georgia Orton: Hydrogen producing enzymes

Georgia Orton: Hydrogen producing enzymes

October 14, 2019

In this weeks episode we travel to London where we interview Georgia Orton from the University of Kings.

Georgia tells us about her work on catalysts for proton reduction and hydrogen oxidation. You can hear her explain what this means and hear us struggling to understand her talk about anything that's smaller than a bee!

We learn how chemists work with highly reactive chemicals and how it's so important to keep a cool head. 

Stay tuned for some talk about hydrogen fuel cells, chemistry's place in creating clean energy and Gigi not understanding how electricity works. 



Follow Georgia on Twitter @GeorgiaRFO

Domhnall Finch: bats bats bats

Domhnall Finch: bats bats bats

October 7, 2019

This week we talk to Domhnall Finch from the University of Sussex about bats, and how landscape features such as hedgerows, roads and lighting affect the rare greater horseshoe bat. We ask how our changing landscapes are affecting our only flying mammal, and Domhnall tells us about his data collection both monitoring greater horseshoe populations in underground caves, and investigating how bat activity is affected by road traffic noise.

For a Planet PhD first, we bring a debate point to the podcast: do we actually need bats? (no spoilers.... but tequila)

We discover that not all bats hang upside down, we confirm that everything comes back to insects, and (in the outtakes) we learn how to pronounce ‘Domhnall’.

Find out more about Domhnall’s research on his Twitter and Instagram: @Domhnallfinch

Jason Preston: fatherhood in the modern world

Jason Preston: fatherhood in the modern world

September 30, 2019

Jason Preston from the University of Brighton is studying men’s experiences of fatherhood in multiple settings. In this episode we discuss current expectations of fatherhood and how these have changed, traditional father stereotypes, and Jason’s ongoing research into men’s experiences of being a father in the modern world.

We also talk about media influences on concepts of fatherhood, including harmful advertising, including a recently banned Philadelphia ad; the time Piers Morgan was pied by Harry Hill after his comments on a photo of Daniel Craig with a papoose; and how Jamie Oliver has helped to change men’s perceptions of cooking. We discuss paternity leave and the role of the state, and Jason's findings as he speaks to fathers in Brighton as part of his research. He gives us his tips on PhD life - beating writers' block, keeping a healthy PhD life, and the importance of a cup of tea and biscuits.

Jason also mentions The gender wars of household chores: a feminist comic and a controversial ad for Alexa - listen in for more on these.

Planet PhD Series 2: Summer Bee-cap

Planet PhD Series 2: Summer Bee-cap

September 23, 2019

In this episode we recap on what we’ve been up to over the summer (hint – not on holiday), and introduce the second series of Planet PhD, starting next week.

Included in our summer beecap are bee stings and cow-related misadventures, fieldwork highs and lows, and some of what we’ve learned along the way (including that bumblebees aren’t as smart as we thought). We discuss the risk of burn-out during data collection and how to avoid it.

.....coming up in this series! We talk anabolic steroids, horseshoe bats, fatherhood in the modern world, colour vision in fish, how lemons affect how you see your body, and much more. Tune in next week, and find us on our Twitter/Instagram: @PlanetPhD

Bruna Abreu: Green chemistry and drug synthesis

Bruna Abreu: Green chemistry and drug synthesis

June 24, 2019

In this weeks episode we chat to Bruna Abreu from the University of Nottingham about her research in the synthesis of analogues of the antimalarial drug Artemisinin using flow chemistry techniques.

Bruna obtained her bachelor degree in Chemistry at the University of São Paulo in Brazil, where she did research in the synthesis of natural products. She then did a placement at Cambridge University where she learned about flow chemistry.

Listen to hear Veronica and Gigi struggle to grasp even the simplest chemical jargon, all about green chemistry and why it's so important and some pretty crazy stories which are bound to arise when you work with highly flammable chemicals...


The Importance of a PhD Community

The Importance of a PhD Community

June 18, 2019

Today we're talking about the importance of being part of a PhD community during a doctorate, in our second themed episode. 

Our guests are experts on this theme - Karolina and Abi are both Research Hive Scholars at the University of Sussex, where they work to build the PhD community. We discuss what makes a community, why being part of one is so important during your doctorate, and how this can help to counteract isolation and other issues that can often cause mental ill-health in PhD students.

The Hive Scholars tell us how they work to build a community at Sussex through (e.g.) various events, a series of peer-led talks on common issues, and maintaining a social media presence. They tell us what they've found to be most successful and why; and we also get a bit Grand Designs-happy and plan the dream PhD community space...


Follow the Hive Scholars on Twitter @sussexreshive and read their brilliant blog


Veronica Wignall: Garden centres & pollinator-friendly planting - a missed opportunity?

Veronica Wignall: Garden centres & pollinator-friendly planting - a missed opportunity?

June 10, 2019

This week we mix things up a bit and Gigi interviews Veronica about pollinator-friendly planting, following the publication of some exciting new research1 last week. The research is mainly exciting because it's V's first ever published paper... but the findings are pretty interesting too.

In the new study, Veronica and co-authors (omg) aimed to find out how people currently feel about bees and other pollinators, and whether they're interested in pollinator-friendly planting. They simultaneously wanted to discover if garden centres, huge hubs of plant retail, are playing an active role in facilitating planting for pollinators. No spoilers.... but you might have already guessed that most people LOVE bees. 

Find out why gardens are massively & increasingly important for pollinating insects, how you can help pollinators, and join in on our call to action for garden centres to help everyone's outdoor space become more pollinator-friendly.

We also speak about the fun fun publishing game, and V uses her (obviously vast) experience to pass on some advice on how to make the whole process marginally less painful.


1. Wignall et al. (2019) Garden centre customer attitudes towards pollinators and pollinator-friendly planting. Peer J 7:e7088. 10.7717/peerj.7088

Vanessa Hennessy: Modifying memories & preventing PTSD

Vanessa Hennessy: Modifying memories & preventing PTSD

June 3, 2019

Our special guest this week is a PhD student with University College London’s Clinical Psychopharmacology Unit, and also Gigi’s mum! Vanessa researches how biological, physiological and behavioural factors can affect susceptibility to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); as well as how modifying memory formation can prevent or reduce the distress that comes with PTSD.

We talk about the prevalence of PTSD in war-torn areas and the need for new therapies, the surprising ways in which susceptibility to developing PTSD is affected by the female menstrual cycle, the trials Vanessa conducts to investigate vulnerability in healthy participants including her husband, and what and who inspired her to complete her under- and postgraduate studies following her first career. Stay tuned for the outtakes in which Veronica accidentally offends Vanessa - and Gigi and Veronica both experience (positive) intrusive memories.

Vanessa is funded by the charity Find a Better Way, founded by Sir Bobby Charlton, who work to assist people affected by conflict, in particular the damage caused by landmines. Follow FABW on Twitter: @FindABetterWay

Joe Millard: Pollinator biodiversity in a changing world

Joe Millard: Pollinator biodiversity in a changing world

May 26, 2019

In this episode we chat to Joe Millard all about his work on pollinator biodiversity. Don't worry, it's not just about bees!

Joe is a computational ecologist based at University College London and the Institute of Zoology, studying the causes and consequences of global pollinator biodiversity change.

We discuss what biodiversity actually means, all the crazy different pollinator species (spoiler, Justin Bieber is apparently not a pollinator), and you can hear a room full of pollinator PhD students struggle with some key important facts. 

We don't just cover Joe's PhD topic but he gives us some tip tips about working before starting a PhD and how to save the big bucks on tinned tomatoes. 

Joe's PhD is funded by the London NERC DTP, with a contribution from the RSPB under a CASE studenstship.


Follow Joe on twitter @millard_joe