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The Materialism Podcast: Sharing the Passion for Materials Science

Materialism podcast

We’re sure that many of you already listen to podcasts on a daily or weekly basis. They make your mundane drive to work much more interesting, stimulate your mind while you clean the house and keep you motivated while working out at the gym. But which podcast to listen to if you’re into materials science or engineering?

Recently Matmatch discovered the new podcast online called the Materialism podcast. We listened to all seven episodes on iTunes and were surprised how witty and how curious the podcast was! We couldn’t wait to talk to podcast creators and hosts Taylor and Andrew. Here’s their story…

About the Materialism podcast

In this podcast, Taylor Sparks and Andrew Falkowski are investigating materials science and engineering by exploring cutting edge materials technology, the history of different materials, the commercialization of new materials, and exciting advances in processing and characterization.

Materialism podcast covers things like the unlikely discovery of superglue or Teflon and also reveals the fascinating backstories about modern biomaterials like dialysis filters, we’ll update you on exciting new technologies including wearable electronics, next-generation batteries, and nanomaterials. In short, Materialism project hopes to help listeners understand the critical role that materials have played in society and even glimpse into what the future may hold for new materials.

Meet the Materialism Hosts

Taylor: I’m an Associate Professor of Materials Science & Engineering at the University of Utah. I’m a Utah native and an alumnus of the same department I now teach in. My research group focuses on materials discovery of energy materials. When I’m not in the lab I love rock climbing and canyoneering. 

Taylor Sparks, associate professor of materials science & engineering at University of Utah
Taylor Sparks, associate professor of materials science & engineering at University of Utah

Andrew: I am a 3rd-year undergraduate student studying materials science and engineering at the University of Utah. A fascination with the world around me led me to choose materials science and engineering as my field of study. I am interested in using computational methods to explore new, more advanced materials. Outside of school, I enjoy hiking and camping around Idaho and Utah. 

Andrew Falkowski, co-creator and co-host of the Materialism Podcast
Andrew Falkowski, co-creator and co-host of the Materialism Podcast

And can you explain what the Materialism podcast is all about? 

Materialism is an exploration of the past, present, and future of materials science and engineering. We attempt to capture the breadth of materials science by rotating through five topic areas: materials history, commercialization, new materials, processing, material characterization techniques.

Episodes start with a brief introduction to the materials science concepts involved in the show topic and then transition to a more in-depth discussion towards the end of the episode. So far we have covered topics such as the history of steel, synthesizing materials in microwaves, and more recently the materials science involved in making chocolate.   

Andrew Falkowski, co-creator and co-host of the Materialism Podcast

Why did you start the podcast? 

Materialism was started out of a desire to share our passion for materials science by making the knowledge more accessible to those who are interested.  

Andrew: I remember as a freshman wanting to learn more about materials science, but not having the experience necessary to take the literature head-on.  

What started as a conversation about the limited amount of resources for people to learn more about materials science, quickly morphed into the idea to start a podcast about the field. There were podcasts that occasionally covered materials science topics at the time, but these episodes presented the information in a technical manner. We saw this gap as an opportunity to make a podcast dedicated to materials science that could attract a wide audience.  

  • Introduction to Materialism: “Meet the Hosts and Learn What to Expect in This Podcast”
  • Episode 1: “The History of Steel. The Fascinating Story Behind The Most Important Engineering Material of All Time”
  • Episode 2: “Materials Commercialization: Batch 21. A New Green Surfactant For The Skin Care Industry”
  • Episode 3: Making Materials in a Microwave or in other words, The Many Kitchen Microwaves Who Gave Their Lives For Science”

Do you have a favourite episode so far? 

Andrew:  My favourite episode is probably our most recent episode on the materials science behind chocolate. While researching for this episode, I was blown away by how sophisticated the process for making this seemingly everyday food is. I think episodes on everyday materials are really helpful for illustrating materials science concepts because everyone has personal experience with them. 

Materialism podcast

Taylor: Even though it was our first episode and we were still tuning some aspects of the show like length, format, and depth, I really enjoyed the episode on the history of steel. It’s just incredible how civilization has been intimately tied to this material. Wars between nations, questions about the fundamental limitations of government, the first joint-stock industry venture, and fundamental transformations in the way we live and move. Steel has driven all of this. 

What do you want to achieve with the Materialismpodcast? 

We hope that we can expose people to new information about materials science and inspire their curiosity about the materials that make up the world around them. 

Taylor: Podcasts are a really cool and growing format for learning. I love learning new things while exercising, hiking, or even commuting. However, we wanted to avoid the traditional interview format where a professor or inventor would immediately dive into highly technical details of what they did without ever explaining why they did it or why a listener should even care.  

  • Episode 4: “Turning Heat into Electricity. Will a Surge in New Thermoelectric Materials Research Translate to Major Advances or Not?”
  • Episode 5: “Solving Structures with X-Rays. The Tool That Revolutionized Materials Science”
  • Episode 6: “Hemodialysis and the Birth of Artificial Organs. In Nazi-occupied Netherlands an Incredible Breakthrough Occurred”
  • Episode 7: “Gore-Tex: Structuring a Company like a Material”

Tell us about your future plans for the podcast

The podcast is still very new, but that has not stopped us from defining goals and thinking about where to go next. As we have grown, we have started to form a small community around our podcast. Our listeners have given us a lot of feedback and pitched some great ideas for future episodes.

Materialism

As we wrap up the first year of the podcast, we hope to build this community further and increase our interaction with them. In the latest episode, we introduced a Q&A segment where we answer questions sent in by our listeners. Additionally, we plan on adding some supplementary materials to go along with each episode for those who want to learn more about a particular topic.

This is only a glimpse into the future of Materialism. We have a lot of ideas for the future and we are excited to see how the show and our community grow over the coming months.  

Where can we listen to your podcast? 

The podcast is available on all major platforms including iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, and more. We announce new episodes on our Instagram page, @Materialism.Podcast, and on the r/materials subreddit.  

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