Radio in the lab: 5 podcasts for graduate students

written by Dr. Yuqing Wang
 Photo credit: Rebecca Li

When I was in graduate school, my commute to and from the lab was an hour long. As you may know, entertainment options are scarce on the subway, apart from newspapers and Candy Crush. On one fateful day, having exhausted the paper and finding two typos in one article, I was faced with the prospect of staring at a businessman slowly falling asleep with his mouth open for the rest of the trip. I had to do something more useful, and that was how I entered the world of podcasts. Compared to more traditional media outlets and news agencies, podcasts have several advantages: 1) they’re free; 2) episodes can be easily stored and accessed offline; and 3) there’s a podcast for any subject you can dream of. Besides saving me from the boredom of an endless commute, podcasts have also taught me a thing or two about personal development.

If you want to get into the world of podcasts but don’t know where to start, I have hand-picked some to ease you into the magical realm of audio entertainment. Many podcasts focus on personal and career development as these are areas of active interest for many podcast fans. This list will give you a taste and feel for the types of podcasts that are out there. Once you’ve given them a listen, don’t be afraid to hit the “Discover” button on your podcast app to see what else is out there.

The Art of Charm

Host: Jordan Harbinger

Duration: 10 to 50 minutes

The Art of Charm calls itself a lifestyle podcast. Host Jordan Harbinger interviews authors, professors, and CEOs, basically anyone who has something valuable to say about lifestyle and career development. The interviews are laidback and conversational. Each episode revolves around one theme, such as “Discipline Mastery”, “Resilience”, and my favourite, “Essentialism”. Disclaimer: the guests usually have a hidden agenda (i.e. book promotion), but if you can look past that, they do offer good advice for those who are interested in self-improvement.

Graduate Job Podcast

Host: James Curran

Duration: 30 to 50 minutes

The Graduate Job Podcast was created by host James Curran, who has been on “both sides of the graduate recruitment fence” and understands the knowledge gap between applicants and what companies expect. James interviews one guest per episode and topics include “how to use a recruitment agency”, “how to get a job in content marketing”, and even “how to get a job as a prison officer”. Keep in mind that James is based in the UK, so some of the content may not be applicable if you are searching for a job in Canada.

Photo credit: Rebecca Li

Side Hustle School

Host: Chris Guillebeau

Duration: Under 10 minutes

Side Hustle School is all about teaching you how to make some extra money on the side. Every day, host Chris Guillebeau introduces you to a side hustle job along with an important takeaway message in just few minutes. No long, drawn-out conversations or awkward guests fiddling with their microphone, Chris is always straight to the point. This podcast is great for those who are entrepreneurs at heart but are too afraid to take the plunge. As a bonus, if you appreciate a website with beautiful design, make sure to check out their website: each episode comes with an infographic-style show note that will tug at a designer’s heartstring.


Host: Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich

Duration: 10 to 60 minutes

In production since 2001, Radiolab has become the epitome of good story-telling. In stark contrast to “Side Hustle School”, Jad and Robert are not afraid to take their time telling a good story. Each episode, the hosts lay the ground work to introduce a topic, anything from science to politics, and then take a deep dive into that topic. Radiolab is truly an inspiration for those who want to improve their presentation skills and communication techniques. Check out episodes like “Alpha Gal”, “CRISPR”, or “Cellmates”, and you will know what I mean. Just make sure you have enough time to listen to the entire episode because once you start, you won’t want to stop.

Science Friday

Host: Ira Flatow

Duration: around 30 minutes

Science Friday is a podcast for those who need more science in their life. It is a rare example of a science podcast done right: interesting stories that are scientifically faithful with production values to match any other podcast out there. Each episode may cover one or more topics as host Ira Flatow interviews scientific experts in the field. Their latest episodes have covered wildflowers in the US, the BP oil spill, and robotic life rafts. This podcast is perfect for those who want to stay on top of the hot topics in science but don’t have time to read mounds of journal articles about each of them.

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