Do you have a curious mind? Do you sometimes daydream about having a PhD in literature, science, or history?

Go inside the minds of PhDs at Harvard University with the Veritalk podcast. Veritalk is produced at Harvard’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. In each three-episode miniseries of Veritalk, you’ll hear how PhD students from different fields are trying to answer really big questions about the world.

Series 3: Monsters

The monsters that live at the edge of humanity, the monsters that live inside us, and the monsters we have made ourselves.


Why isn’t King Kong scaling the Empire State Building right now? Should we worry about Godzilla rising from the depths of the Pacific Ocean? Shane Campbell-Staton, PhD ’15 in Organismic and Evolutionary Biology and co-host of the podcast The Biology of Superheroes, talks about our favorite movie monsters, and some of the biological processes that could make them come to life.

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Some monsters live inside us. PhD candidate in Biological Sciences in Public Health Maddy McFarland studies Trypanosoma cruzi, a parasite that transforms its shape to sneak inside our cells and makes us sick. The scariest part: Our cells can’t signal that they’re infected until it’s too late.

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Mermaids: They’re cute, innocent, and great singers, right? Think again! PhD candidate in Celtic Languages and Literatures Greg Darwin explains why you wouldn’t want to meet a mermaid in a dark aquatic alley. He also talks about selkie tales – and legendary creatures that live at the edge of humanity.

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Series 2: Displacement

Why and how do people get set apart, or set adrift, from their communities? 

Episode 3: The Estranged

PhD graduate in social policy Monica Bell’s interviews with poor youth of color in Baltimore led her to formulate the idea of “legal estrangement.” While the press focuses on a “trust gap” between black youth and the police, Monica believes that the issue is far deeper. Her interviews revealed a generation of young Americans who feel both stateless and powerless.

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Episode 2: The Shipwreck

Argyro Nicolaou has a personal perspective on displacement: Her mother was displaced from her home in Cyprus. Growing up knowing that her mother was from a place she couldn't return to sparked questions for Argyro. What stories do refugees tell about their flight from home? And how do displaced people look back on what they've lost?

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Episode 1: The Rohingya

Very few outsiders have been to Northern Rakhine state, where more than 140,000 Rohingya Muslims are living in internally displaced persons camps. But Cresa Pugh, a PhD student in sociology and social policy, has been there. On this episode of Veritalk, she shares what she's learned about the lives of displaced Rohingya Muslims, and why persecution of the Rohingya continues in Burma.

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Series 1: Plumage

From birds to bling – the very deep reasons behind the most superficial things on earth.

Episode 3: Puttin' on the Ritz

American Studies PhD student Chloe Chapin began her career as a costumer in New York. No matter how hard she tried, she could never find detailed information about menswear from different eras. So she started asking questions: Why is menswear so uniform, while women's fashion embraces all sorts of decorative, embellished outfits? In other words, why is "plumage" so dependent on gender? And what happens when we start to bend those gender rules?

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Episode 2: The Wild Blue Yonder

Victoria Hwang and Annie Stephenson, PhD students in applied physics, use bird plumage as the inspiration for their work on structural color. It turns out that replicating some of nature's most impressive colors is actually pretty tricky.

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Episode 1: Love is a Battlefield

In this episode, PhD student Dakota McCoy, who studies organismic and evolutionary biology, asks why birds of paradise evolved to have brightly colored feathers. Then she asks an even bigger question: Why did some of these brightly colored birds also develop super-black feathers?

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