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 6: Sensing

How we taste, smell, feel, and see the world. 

Episode 1: It's All within Reach

But how do our brains understand what our eyes are telling us? And how do we know what's surrounding us, where we can move, and what objects are within reach? Emilie Josephs, a PhD student at the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, is discovering that the way our brain processes vision is even more complex than scientists initially thought.

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Episode 2: Squish goes the robot!

Ryan Truby, an alum of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences has created bio-inspired soft robots that can squish, stretch, and feel their way around the world—and they have the potential to change how we understand robotics.

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Episode 3: Flavor on the Brain

When you taste the subtle flavor of a perfectly brewed cup of coffee, or smell the funk of an aged blue cheese—you don’t just experience those flavors with your taste buds and nose, you experience them with your brain! Neuroscience PhD Jess Kanwal says that our brain’s ability to combine taste and smell is just one example of how our brains are able to mix and match senses—with very interesting results.

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Series 5: Food

From chicken tikka masala to yogurt to "franken-meat" — the latest research from Harvard students on the foods we eat every day.


After moving to the US from Mauritius, PhD candidate in Romance Languages and Literatures Nikhita Obeegadoo felt homesick. Her experience eating a bowl of dal (spiced lentils) in the US led her to ask questions about food and diaspora, cultural appreciation, and cultural appropriation.

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When you think “vegan” you probably think of activists railing against wearing leather and chowing down on raw tofu — not entrepreneurs offering up the latest foodie trends. Nina Gheihman, a PhD candidate in sociology, explores food trends from “franken-meat” to “plant-based diets” – and why climate change means that we’ll all be eating more plants very soon, whether we like it or not.

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Before you pick up that $30 bottle of probiotics, listen to PhD candidates Cary Allen-Blevins and Vayu Maini Rekdal. It’s true that healthy bacteria make for a healthy gut – but scientists are still learning about how microbes help us break down our food – from our “first food” (breast milk) to meat and veggies. 

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Before she became a PhD candidate in Population Health Sciences, Hannah Cory was on the front lines of the childhood obesity epidemic, working as a dietitian in a public school system. But she noticed that simply educating teens about nutrition and exercise wasn’t having a big impact on their health. Now, Hannah’s research seeks to uncover the connection between fat-phobia, racism, and obesity in the US.

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Series 4: Cities

The secret lives of cities: From Manila to Boston to Lagos.

4.1: Hello, you've reached . . . manila?

One jet-lagged night in Manila leads PhD candidate Justin Stern into the world of business process outsourcing.


4.2: Pothole politics

Everyone hates potholes – except PhD candidate Elijah de la Campa. Elijah uses potholes to understand why some citizens interact with local government, and others don’t.

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4.3: Who owns the night?

When developers try to revitalize the nightlife in Johannesburg, not everyone is invited to the party. PhD candidate Chrystel Oloukoi explores the ways that race, gender, and class shape the nightlife culture in Johannesburg and Lagos. 

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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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