The Free Energy Interviews: Scientists and Journalists Collaborate in a Cross-Disciplinary Research Journey


  • Susan L. Rowland
  • Ann Damien
  • Kurt T. K. Giuliani
  • John Harrison
  • Makerita T. N. Ieremia
  • Mahitha Ramakrishna
  • Carl L. E. Smith
  • Clarissa B. G. Wilson


Many students in high schools and universities view science and scientists as “other”. Students have few mechanisms that they can use to access information about “who” a real scientist is, and “what” they do all day. In 2010 we began a project to address this information gap by (i) producing a series of recorded interviews with working science graduates and (ii) supplying these to undergraduate students in a large mixed-interest biochemistry class. We named the project “Free Energy”. Initially a science academic interviewed other scientists alone, however in the second iteration we included student interviewers as well. To obtain course credit these students, who are all co-authors on this paper, used Free Energy as the basis for their Summer Undergraduate Research Experiences. We present a description of the development and delivery of Free Energy and explain how we used it as the subject of student research projects in a Science faculty. We also explain what we as academics and student interviewers have learned from the process of interviewing science graduates in a working radio studio and delivering these recorded interviews to large groups of undergraduate students.






Published paper