Getting your chemistry fix shouldn't always involve textbooks and journal papers. What if you could send spectacular chemistry content straight to your brain while you're driving, walking or synthesizing chemicals in the lab?
We've got you. Below are our favorite chemistry podcasts in 2020, in no particular order. There's a huge variety here, from hardcore technical details to learning fun chemistry facts in everyday life. We even fully hyperlinked every place to listen and follow on social media.
1. Chemistry For Your Life Podcast
Episode length: 20-40 minutes
An enjoyable discussion about how things in our daily lives are influenced by chemistry. Melissa, the chemist, explains the technical aspects to Jam, the non-chemist, while he actively tries to understand it and ask his own questions that often represent misconceptions or knowledge gaps that non-chemists may have. There's also an occasional episode for learning to do chemistry outreach experiments at home. It's incredibly easy to listen to and digest. Plus, it'll help you sharpen your chemistry education and communication skills when trying to explain these topics to your friends or family. It's a weekly exercise in science communication that'll help you learn more about the chemistry in your world.
Best for: Exploring an early interest in chemistry or helping you get someone else fired up about the field.
2. Chemistry in its element:
Episode length: 5-7 minutes
Stretching back to 2008, this element-focused podcast covered the periodic table by 2010 and has since started covering basic compounds. Still going strong in 2020, these 6-8 minute episodes are perfect bite-sized introductions to each element or compound and its history, uses and other interesting facts about its role in our every-day lives. The varied hosts do an excellent job of packing well-supported information into short episodes that anyone can understand. One way to nerd out is their website that has an interactive periodic table
where you can click on the element to hear the podcast!
Best for: Having the best facts of the day when talking to your chemistry colleagues.
3. Chemistry World Book Club Podcast
Episode length: 15-25 minutes
Good chemistry-themed books can be hard to find. The host leads two technically-knowledgeable reviewers in analyzing a new chemistry-themed book in every episode. The books aren't always heavily technical - some tell wonderful stories about the history of chemistry or do a deep dive on a chemistry topic that affects our daily lives. The hosts often include short interviews with the author and read excerpts to help you get a feel for the style and content. Binge listen to these episodes and you'll end up with a reading list 20-30 books long!
Best for: Building your reading list with chemistry-focused books.
4. Distillations Podcast:
Episode length: 20-30 minutes
Not specifically a chemistry podcast, but this podcast sponsored by the Science History Institute has many chemistry-focused and cross-functional episodes that any chemist would love. Their podcast format includes both direct interviews and story-telling science history lessons using testimonials which are both incredibly well-produced and fun to listen to. Our favorites include a deep dives on chemical weapons, the chemistry of old age and their newer interview series with influential scientists about the pandemic. They also have excellent transcripts and credits on the Distillations website
Best for: Getting your science fix on your way to work with wide-ranging topics.
5. Orbitals Podcast by the American Chemical Society:
Episode length: 5-22 minutes
Excellent production quality in short-form story-telling format. The host, Samantha Jones, typically interviews one or more experts in a field in a style that will be familiar to NPR podcast listeners. The host's background is in biomedical sciences so most of the episodes relate to the chemistry of drugs, toxicology and diseases, but you'll find a few pure chemistry gems in there as well.
Best for: Casual listening to pick up interesting tidbits on drugs, diseases and biochemistry.
6. C&EN's Stereo Chemistry Podcast:
Episode length: 15-40 minutes
C&EN is the news magazine of the American Chemical Society and this relatively new podcast (from 2018) is active and getting better every month. Stereo Chemistry covers a huge range of topics that keep it fresh and interesting from technical advancements and chemistry history to challenges for chemists outside of research like mental health, networking and cultural changes in the chemistry field. The information is well-communicated and typically organized into a story format with sound bytes from various interviewees. They also have excellent accessible transcripts and imagery available on their website
Best for: Keeping up with relevant topics in chemistry news and culture.
7. C&EN's Chemistry Update:
Episode length: 2-3 minutes
OK, so this one's not really a podcast, but close enough. C&EN launched a 3-minute daily chemistry news briefing
that can be triggered automatically with an Alexa app, Amazon Echo smart speaker or Google Home smart speaker. For example, just say “OK, Google. Play the podcast Chemistry Update.” You'll get a few short news briefs of developments in chemistry research or manufacturing to keep you up to date on advancement and changes in the field. Add it to your morning routine and you'll be a wealth of chemistry news in no time.
Best for: Advanced students, professors and professionals with a serious interest in the field who would love to get updates while brushing their teeth.
8. Chemistry Cayk Online Podcast
Episode length: 30-60 minutes
This podcast stands out in uniqueness and entertainment value because the host "Cayk" keeps things humorous while still getting into plenty of technical details on the research of their guests. The format tends toward a friendly chat about interesting topics in chemistry research and is broken up with funny bite-sized mini-series episodes like the chemistry of tea or the polarizing debate on what constitutes a cake. The first season focused on Organic Chemistry and Season 2 started this Fall with a focus on Biochemistry. We're excited to see where this relatively new podcast goes and suggest you follow along!
Best for: Late-college and graduate students in chemistry looking to learn about topics in other sub-specialties and navigating the culture of the chemistry profession.
9. The Periodic Bagel Podcast
Episode length: 30-60 minutes
A very un-serious take on chemistry in academia and industry. Any topic is fair game when guests ranging from chemistry professors to chemical company executives to the editor-in-chief of Nature Chemistry come on the show. The hosts, Chemistry Professor Dr. Alex Goldberg and Chemist/blogger "Chemjobber", periodically cycle between entertaining personal quips and deeply technical chemistry conversations exploring different dimensions of culture and experiences in the chemistry field. This one is fairly new (October 2019) and has huge potential given the reputation of the hosts and the network they can draw from to give the audience wildly fun and interesting chemistry chats.
Best for: Chemistry professors, postdocs and industry professionals who want to get to know their colleagues and the culture in their field.
10. Chemistry in Everyday Life
Episode length: 10-20 minutes
The host Johannes Vogel seems exceptionally talented at podcasting and in explaining complex chemistry subjects in an easy-to-understand way. As another new podcast in 2020, this one is surprisingly polished and vaults to the top of our personal SciComm favorites. Johannes explores everyday curiosities from why cut onions make you cry to our close call with CFC's and the ozone layer in the 1980's. He presents the history and chemistry involved in concise story-telling format and leaves relevant citations and further reading in the show notes for further reading. It's always an enjoyable listen and easy way to learn more about chemistry in your everyday life.
Best for: Anyone with a genuine interest in learning more about their world and especially the role that chemistry plays in it.
11. My Fave Queer Chemist
Episode length: 30-45 minutes
This is a podcast that the chemistry field truly needed. Bec and Geraldo are taking it upon themselves to build a visible community of LGBTQ+ chemists to support each other and explore the cultures of inclusiveness (or lack thereof) at institutions around the world. They touch briefly on the research topics of their guests but focus more on their varied experiences finding community at their institution. The guests are usually graduate students, post-docs or professors in chemistry and are refreshingly open about the challenges they face. Listen in to learn how you can become a better ally, to start building an LGBTQ+ support network, or to gather ideas for making your institution more LGBTQ+ friendly.
Best for: Academia-focused chemists in this LGBTQ+ community or those who want to become better allies by understanding the challenges they face.
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