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Jul 09
Microgreens is Back!

Microgreens Logo_200x200.jpg

Microgreens, the official podcast of the MPMI journal, is back! The latest episode, “The MPMI Top 10 List," transports listeners all the way to Glasgow, Scotland, to share the story behind the selection of MPMI's Top 10 Unanswered Questions. Listen to the podcast here or find Microgreens on your preferred podcast platform. Keep reading to find out more about podcast producer and editor Raka Mitra, who shares her experiences with Microgreens and gives a sneak peek at what's next for the podcast.

1) Tell us about yourself and why you were interested in starting Microgreens?

For many of us who listen to podcasts, they help fill the spaces in between: when we are commuting, walking the dog, exercising. For me, I have a 45-minute drive to work from Minneapolis, where I live, to the small town of Northfield, Minnesota, where I work as a professor at Carleton College. I listen to podcasts on the drive. Although I love science and learning about new things, I found myself gravitating to non-scientific podcasts: This American Life, Mom and Dad are Fighting, Heavyweight. Each time I would try to listen to a scientific podcast, it wouldn't resonate with me in the way that these other podcasts did.

raka200x200 - caption.jpgOnce I got tenure, I decided it was time to take some career risks that I might not have otherwise undertaken. I love teaching and working with students. In the classroom, much of a professor's job is to be a storyteller of science. So, I thought, maybe if there isn't a science podcast I love, maybe I should make one. In 2018, I signed up for a podcast bootcamp in Brooklyn, New York, where I met a wonderful mix of reporters, artists, and storytellers. This was the summer when there was a solar eclipse that was viewable in the US. Our first assignment was to go out on the street, interview people, and make a short podcast about the eclipse. I was the only scientist in the bootcamp, and I had brought eclipse viewing glasses because I had planned to duck out and watch the eclipse by myself. I happened to be sitting next to a woman from Vermont Public Radio, and we teamed up with another reporter and hit the streets of Brooklyn equipped with my solar eclipse glasses. I handed them out to kids, to older folks, and asked them what they saw. The whole experience was amazing. Regular, everyday people were enthralled by the eclipse that was happening right in front of them. They had made makeshift “glasses" of their own, whether with x-ray film, or through school projects. My experiences that day really resonated with my belief that science is for everyone.

I spent a lot of time learning how to record audio and how to develop stories, with various uncompleted projects until I met with Jeanne Harris, who I had known since my grad student days. She was the postdoc who trained me as a rotation student in Sharon Long's lab. We were at dinner, and she was talking about how she was becoming editor-in-chief of MPMI. I realized that this was my moment to pitch a podcast, so I did. I suggested to Jeanne that we make a scientific storytelling podcast aimed at engaging graduate students and beyond. This meant that we needed a podcast that was comprehensible to anyone with an undergraduate degree in the sciences. It would help bring newer members of the plant-microbe community into MPMI and might also engage listeners outside the scientific community. I told her that I had never done this, but that I had ideas, a bit of training, and would work hard. I'm happy that Jeanne took a chance on me. We started Microgreens before the 2019 IS-MPMI congress in Glasgow, which was my own crash course in podcasting, and it has been a fun ride. I love how much I'm learning, and how much it pushes me outside my comfort zone. I know that my podcasts are not nearly as fantastic as those that I regularly listen to and love, but I am I am proud of them, and I hope that they resonate with others.

2) What was it like producing the first two episodes in 2019?

It felt a lot like the beginning of graduate school, honestly. I was learning to do something as I was doing it. In grad school, that was research. For Microgreens, that was podcasting. I am exceptionally grateful for everyone who helped. I did not do any of this alone. APS had wonderful staff including Greg Grahek and Ashley Carlin who helped with the “media" side of things. Jeanne Harris is a solid leader who trusted me and gave me resources that I didn't know I even needed. My undergraduate student, Clare Gaughan, designed the Microgreens logo. And so many people in the scientific community gave me their time to make this whole thing possible. One of my goals in launching this podcast was to highlight the diversity of individuals who work in this field. I have many hours of audio to release from conversations with a range of people in MPMI. Every conversation I had was fascinating, and I feel so lucky to be part of the MPMI community.

3) You've just released the third episode in July. Why the long pause?

In a word: Pandemic. I know everyone will remember this time in a different way. But one commonality was that we had to make tough choices regularly. We had to be nimble, forward-thinking, careful, resourceful, and tireless. The list goes on. In that time, everyone had to develop a list of priorities and stick to them. For me, I had to put things that I loved, but were not at the “core" of what I had to do, on the back burner. I had to instead make the time to develop online courses and labs in cell biology and microbiology. I had to pivot my research group to computational investigations rather than working in the wet lab. We had Zoom meetings with collaborators and submitted a manuscript that was accepted for publication in Phytopathology. Outside of my career, there was so much to do to keep everyone that I cared about safe from harm. There still is. So as much as I loved it, Microgreens had to wait.

4) What's next for Microgreens? What do listeners have to look forward to?

I am very excited to announce that we plan to release a new Microgreens episode every month from now on. Integral to this whole effort is the addition of another podcast host, Tess Deyett. Tess is an Assistant Feature Editor for MPMI and had developed her own podcast, The Microbe Moment, before joining the MPMI team. She has been a wonderful partner who I can bounce ideas off and ask for advice. Tess has a lovely voice of her own, and you will hear more from her in the future. I hope you enjoy her stories as much as I do.

I love how many people are listening to this podcast. We just released the third episode of the podcast yesterday and have already had about 100 downloads.  The second episode of the series has had over 2,200 downloads. For those who want to keep listening, please subscribe so you'll get new episodes as they are released. We're on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Google Podcasts, and a host of other streaming services. Also, get in touch if you have a podcast idea or are interested in sharing your own stories. We'd love to feature more voices from the MPMI community.

If you'd like to connect with Raka Mitra, send an email to

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