On Air

Scientific literacy for everyday: Sherry Chen & Kian Kousha - Volunteering @ CFMU

Blog/FavouritesSeptember 17th 2019
Olivia Fava

We wanted to remind people that science is being studied for a reason, and that reason is being forgotten. Sci-Section is about that reason.

Volunteering @ CFMU is a feature series going in-depth with our volunteers on their work at CFMU and how it has shaped their lives. Our over 160 volunteers are a diverse group with a wide mix of backgrounds, skills, and aspirations, and this series celebrates the unique relationships they have with us. For the feature series on CFMU alumni, see Life with Campus Radio. Want to join the fun? Fill out a new volunteer application here!

Warning: This installment of Volunteering @ CFMU contains science puns. Proceed with carbon, gold, titanium, oxygen, and nitrogen (CAuTiON).

You may know CFMU as a platform for local arts and music. But did you know that, much like Sagittarius A*, we’re also a radio source for the scientifically minded?

That’s something two of our dedicated student hosts know very well. This magnetic (dipole) duo hosts a weekly podcast called Sci-Section, in which they explore the science that is most relevant to our daily lives with thorough research and citations. Call them the dermis, cause they've got you covered!

But unlike the oxidization of iron, I won’t take up too much time. Here’s Sherry and Kian, hosts of Sci-Section!

Let’s start with what year you’re in, your major, and your favourite topic within your major.

Sherry: I’m in second year Nursing and my favourite program-specific course is actually anatomy. Though it has a very heavy course load, there are lots of neat bits of information I randomly think of when doing everyday activities, and I want to share that information with other people.

Kian: I’m in second-year Neuroscience and I am absolutely fascinated by mirror neurons!

Are there any other facts about your life as a Mac student you’d like to add?

Sherry: I lived in Brandon Hall during my first year. It was pretty close to The Pulse, which was good since I started rock climbing pretty frequently at their wall. I also joined McMaster Marching Band, which could really be considered another sport with all the parades involved.

Kian: I lived in McKay Hall, which is close to Centro. Being close to Centro and having that moderate level of volume made it my favourite study spot around campus.

How did you hear about CFMU? What made you want to get involved and how long have you been involved?

Kian: The idea of Sci-Section started during Welcome Week 2018. I was looking at the different clubs at McMaster when I came across the booth for CFMU and I saw an application form which was about suggesting/making a new show. I have always loved journalism and being involved with CFMU could bring that passion of mine into reality. I wanted to apply, but I just didn’t feel like it. Something was missing, whether it was my courage, time, or a friend to accompany me on this new journey. Classes started and I somehow forgot about CFMU, until... I met Sherry in my Psych 1X03 tutorial and we became fast friends. I told Sherry about CFMU and she was on board, so we started developing ideas and brainstorming. Science was a shared passion of ours, and we wanted to do a show about science, but a unique show, Sci-Section. The goal of Sci-Section is to ease the sciences for people who don’t like studying sciences. We wanted to remind people that science is being studied for a reason, and that reason is being forgotten. Sci-Section is about that reason.

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Why was it important to you to make science more accessible and relevant to everyday listeners?

Sherry: We feel that scientific literacy is very important for everyday people. Telling the truth from various confusing sources and using critical thinking skills helps create a richer experience. In this increasingly busy world, it’s nice to know the applied aspects of science so we can use them to enhance the quality of our lives.

We feel that scientific literacy is very important for everyday people...In this increasingly busy world, it’s nice to know the applied aspects of science so we can use them to enhance the quality of our lives.

WATCH: Our Sci-Section show feature

Walk us through the making of an episode. How do you choose a topic? What is your research process like?

Sherry: Okay! So we actually choose our possible topics pretty far in advance. In fact, when we were applying for CFMU we chose a couple of episode ideas that we'd like. They're typically only one word long and involve research and science. Then we do preliminary research about the topic in general, especially if we're not familiar with it. During this stage, some topics get discarded because of various reasons. Either it has too much information to cover in only one episode, or it has too little scientific relevance.

Kian: During our first couple of weeks, it took a very long time for us to do the research, scripting, recording and editing. Our first episode took around 6 hours in total to make! Now with practice, we’re much better, paring it down to 2 hours for each recording session.

How do the two of you work together to produce the content for an episode? What is your dynamic like as a pair?

Sherry: I’m the funny guy in the dynamic for once, which is pretty refreshing considering I’m usually the deadpan one.

Kian: And I’m the person who bombards the audience with information! I really like our dynamic since we can have facts and fun next to each other, which makes it more likeable for the audience… or at least we hope!

During our first couple of weeks, it took a very long time for us to do the research, scripting, recording and editing. Our first episode took around 6 hours in total to make! Now with practice, we’re much better.

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Do you have a personal favourite episode of the show you’re proudest of?

Sherry: We’ve been getting lots of good reviews for our episode about sleep. I enjoy it too since I’ve started getting a total of 7 hours of sleep each night and getting better at not taking naps. It helps me function better. To each their own with their sleep schedules, though.

Kian: I personally like our episode about language. It was a really fun one for us since we were talking about tongue twisters and fascinating aspects of human language.

LISTEN: Sherry's favourite episode, "Sleep"

LISTEN: Kian's favourite episode, "Language"

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Would you say hosting SciSection has helped you in other areas of your life? If so, how?

Kian: I think Sci-Section allows both of us to learn about the latest research on a weekly basis. I have always wanted to be updated on science news, so Sci-Section makes us look at cool scientific news/research each week. On a totally different note, I am an ESL student which is a bit ironic, since I am hosting a radio show in my second language. The process of recording each week in the studio has truly helped me with my communication skills in a professional manner and I can realize the progress in my speaking skills when I listen to Sci-Section’s first episodes.

Sherry: Doing research for our show also allows us to learn from it since we have to present it in an understandable format. One of the greatest lessons that I learned from Sci-Section was time management. No matter what we have in our week, whether it is a midterm, club meeting or class, we have to record and broadcast an episode, so the phrase ‘the show must go on’ really applies here. Sci-Section has also helped me with learning how I manage to write best. I already had a fair bit of improv experience, but scripting was a new thing for me. We manage to write Sci-Section through both scripting and leaving some room for improv, which is a nice blend of both aspects. I learned that I’m the type of person who needs to talk out an idea with someone else.

The process of recording each week in the studio has truly helped me with my communication skills in a professional manner and I can realize the progress in my speaking skills when I listen to Sci-Section’s first episodes.

Sci-Section has also helped me with learning how I manage to write best. I already had a fair bit of improv experience, but scripting was a new thing for me. We manage to write Sci-Section through both scripting and leaving some room for improv, which is a nice blend of both aspects.

Science podcast

Has hosting SciSection impacted your interests and future goals? If so, how?

Sherry: We’ve got a lot more experience with audio editing equipment and programs. Personally, though Sci-Section is awesome for the factual side of things, I'd love to goof around on a microphone reading some Shakespeare classic works with a couple of friends. Right now, I have my eye on Titus Andronicus, which is a wild play.

What advice would you have for students interested in starting their own podcast at CFMU?

Kian: Actually, we have gotten lots of messages on Sci-Section’s social media from upcoming first years asking us about our show and getting involved with CFMU.

Sherry: I have a couple of tips. Having someone to work with really helps for starting a radio show or podcast. You have another personality to bounce off of, and you have someone to rely on when your course load is heavy and vice versa. Podcasting, though, can also be done by borrowing a microphone and using the recording booth in Mills library.

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I can't wait to see what else is in store for these two. Reading Shakespeare with friends sounds wonderful to me!

As titration taught us, every reaction has an end point, and that’s true for this instalment of Volunteering @ CFMU as well. You can find SciSection on Instagram and Facebook, and they occasionally put out an open call for interviewees. Aspiring scientific researchers, writers, and commentators of the world, follow them so you can be ready to apply!

And with that, like Pluto from the planet category, it’s time for me to make my exit!

Olivia Fava is a 2019 McMaster linguistics graduate, the current Community Outreach Coordinator at CFMU, and the host of MorningFile. Contact her through email at cfmucom@msu.mcmaster.ca (science puns always welcome).

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