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The Good, The Bad and The Curious

Learning about something new is exciting. Are you interested in science and technology? Whether you want to learn more about vertical farming, microplastics or machine learning, with a different scientific focus every week, this is the podcast show for you. Welcome to Series 1 of The Good, The Bad and The Curious, a new podcast brought to you by Andor.

Are you in research? Do you have an interesting idea for a podcast topic? If you would like to be a guest on the show, please fill out your details below and we will be in touch.

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This episode features Dr Marcin Barszczewski, Dr Aleks Marsh and Dr Alan Mullan discussing how modern-day DNA can determine your ancestral heritage? What is the difference between being related to and being descended from someone? What are the different types of DNA tests, what are they used for and what information can we get from them?

We love to provide resources for our listeners – so check out our further reading section...

Zerjal et al., The Genetic Legacy of the Mongols, 2003, 72, 3, 717-721,

Ralph and Coop, The Geography of Recent Genetic Ancestry across Europe, 2013, PLOS Biology 11(5):e1001555,

What is organic farming? - Listen Here

In this episode Aleks, Alan and Conor discuss what is organic farming? We consider whether organic farming methods which aim to reduce the use of synthetic pesticides, herbicides and the use of antibiotics provide a more sustainable method of food production. We discuss is organic food standardized by a central body? Is organic farming separate from fair trade standards and animal welfare practices? And is organic food more nutritionally valuable?

We love to provide resources for our listeners – so check out our further reading section...

Tsvetkov et al., Plant organic farming research – current status and opportunities for future development, Biotechnology & Biotechnological Equipment, 2018, 32:2,241-260, DOI: 10.1080/13102818.2018.1427509

This episode features Dr Marcin Barszczewski, Dr Aleks Marsh and Dr Alan Mullan discussing potentially scientifically contentious aspects of plant communication. We discuss what defines communication between plants? How can chemical signals be released from plants and detected by insects? Moreover, how can chemical signals be used to deter insect predators or promote pollination?

We love to provide resources for our listeners – so check out our further reading section...

Klein et al. Belowground carbon trade among tall trees in a temperate forest, 2016, Science, 352, 6283, DOI:10.1126/science.aad6188

Von Mérey et al. Herbivore-induced maize leaf volatiles affect attraction and feeding behavior of Spodoptera littoralis caterpillars 2013, Front. Plant Sci. 4:209. DOI: 10.3389/fpls.2013.00209

Gorzelak et al. Inter-plant communication through mycorrhizal networks mediates complex adaptive behaviour in plant communities, AoB PLANTS, Volume 7, 2015, plv050,

Van Loon, The Intelligent Behavior of Plants. 2015, Trends in Plant Science 21:4, 286-294,

Karban et al. Damage-induced resistance in sagebrush: volatiles are key to intra- and interplant communication. Ecology, 2006, 87, 922–930.[922:DRISVA]2.0.CO;2

This episode features Dr Marcin Barszczewski, Dr Aleks Marsh and Dr Ines Juvan-Beaulieu discussing big questions like: Are we not alone? What trees would look like on other planets? And how could life evolve?

We love to provide resources and references for our listeners – so check out our further reading section...

Aliens under the Ice – Life on Rogue Planets -

L. Miller, A production of amino acids under possible primitive Earth Conditions. 1953 Science, 117, 3046, 528-529

Check Nasa’s pages on exoplanets

Caltech archive of confirmed exoplanets:

This episode features Marcin, Aleks and Alan discussing how school starting age impacts on future success. In this episode we discuss what is success? And how can we measure it? In the age of big data are we asking the right questions, collecting the right data and reaching the right conclusions? Is school merely means to an end to being academically successful or is it a mechanism for intellectual, social and emotional development contributing to lifelong well-being?

We love to provide resources for our listeners – so check out our further reading section...

Dhuey, D. Figlio, K. Karbownik and J. Roth, School Starting Age and Cognitive Development, 2019, Journal of Policy Analysis and Management,

Dudink, Birth Date and Sporting Success, Nature, 1994, 368, p592

Wilson, The Birthdate Effect in School Sports Teams, 1999, European Journal of Physical Education, 4:2, 139-145,

School starting age: the evidence -

Too young to leave the nest? The effects of school starting age -

School Starting Age: European Policy  and Recent Research -

Bounce by Matthew Syed -

In this episode Aleks and Alan interview Conor about vertical farming. Conor has built his own prototype vertical farm to grow wheatgrass and recently visited Growing Underground an underground vertical farm in London – check out the pictures below! We ask Conor what is vertical farming? How much would crops produced from a vertical farm cost? And how much produce can we get with a vertical farm compared with traditional farming? With the threat of an unstable climate and the formation of megacities is vertical farming the future of farming?

Check out our further reading section for more information.

Despommier, The Vertical Farm, Feeding the World in the 21st Century, Picador, 2010

Al-Kodmany, The Vertical Farm: A Review of Developments and Implications for the Vertical City, Buildings 2018, 8, 24; doi:10.3390/buildings8020024

This week Alan and Aleks interview a special guest, Dr Matteo Gallidabino, a Senior Lecturer in Forensic Science at Northumbria University. Several of Matteo’s recent papers have discussed the use of machine learning in forensic science. In this episode we ask Matteo, what is machine learning? How is it implemented in forensic science? Should we be worried – will machine learning replace the laboratory forensic scientist?

Still interested … check out our further reading section here:

Gallidabino, M., Barron, L., Weyermann, C., & Romolo, F. (2019). Quantitative profile–profile relationship (QPPR) modelling: a novel machine learning approach to predict and associate chemical characteristics of unspent ammunition from gunshot residue (GSR). Analyst, 144, 1128-1139. DOI:10.1039/C8AN01841C

Aliferi, A., Ballard, D., Gallidabino, M., Thurtle H., Barron, L., & Syndercombe Court, D. (2018). DNA methylation-based age prediction using massively parallel sequencing data and multiple machine learning models. Forensic Science International: Genetics, 37, 215-226.

Miller, T., Gallidabino, M., MacRae, J., Owen, S., Bury, N., & Barron, L. (2019). Prediction of biococentration factors in fish and invertebrates using machine learning. Science of Total Environment, 648, 80-89.

Miller, T., Gallidabino, M., MacRae, J., Hogstrand, C., Bury, N., Barron, L., Snape, J., & Owen, S. (2018). Machine learning for environmental toxicology: a call for integration and innovation. Environmental Science & Technology, 52, 12953-12955.

Geradts, Z. (2018). Digital, big data and computational forensics. Forensic Science Research, 3(3), 179-182.

Lefèvre, T. (2018). Big data in forensic science and medicine. Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine, 57, 1-6.

Carriquiry, A., Hofmann, H., Tai, X., and Vanderplas, S. (2019). Machine learning in forensic applications. Significance, April 2019, 29-35.

What are microplastics? - Listen Here

From the air we breathe, to the water we drink, to the food we eat, microplastics are everywhere. In this episode Dr Marcin Barszczewski, Dr Aleks Marsh and Dr Alan Mullan discuss what are microplastics and where are they from? How do plastics and microplastics impact marine environments and get in the food chain? And how does this impact us and the food we eat?

We love to provide resources for our listeners – so check out our further reading section...

Pseudomonas isolates degrade and form biofilms on polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic, Morgan Vague, Gayle Chan, Cameron Roberts, Natasja A. Swartz, Jay L. Mellies, (preprint) doi:

Allen, D. Allen, V. R. Phoenix, G. Le Roux, P. Durántez Jiménez, A. Simonneau, S. Binet and D. Galop, Atmospheric transport and deposition of microplastics in a remote mountain catchment, 2019, Nature Geoscience 12, 339–344,

A. Choy, B. H. Robison, T. O. Gagne, B. Erwin, E. Firl, R. U. Halden, J. A. Hamilton, K. Katija, S. E. Lisin, C. Rolsky  and K. S. Van Houtan , The vertical distribution and biological transport of marine microplastics across the epipelagic and mesopelagic water column, 2019, Scientific Reports, 9, 7843,

Erik van Sebille, Chris Wilcox, Laurent Lebreton, Nikolai Maximenko, Britta Denise Hardesty, Jan A van Franeker, Marcus Eriksen, David Siegel, Francois Galgani and Kara Lavender Law, A global inventory of small floating plastic debris, 2015, Environmental Research Letters, 10, 12, doi:10.1088/1748-9326/10/12/124006

Roland Geyer, Jenna R. Jambeck and Kara Lavender Law, Production, use and fate of all plastics ever made, 2017, Science Advances, 3, 7, e1700782, DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1700782

Great Pacific garbage patch -

Waitrose’s trial of bringing your own container to the supermarket -

Humans consuming thousands of microplastic particles in their food every year -

In this episode Dr Marcin Barszczewski, Dr Aleks Marsh and Dr Alan Mullan debunk common science claims which are actually fiction. Have you heard the common sayings that you only use 10% of your brain? Goldfish have a 3 second memory and that humans only have five senses?

All these claims are untrue but that leaves the following questions how much of our brains do we use? How long is a fish’s memory and how many senses do humans have? Find out in this episode

What is pasteurisation? - Listen Here

This episode features Dr Aleks Marsh and Dr Alan Mullan interviewing guest Dr Michael Mullan - yes, we have Alan’s dad on the show! Michael is a food scientist with experience in industry, research and teaching in several areas of food manufacturing. Michael was a Lecturer in Food Technology at Queen's University Belfast for 19 years and is currently an independent Food & Beverages Professional.

In this episode we discuss what is pasteurization? How long does it take? What are the chemical and nutritional changes to milk on pasteurization? Finally, we ask Michael about the challenges facing dairy production today.


Dr Michael Mullan is the owner of the Dairy Science and Food Technology website

Check out the dairy council website to find out more about Northern Ireland’s dairy industry

Michael A. Mullan, Are we closer to understanding why viable cells of Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis are still being reported in pasteurized milk? International Journal of Dairy Technology, 2019, 72, doi: 10.1111/1471-0307.12617

How old is that apple? - Listen Here

This episode features Dr Marcin Barszczewski, Dr Aleks Marsh and Dr Alan Mullan discussing the question how old is that apple?

Seasonal fruit and vegetable products are available year-round thanks to improved food preservation techniques which are prevalent in our supermarkets. This poses the question are preserved foods nutritionally as valuable? And what impact do preservation, storage and transport have on the taste and flavour of food?


Both, A. Brackmann, F. R. Thewes, D. de Freitas Ferreira and R. Wagner, The Effect of Storage under Extremely Low Oxygen on the Volatile Composition of ‘Royal Gala’ Apples, 2014, Food Chemistry, 156, 50-57,

Apeel Sciences -

Today we welcome a special guest Professor Winfried Hensinger, the head of the Quantum Technologies research group at the University of Sussex. In this episode Aleks and Marcin ask Winfred what is quantum computing and how is this different to traditional computing? What different types of quantum computing technologies are available? And what problems can quantum computing solve?

Check out our further reading and resources section

Bjorn Lekitsch, Sebastian Weidt, Austin G Fowler, Klaus Møelmer, Simon J Devitt, Christof Wunderlich and Winfried K Hensinger (2017) Blueprint for a microwave trapped ion quantum computer. Science Advances, 3 (2) DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1601540

Today Aleks, Alan and Conor discuss what it means to be a tech optimist; are we optimistic about how technology can improve our lives? And, if so, what innovations are we excited about? What role can technology play in healthcare, environment and space exploration? Listen now to find out more.


Read more in the books:

  • Rise of the Robots by Martin Ford
  • The Singularity is Near by Raymond Kurzweil
  • Factfulness: Why Things Are Better Than You Think by Hans Rosling with Ola Rosling and Anna Rosling Rönnlund.

Check out this video from Boston Dynamics Learn more about swarm robotics from the Bristol Robotics Lab