Propelling Women in Power Podcast

Michelle Chung, left, sits at a big table while interviewing guest Dominique Brossard, right. Mary Riker takes notes and prepares questions with a notebook, center. UW–Madison undergraduates Michelle Chung (left) and Mary Riker (middle) with Dominique Brossard (right). Mark E. Griffin

Women are integral members of the energy science community and play an enormous role in developing an inclusive, equitable, and sustainable future for the field of energy.  From nuclear engineers to atmospheric scientists to ecological researchers, they inspire and empower their coworkers and mentees to break the glass ceiling while contributing to these ever-growing fields of discovery.

Hosted by Wisconsin Energy Institute assistant editor Michelle Chung and undergraduate communications intern Mary Riker, Propelling Women in Power is a podcast about the careers of women in energy at the Wisconsin Energy Institute on the UW–Madison campus and our sister institution, the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center.  It is our goal to highlight their individual experiences, mentors, and work-life balance, while seeking advice for young women in science and asking the question: “Who and what facilitated your success?”

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Episode 1: Fusing STEM Communities with Stephanie Diem

Today's guest, Stephanie Diem, assistant professor of engineering physics, is at the forefront of fusion energy research at the UW–Madison. While she uncovers the clues to turning this technology into a viable supply for society’s energy needs, she’s working on ways people like her - women in the nuclear energy research – can sustain themselves, and grow to constitute more than just the current 10% of the field.


Episode 2: You're Part of the Family with Yiying Xiong

What does it mean to foster an environment that truly feels welcoming? For Yiying Xiong, associate director of the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center, it all comes down to treating a team of coworkers like they are part of a family. Xiong spoke with us about her experiences nurturing communities in the hydropower industry and now in academic research. She also reveals two factors she thinks make a successful leader – self-confidence and mentorship – and how she found both. 

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Episode 3: Chocolate Cake with Dominique Brossard

How do we have conversations about the things that matter to us with people with whom we disagree? Where do we find common ground? And how do we make decisions about our future that reflects on those difficult challenges while moving society forward? Today, Dominique Brossard, professor and chair of the department of life sciences communication at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, gives us a glimpse into the science behind finding common ground with a perfect analogy: chocolate cake.

Brossard talks about how her own journey inspired her to look into how we can understand different worldviews and offers advice on how to build a diverse community of scientists from her own perspective as a woman in STEM at the top of her field.


Episode 4: The Fig Tree with Stephanie McFarlane

How do we choose our path when the tree of life bears more fruit than we can feast on? How can we live without fear that our unchosen, yet still desired, fruits will not wither as we can only harvest a few? Today, Stephanie McFarlane, a graduate student in Ellen Damschen's lab at the University of Wisconsin–Madison's Department of Integrative Biology, mother of three, and mentor to multiple undergraduate students, shares how her perspective on choosing the fruits on her own personal tree of life has changed with each choice and subsequent branch. As a first-generation college student fueled by a passion for plants, she shares her journey of restarting her PhD and finding balance as a research, mentor, and mother.

She gives us her insights on the changes that can be made to build a more diverse community of scientists and how in doing so we can make our science stronger and better. McFarlane speaks to us from an extra special perspective as the research mentor of co-host Michelle Chung.


Episode 5: Give a Little Bit with Adrianna Trusiak

What happens when the thing you thought you wanted turns out to be different than what you expected? This week, Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center Research Coordinator Adrianna Trusiak talks about the pressures of grad school and the tough choices she made to shift her career path. Trusiak also gives us some insight on how following her passions led towards a job that accentuates a value she comes back to several times in the course of our talk with her: the importance of building meaningful relationships in work and play.


Episode 6: Mountains and Molehills with Tracey Holloway

How do we take on big challenges, like increasing representation of women in STEM? This week, Tracey Holloway, Gaylord Nelson Distinguished Professor of Environmental Studies & Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, shows us how to conquer the highest peaks by taking on each little hill at a time. Holloway shares her experiences in studying the earth from space with NASA, writing down unwritten rules for others to follow, and her own choices as a professor, mother, and mentor. Finally, Holloway also touches on her roles with the Earth Science Women's Network and Science Moms, just two vehicles she uses to build communities that can move mountains together.


Episode 7: Nice People with S. Carolina Córdova

If you've spent a minute with Carolina Córdova, you've potentially made a friend for life. That's how it is with some people - you just click. Córdova, assistant professor of agronomy and horticulture and the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and former Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center postdoctoral researcher, shares her adventures in academic research dealing with the friendly and, occasionally, not-so-friendly on her path to becoming a leader in the soil sciences. She also discusses her hands-on approach to mentorship, both on and off the field.


Episode 8: Redefining Balance with Natalia De Leon

What decisions will you make today? How do you decide what to do and not do? This week, Natalia De Leon, professor of Agronomy at the University of Wisconsin–Madison in the College of Agricultural & Life Sciences and Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center researcher, talks about her decision-making process to find balance everyday as a scientist, mother, and mentor. De Leon shares how she fostered her love for plants, people, and field and lab work through her collaborative research in plant breeding and genetics. Finally, De Leon gives us insights on how she creates the space for herself and others to be the best scientists they can.


Episode 9: Growth Through Uncertainty with Audrey Gasch

What happens when we get comfortable with uncertainty? Today, we talked to Audrey Gasch, professor of genetics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center scientist, about all the factors that propelled her from an undergraduate studying biochemistry at UW-Madison to the leader of the Center for Genomic Science Innovation. She shares key lessons she learned from her own mentors, her philosophy of growth mindset, and her advice on getting comfortable with being uncomfortable.