The Germ Guy: Confessions of a Mercurial Microbiologist

Exploring The Quantum Realm…The Actual One

I won’t lie. I’m excited. This week, the culmination of over a decade of stories comes to the big screen in the form of…

(Yes, it’s a superhero movie…)

If you haven’t been following the movies, let’s just say that there has been a rather troubling event that has occurred. Half of the population of the universe has been killed. Now it’s up to these superheroes to find a way to reverse what has happened. In order to accomplish this, they need the help of a strange and magical place…

(The Quantum Realm…)

In this place, all things are possible and the keys to victory may be found here.

Of course, this is a fictional world. The actual quantum space is a very different place and the subject of this week’s Super Awesome Science Show. You can listen to it while you’re reading here:

You may have heard of quantum associated with one of another two words, physics and mechanics. This may also make you wonder whether…

(It’s complicated)

It is. But thankfully, we have three guests who are going to help us understand the quantum realm and also how it is relevant to our lives.

Our first guest is the Program Director for Transformative Quantum Technologies at the University of Waterloo. Her name is…

(Tracey Forrest)

We have a great discussion of all things quantum and what the future looks like in a quantum world. Also, if you have any interest in learning more about the realm, she offers some great advice not just for people, but companies as well.

One of the applications we continue to hear in the quantum world is quantum computing. While there is so much to learn, the basis for this particular technology is the qubit, which looks a bit like this…

(Sorry, that’s q-bert)



(That’s better…)

Our guest is a quantum computer expert and the scientific director at the Quantum Institute at the University of Sherbrooke. He is…

(Dr. Alexandre Blais)

He has been publishing his work in some pretty high impact journals and his ability to help us understand where we are going with quantum computing is a must hear moment. Also, we get a sense as to how long it will be before we have quantum computers on store shelves.

In our SASS Class, we have a great guest teacher. He’s a professor at the University of Waterloo…

(Dr. Pavle Radovanovic)

He works with quantum mechanics in the form of nanocrystals. Much like regular crystals, they have the ability to utilize light. But instead of bringing the bling, he’s bringing us…

(Sustainable energy)

It’s a fantastic talk and you’ll hear about how we may one day find ourselves not having to worry about non-renewable energy and instead, relying on the quantum realm to keep our energy needs intact.

I hope you enjoy this show as much as I have. This world is completely outside of my knowledge and I enjoyed learning as much as I did hosting.

If you have an idea for the show or just want to reach out to me, leave a comment below or send me a tweet @JATetro.

And just a hint for next week…it’s going to be a barkin’ blast!



Is There Science To Spring Fever?

When we hear the term fever, we tend to think of…

(Are you a 98.6 or a 37 person?)

But there’s one fever that doesn’t describe the body’s temperature. Spring Fever. Perhaps one of the best descriptions of this condition comes from the great writer, Mark Twain…

(Okay, maybe some might consider it a condition)

From a medical perspective, the idea of a fever due to desire is less about disease and more about psychology. But if that is the case, what exactly is going on?

On this week’s show, we’re going to take a look at the science behind spring fever. As you’ll find out, it’s quite fascinating and may even help you understand what Twain could not.

You can listen to the show while you read by heading to this link:

Our first guest is a psychological researcher who has looked at the effects of the seasons on the body and the mind. She is an Associate Professor at the University of Pittsburgh. Her name is…

(Dr. Kathryn Roecklein)

As you’ll find out, the key to any seasonal change is not really about the temperature. Instead, it’s all about…


I learned quite a bit from this discussion and how the concept of seasonality may be at risk because of our continued reliance on artificial light.

Although spring fever isn’t technically a medical condition, there are some symptoms that do come with it. However, if you look at the statistics, the effect is quite unexpected.

(Mental Health concerns)

You would be surprised to hear that spring may not be the best season after all. Instead, it could lead to greater ‘bad days’ and for some, the end of days.

Our next guest has been researching how to cope with anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder. He’s a professor at the University of North Carolina and a clinical psychologist…

(Dr. Jon Abramowitz)

His insight into the problems we all face – even if not due to spring – will offer excellent perspective and as someone who is a worry wart, I have to say I learned quite a bit from him. I am sure you will too.

If there was a stereotype associated with spring fever, it would be the urge to mate. Although statistics show this may not be the case, when it comes to finding a new mate, there is no better time than the spring to give it a shot. But, as our SASS Class guest teacher points out, you might want to be careful. After all, it’s a jungle out there.

She is St. Mary’s University’s (and Canada’s) relationship doctor…

(Dr. Maryanne Fisher)

I have to admit the discussion lasted far longer than the time would allow and I will have her back for an entire show. Her work into relationships is simply amazing although there is one point you don’t want to miss. When it comes to finding a mate, you might want to forgo the modern day romcom and instead pick up a book by this author…

(Jane Austen)

This show was a mix of emotions for me as I tried to find out the nature of spring fever. I am so happy that we were able to make this show happen and am incredibly grateful to our guests. I honestly am a better person after talking with them. I hope you will feel the same too.

As always, if you have an idea for an episode, let me know in the comments below or by sending me an Email at: I’ve been getting quite a few Emails and I am certain some of the ideas will end up being show topics in the future.

Disease Detectives…

I’ve been looking forward to this week’s show for some time.

As some of you may know, way back when, I was working in the world of diagnostics. I’ve been wanting to focus on this incredibly important aspect of human health for some time and now I have my chance.

As always, you can listen to the show while you’re reading by clicking on the link.

When it comes to diagnosis, there’s one person who exemplifies what it means to look for a disease no matter what the cost…

(It’s never Lupus…)

But while Gregory House of the television show, House M.D. might be the fictional go-to when it comes to health mysteries, in the real world, there is no one better than…

(Dr. Lisa Sanders)

Dr. Sanders is a clinical educator at Yale but she is better known as the person who has been bringing the world of diagnostics to the public for over 15 years. She has a regular column aptly called, “Diagnosis,” in the New York Times, and is the inspiration for House (although she is much…much nicer than the lead character).

While the whole interview is a blast, there is one part I hope you find interesting. I won’t give it away but here’s a hint…

(Not a real doctor…)

While diagnostics may be routine here in Canada and the United States, in many parts of the world, the access to such tests is limited. This can severely impact the medical profession and may lead to a troubling rise in many diseases. This got the attention of our next guest…

(Dr. Madhukar Pai)

He is a global health professor at McGill and specializes in tuberculosis. But he also has been a major force in raising attention to the need for better diagnosis around the world. His work over the years has helped to change one of the most influential organizations…

(You know WHO…)

His passion comes out in every word he speaks and you will gain a greater appreciation for the need  to have health for all people.

In our SASS Class, we take a closer look at the people in Canada who are responsible for making sure those diagnostic tests are done right. They are collectively known as…

(or MLPs…)

Our guest teacher is an MLP ambassador who strives to increase awareness of these valuable members of the healthcare profession…

(Krista Urchenko)

Listen as she takes us into the world of MLPs and reveals how their work, which may be behind the scenes, always stands out in front when it comes to keeping you well. You’ll also hear about LAB WEEK, which is a national celebration of MLPs in Canada.

I hope you enjoy this venture into the world I dearly cherish. Admittedly, I am a bit biased in how I see diagnostics but hope that you too will see the value after you have listened to the show.

As always, if you have an idea for an episode, let me know in the comments below or by sending me an Email at: I’ve been getting quite a few Emails and I am certain some of the ideas will end up being show topics in the future.

Living With Parkinson’s Disease

As you probably have guessed, science for me is fun and I have had such joy in sharing my passion with you on the Super Awesome Science Show. But science isn’t always jovial and on this week’s show, we’re going to take a different approach, thanks to your requests and suggestions.

Over the next few months, we’ll be discussing the science behind several diseases. It’s an important part of public health and as you have told me, needs to be discussed.

To start, do you know these two famous people?

(Float like a butterfly…)

(He’s got Family Ties…)

Both Muhammad Ali and Michael J. Fox have been beloved for decades. They have gained worldwide recognition for being the greatest of their times. They are also known as two of the most famous sufferers of a disease that affects 10 million people worldwide and over 100,000 in Canada…

Parkinson’s Disease

You can listen to the show while you read by heading to this link:

Our first guest is someone who suffers from this illness. He’s…

(Larry Gifford)

For those of you in Vancouver, you know him as a member of the CKNW radio family. For others, he’s the host of one of Apple Podcast’s best…

(Listen to it by clicking on the image…)

He has been sharing his story with the world and was kind enough to share some of his time with us to explore the personal side of the science. His words are going to both make you cry as well as inspire you as he reveals his courage.

In our SASS Class, we reach out to a member of one of the most prominent foundations working to better understand and treat Parkinson’s Disease…

(Dr. Rachel Dolhun)

She’s the VP of Medical Communications at the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research and is herself a movement disorder specialist. She shares with us some of the most recent information and also how you can get involved in helping to learn and cure this illness.

Making this episode gave me a different feeling than the others and I hope you can appreciate the importance of this topic. Helping people to make science a part of their everyday life is a true vocation and why I started this show. But thanks to this episode and I am sure the others to come, maybe the episodes can help to shed light on some of the less amusing aspects of science.

If you have an idea for an episode, let me know in the comments below or by sending me an Email at: I know this episode will open your creative minds and I look forward to hearing from you.

The Science Behind April Fools

There’s something about a joke or good-natured prank that makes us feel a little more human. Humour is a natural part of our lives and a little can go a long way. Of course, on one day of the year, humour takes over and we can be flooded with all sorts of attempts to make us laugh…

(or groan…)

That day is April first, also known as April Fool’s Day. We all know it and I’m sure at least once in your lifetime you have participated in a prank either as the perpetrator or the target.

Although you might not expect it, there is quite a bit of science behind making a prank – or even a joke – work. On this week’s show, we’re going to explore what you need for success and which pitfalls to avoid. You can listen to the show while you’re reading here:

Our first guest takes us into a world we all experience but rarely appreciate. It’s the corporate prank in which companies do their best to “fool” you and gain more attention to their brand. Don’t believe me? Take a look at this…

(It’s Yubi-lickin’ good!)

Pulling off a prank like this takes quite a bit of time and effort and as our first guest points out, reliance on getting it right the first time. Unlike software, apps and other computer product outputs, there is no beta version. You get one shot and the release has to be on that day. He is…

(Thomas Limoncelli)

He’s a system administrator and has taken it upon himself to recommend the best actions to pull off the best web pranks. After all, computers may be the medium but the content is still produced by humans.

Our next guest delves deeper into this reality that humans are for now funnier than computers. She is…

(Dr. Julia Rayz)

She is an Associate Professor at Purdue University and has focused on computational detection of humor for over a decade. Her research has shown that computers and neural networks may be able to laugh at a joke – if they’re properly programmed – but they are still not capable of understanding a joke. Though this may change in the future, for now, we don’t have to worry about this awkward situation…


In our SASS Class, we’re going to explore how to effectively pull off a joke or a prank and whether age plays a role. Our guest teacher is…

(Dr. Michelle Eskritt-Keck)

She is the Chair of the Department of Psychology at Mount Saint Vincent University and explores how our interactions are conveyed. She also has been looking at when we accept something as truth or find ourselves thinking this may be a con job. We get into what is needed for a perfect prank and also whether you can fool all ages the same way. Here’s a hint…

(Whatcha talkin’ bout Germy?)

We had so much fun putting this show together and I hope you might be able to gain some tips and tricks from our guests. If so, let us know by commenting here or by reviewing the show on your favorite podcast platform.

Next week will be another episode based on listeners’ suggestions. I am sure you will find it well worth the listen and the subscription.

If you have a burning question or idea for an episode, let me know in the comments below or by sending me an Email at: I’m so happy you are all liking the show and hope we can make you even more excited going forward.

Speaking In Scientific Tongues

Last week, on the Super Awesome Science Show, we discussed the realm of quackery. This week, we’re going to head to the other end of the communication spectrum by taking a look at how science is made available to you.

If you haven’t subscribed on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or your favorite podcast platform, you can listen to the show here: while you read.

If you’ve looked at a scientific article or sat in on a scientific presentation or even listened to…

(The Smartest Man In The World…)

You might find the information is a little well…


Don’t worry. It’s supposed to be. As you’ll learn, the language of science has evolved over centuries and for several good reasons. The drawback of course is that if you want to understand what is being said, you need…

(It’s not that easy…)

Sadly, these buttons do not exist but there are people out there who are working hard to make the science understandable to you. They are the science translators and we have the chance to talk with three people from three very different areas of the field.

Our first guest is…

(Dr. Maureen Dobbins)

She is a Professor at McMaster University and has been working to improve health policy in Canada. She’s been going deep into the research and pulling out evidence that matters to you. She’s worked in all areas of health and you can even find one of her projects known as the…

(Click here to visit:

Her perspective is fascinating as she reveals just how much work is needed to give you the right advice for your health. Not to mention, with so many topics ranging from exercise to nutrition to consumer protection (like avoiding quacks), you can imagine just how hard that job happens to be.

We next speak to someone who is also working on an incredibly difficult task. He is…

(Dr. James Heilman)

He’s better known as the Wiki Doc because he has been working for years to improve the reputation of the most well-known resource for information on the internet…

(Always the first choice on Google it seems…)

You can imagine how much work is needed just to keep English sites accurate. But he’s also working to improve the service in all languages. He’s even working to help people without internet access have the opportunity to search Wikipedia. It is a form of translation that many of us don’t realize exists but is absolutely necessary to keep us informed and safe.

For the SASS Class, we are happy to welcome someone I’ve known for years. She is a science communication expert – in fact, she has her doctorate in it – and is our guest teacher. She is…

(Dr. Paige Jarreau)

She is probably the best person on Earth to talk about science communication in the information age. With the internet, there are more options to share science than ever and she has seen them all. You will love listening to her and may even be inspired to get into scicomm yourself.

We have been getting some great feedback from you and a few of the ideas suggested are now on the slate for episodes.

If you have a burning question or idea for an episode, let me know in the comments below or by sending me an Email at: I’m so happy you are all liking the show and hope we can make you even more excited going forward.


The Lure of The Quack

Have you ever encountered someone trying to sell you health or medical advice and products based on belief rather than evidence? These people are fairly common and tend to use flashy gimmicks to get you to forget that science is the basis for health. In the scientific and medical world, these people are generally known as…

(Not AFLAC…Quacks)

On this week’s show, we’re going to dig into the history of quacks and how they have evolved over the centuries. We’ll also reveal how they manage to deviate from science and evidence and make you believe they have the moral or even technological high ground.

As much as I try to quash quacks, I am only one person. Thankfully, there are others who are working hard to keep science and evidence at the forefront of health and medicine. By listening to them, you can prevent negative consequences both to your health and wallet.

Our first guest is a science communicator at the Office of Science and Society at McGill University. It’s the only sponsored quackbusting organization in Canada and is known for its informative and humourous web series…

(Cracked Science…)

The host is a man who is on a mission to ensure that myths are busted, pseudoscience is purged, and you are left laughing while you learn. He is…

(Jonathan Jarry)

We have a great discussion about the climate that exists and how the anti-science movement appears to be greater than ever. I won’t give away the reason but I’m sure you can figure it out…

(Bet you thought I was going to say Goop…)

We also explore the mission of the Office of Science and Society and how their small complement of people is doing their best to combat the giant waves of bad information and sketchy Pseudovangelists.

For our SASS Class, we explore how you can determine whether the information you are hearing is solidly based in evidence or is really just a bunch of bunk. We talk with one of the hosts of a show that boasts it was podcasting since podcasting was cool…

(Or TRC if you’re into the acronyms of the aughts)

They have been correcting misinformation for over a decade using their style of comedy, research, and of course, camaraderie. I mean, how can you not after over 500 episodes. Our guest teacher has been with the show almost since the beginning and doesn’t seem to have any interest in stopping. He’s…

(Darren McKee)

I hope this episode will help you understand the motivation of quacks and also how they work. You should be able to figure out how to identify them and hopefully avoid them so you don’t end up paying both with money and health.

If you have a question, comment or idea for the show, let me know in the comments below or by sending me an Email at: We’re filling our slate for the year and we have already taken several suggestions and put them on the grid. If you have a burning question for science, let me know and maybe it’ll end up being a theme for a future show.

A Dream Come True Thanks To Awesome Science Superheroines

The last few weeks have been unbelievable for me and the show. I honestly didn’t think we could top winning the Canadian Podcast Award for Outstanding Science and Medicine Series. But as you’ll hear this week, it was just the beginning.

I don’t want to delay giving you the chance to listen to the show so I will put the link to the show here:

It all started with an idea to feature women in science. International Women’s Day is on Friday and also this week will see the release of…

(A fictitious superheroine…)

I wanted to feature a few real science superheroines and had quite a long list. But at the top was a name every Canadian should know…

(Her Excellency The Right Honourable Julie Payette)

She is truly Canada’s science superheroine. An engineer, astronaut, executive and now, the Governor General of Canada.

We had a fascinating discussion and I was so thankful for her grace and passion for science. You will remember this interview for a long time.

But we weren’t done. If you look at the list of some of the best scientists in Canada, one person would surely top the list.

(Dr. Molly Shoichet)

As Robbie Burns might say, she has a resume as laing as me arm! She has done it all in the scientific world. But what makes her a superheroine for the rest of us is her commitment to promoting science to the rest of us. You’ll hear about her journey from the lab to the big screen. It’s incredibly inspiring.

I won’t give away anything more because this is one episode I want you to hear for yourselves. I was honoured to have the chance to put it together and I hope you can appreciate how awesome these two women are.

If you like the show, please rate and review the show and subscribe as well on whichever platform you get your podcasts. I want to reach as many people as possible.

If you have a question, comment or idea for the show, let me know in the comments below or by sending me an Email at: We’re filling our slate for the year and we have already taken several suggestions and put them on the grid. If you have a burning question for science, let me know and maybe it’ll end up being a theme for a future show.

Phaging Out The Resistance…

Before I get to this week’s podcast, I want to give a HUGE thanks to everyone who has supported the show. Here’s why…

(I’m completely shocked…)

We feel we are just getting started and this award just gives us reason to believe we are doing something right by showin’ that SASS.

Now, let’s get on with this week’s show.

We’re taking a different approach this week as we’re going to be talking about something that scientifically is awesome but for human health, it’s exactly the opposite…

(Antibiotic resistance…)

I’m sure you have heard about it…I’ve been talking about it for over a decade in the public forum. I’m hoping you know it’s a crisis and that more people are going to die unless we find new options.

But on this week’s show, we’re taking a different approach to this rather difficult dilemma. You can listen to it on your favorite podcast platform or listen to it here while you read:

How many of us know someone who has suffered from one of these infections? How many of us have witnessed these infections take over people leaving them helplessly dying? How many of us really understand what happens when we finally recover?

After listening to this show, you’ll be able to name one:  my first guest…

(Dr. Tom Patterson)

He is a researcher at the University of California San Diego and has had a very successful career. But in 2015, his life took a turn for the worst and he almost ended up dying of an antibiotic resistant infection.

We talk to him about his journey and more importantly…

(His recovery…)

His story will make you think about how bad antibiotic resistance really can be and how many people are not as lucky as him. As to why he recovered, i’s because he had a superheroine fighting for his life every step of the way. Her name is…

(Dr. Steffanie Strathdee)

She’s also a researcher at the University of California San Diego. Her expertise in HIV epidemiology has won her numerous accolades and awards. It would make sense that she would do her best to save a colleague. But, she is much more than that to him…

(She’s the love of his life…)

You’ll hear her story as she tried her best to help Tom fight off the disease. But she wasn’t alone in her efforts. She had a secret weapon that helped fight off the infection and bring Tom to a point where he could recover…


These tiny viruses of bacteria have been known to be excellent killers and when used in the right concentration, can leave a bacterium…


You’ll hear about her struggles to bring Tom back from the brink of death and how this experience has sparked her to promote this type of therapy aimed at phaging out the resistance.

If you want to know more about their journey and how phages may represent the future of medicine, you can pick up the book they wrote together and is hitting store shelves today…

(It’s an awesome if not heartbreaking read…)

But we’re not done yet. In our SASS Class, you’ll hear about another use for phages that may make your own life better. We talk with a researcher who has been putting these little viruses to use in our livestock and even wildlife communities hoping to reduce the threat from contaminated meat…

(Dr. Lawrence Goodridge)

We explore how viruses may help to reduce those foodborne pathogens we tend to hear about like Salmonella, Listeria, and E. coli and how the use of phages may soon be the way to keep our food safe…

(From Farm to Fork…)

I hope you enjoy this week’s SASScast as it was meaningful to me in many ways. I’ve been involved in this type of research for decades and this was the first time I had a chance to share a relatively unheard side of the story. I want to thank Tom and Steffanie for being so gracious with their time and for sharing all they did with me.

If you liked this show, please rate and review the show and subscribe as well on whichever platform you get your podcasts.

If you have a question, comment or idea for the show, let me know in the comments below or by sending me an Email at: We’re filling our slate for the year and we have already taken several suggestions and put them on the grid. If you have a burning question for science, let me know and maybe it’ll end up being a theme for a future show.

Thank you again to everyone who has made this little show a success. I can’t wait for what is to come…and believe me, it is going to be AWESOME.


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