Big Brains

Stories from the people behind the pioneering research and pivotal breakthroughs at the University of Chicago. Change how you see the world.

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Episode List

Economist’s Journey to the Nobel with Richard Thaler (Ep. 7)

Richard Thaler discusses how a bowl of cashews inspired his early research, how he missed a 4 a.m. Nobel wakeup call from Sweden, and what it was like to act in a movie alongside Selena Gomez.

Future of Energy Innovation with Michael Polsky (Ep. 6)

In this alumni edition of Big Brains, Michael Polsky discusses his early days in the energy field, his current project to build one of the largest wind farms in the world and why he believes in the power of innovation.

The Expanding Universe with Wendy Freedman (Ep. 5)

Prof. Wendy Freedman discusses her research on measuring the age of the universe, her leadership of the Giant Magellan Telescope and the search for life outside our solar system.

Nature’s Design Secrets with Rama Ranganathan (Ep. 4)

Prof. Rama Ranganathan shares his pioneering research on evolutionary physics, and explains why he believes biology is at a similar point today as engineering was two centuries ago during the Industrial Revolution.

Mind of a Virtuoso Composer with Augusta Read Thomas (Ep. 3)

Prof. Augusta Read Thomas gives a glimpse into the creative process of a world-class composer, discusses the state of classical music today and how she helps train the next generation of composers.

Myths of U.S. Health Care with Katherine Baicker (Ep. 2)

Prof. Katherine Baicker discusses research on the true costs and benefits of expanding health care, dispelling a number of myths, and provides insights into how to improve health care for all.

Discovering the Missing Link with Neil Shubin (Ep. 1)

Prof. Neil Shubin discusses his discovery of Tiktaalik roseae, the 375-million-year-old fossil that was a missing link between sea and land animals—and what it meant for the understanding of human evolution and how it has impacted the future of genetic research.