Ask a Harvard Professor

Harvard Magazine

A podcast presented by Harvard Magazine. Managing editor Jonathan Shaw sits down with some of the world’s most thoughtful scholars to discuss everything from academic ethics – to hip hop music and medical marijuana.

Introducing: Ask a Harvard Professor
Trailer 1 min 29 sec

All Episodes

Jerrold Rosenbaum, director of Massachusetts General Hospital’s Center for the Neuroscience of Psychedelics, discusses the potential of using psychedelics, such as MDMA and magic mushrooms, to treat treatment-resistant mood disorders like depression and anxiety. Topics include the effect of psychedelics on the brain, how psychedelic therapy is conducted, the legality of medicinal psychedelics, and current research findings.  For more information about Harvard Magazine and this podcast, visit www.harvardmagazine.com/podcast and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.For a transcript of this episode, go to https://harvardmagazine.com/2021/jerrold-rosenbaumAsk a Harvard Professor is hosted by Lydialyle Gibson, Jonathan Shaw, Jacob Sweet, and Nancy Walecki, and produced by Jacob Sweet and Niko Yaitanes. Our theme music was composed by Louis Weeks.

Nov 29

44 min 45 sec

Nicholas Stephanopoulos, a political scientist and legal scholar whose research focuses on gerrymandering, explains its effect on American democracy and how it might be stopped. Topics include recent state laws that limit voting, the voting-rights bills being debated in Congress, and the current state of “alignment” between voters’ wishes and government actions.A note to our listeners: This episode was recorded on September 30, 2021. For more information about Harvard Magazine and this podcast, visit www.harvardmagazine.com/podcast and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.For a transcript of this episode, go to https://harvardmagazine.com/2021/nicholas-stephanopoulosAsk a Harvard Professor is hosted by Lydialyle Gibson, Jonathan Shaw, Jacob Sweet, and Nancy Walecki, and produced by Jacob Sweet and Niko Yaitanes. Our theme music was composed by Louis Weeks.

Nov 22

27 min 38 sec

Emily Broad Leib, founder and director of Harvard’s Food Law and Policy Clinic, discusses how to reduce food waste in the United States and abroad. Topics include the confusion caused by misleading date labels, the impact of COVID-19 on food waste, and the FLPC’s collaborations with governments and non-profit organizations to enact better food laws.For more information about Harvard Magazine and this podcast, visit www.harvardmagazine.com/podcast and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.For a transcript of this episode, go to https://harvardmagazine.com/2021/emily-broad-leibAsk a Harvard Professor is hosted by Lydialyle Gibson, Jonathan Shaw, Jacob Sweet, and Nancy Walecki, and produced by Jacob Sweet and Niko Yaitanes. Our theme music was composed by Louis Weeks.

Nov 15

30 min 31 sec

Neurobiologists Venkatesh Murthy and Sandeep Robert Datta discuss what scientists know about our sense of smell, and what big mysteries remain. Topics include smell loss from COVID-19, experimental approaches to understanding olfaction, and the role of artificial intelligence in olfactory research.For more information about Harvard Magazine and this podcast, visit www.harvardmagazine.com/podcast and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.For a transcript of this episode, go to https://harvardmagazine.com/2021/sandeep-robert-datta-and-venkatesh-murthyAsk a Harvard Professor is hosted by Lydialyle Gibson, Jonathan Shaw, Jacob Sweet, and Nancy Walecki, and produced by Jacob Sweet and Niko Yaitanes. Our theme music was composed by Louis Weeks.

Nov 8

36 min 13 sec

Epidemiologist and immunologist Michael Mina discusses the use of rapid tests as public health tools. Topics include using rapid tests to protect gatherings of friends and family; the differences between rapid tests and PCR tests; and why rapid tests are useful even for people who are vaccinated—particularly the elderly.For more information about Harvard Magazine and this podcast, visit www.harvardmagazine.com/podcast and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.For a transcript of this episode, go to https://harvardmagazine.com/2021/michael-minaAsk a Harvard Professor is hosted by Lydialyle Gibson, Jonathan Shaw, Jacob Sweet, and Nancy Walecki, and produced by Jacob Sweet and Niko Yaitanes. Our theme music was composed by Louis Weeks.

Nov 1

32 min 22 sec

For more information about Harvard Magazine and this podcast, visit www.harvardmagazine.com/podcast and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.For a transcript of this episode, go to https://harvardmagazine.com/2021/preview-ask-a-harvard-professor-season-fourAsk a Harvard Professor is hosted by Lydialyle Gibson, Jonathan Shaw, Jacob Sweet, and Nancy Walecki, and produced by Jacob Sweet and Niko Yaitanes. Our theme music was composed by Louis Weeks.

Oct 28

1 min 49 sec

The term “parafiction” refers to an artistic performance or presentation that depicts fiction as fact. This idea has particular relevance for our current post-truth moment, in which Americans find themselves overrun with conspiracy theories, misinformation, and fake news.For more information about Harvard Magazine and this podcast, visit www.harvardmagazine.com/podcast and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.For a transcript of this episode, go to https://harvardmagazine.com/2020/carrie-lambert-beatty. Ask a Harvard Professor is hosted by Jonathan Shaw, Marina Bolotnikova,  Lydialyle Gibson, Jacob Sweet, and produced by Jacob Sweet and Niko Yaitanes. Our theme music was composed by Louis Weeks.

Nov 2020

36 min 7 sec

Discussing the link between air pollution and effects of COVID-19, and the importance of data for rapid public-health responses —with Francesca Dominici, professor of biostatistics at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.For more information about Harvard Magazine and this podcast, visit www.harvardmagazine.com/podcast and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.For a transcript of this episode, go to https://harvardmagazine.com/2020/francesca-dominici. Ask a Harvard Professor is hosted by Jonathan Shaw, Marina Bolotnikova, Jacob Sweet, and produced by Jacob Sweet and Niko Yaitanes. Our theme music was composed by Louis Weeks.

Nov 2020

25 min 43 sec

How to reform capitalism to confront climate change and extreme inequality, with economist and McArthur University Professor Rebecca HendersonFor more information about Harvard Magazine and this podcast, visit www.harvardmagazine.com/podcast and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.For a transcript of this episode, go to https://harvardmagazine.com/2020/rebecca-henderson. Ask a Harvard Professor is hosted by Jonathan Shaw, Marina Bolotnikova, Jacob Sweet, and produced by Jacob Sweet and Niko Yaitanes. Our theme music was composed by Louis Weeks.

Nov 2020

39 min 36 sec

Harvard Law School professor Jeannie Suk Gersen breaks down the use of race in college admissions and the future of affirmative action at the Supreme Court. For more information about Harvard Magazine and this podcast, visit www.harvardmagazine.com/podcast and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.For a transcript of this episode, go to https://harvardmagazine.com/2020/jeannie-suk-gersen. Ask a Harvard Professor is hosted by Jonathan Shaw, Marina Bolotnikova, Jacob Sweet, and produced by Jacob Sweet and Niko Yaitanes. Our theme music was composed by Louis Weeks.

Nov 2020

37 min 16 sec

In this episode, political philosopher Danielle Allen explains why the COVID crisis, extreme inequality, and undemocratic government are all connected—and how democracy in America can still be reinvigorated.For more information about Harvard Magazine and this podcast, visit www.harvardmagazine.com/podcast and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.For a transcript of this episode, go to https://harvardmagazine.com/2020/danielle-allen. Ask a Harvard Professor is hosted by Jonathan Shaw, Marina Bolotnikova, Jacob Sweet, and produced by Jacob Sweet and Niko Yaitanes. Our theme music was composed by Louis Weeks.

Nov 2020

29 min 41 sec

Can cellphone technologies play a role in controlling the coronavirus pandemic? Knowing how public health policies interact with people’s actual behavior, even at an anonymous population-level view, can help guide the decisions of leaders. Mobile phone location data can reveal large-scale patterns of activity and travel between regions. In this episode, associate professor of epidemiology Caroline Buckee explains how such data—carefully stewarded to ensure individual privacy—can even be used to help predict where outbreaks are likely to flare next. For more information about Harvard Magazine and this podcast, visit www.harvardmagazine.com/podcast and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.For a transcript of this episode, go to https://harvardmagazine.com/2020/caroline-buckee.Ask a Harvard Professor is hosted by Jonathan Shaw, Marina Bolotnikova, Jacob Sweet, and produced by Jacob Sweet and Niko Yaitanes. Our theme music was composed by Louis Weeks.

Oct 2020

30 min 32 sec

Climate change may be the hardest problem the human race has ever confronted. In a single century, humans have set in motion events that will unfold on a geological timescale, ultimately redrawing coastlines around the globe as ice sheets melt and sea level rises. Can humanity agree to meet its energy needs with renewables such as wind and solar power? Is there a threshold beyond which the effects of greenhouse gases will become irreversible? Can solar geoengineering help stop this runaway train?  In this episode, Daniel Schrag, director of the Harvard University Center for the Environment and Sturgis Hooper professor of geology and professor of environmental science and engineering, and David Keith, the Gordon McKay professor of applied physics in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and professor of public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School discuss the ramifications of climate change and an engineered response.For more information about Harvard Magazine and this podcast, visit www.harvardmagazine.com/podcast and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.For a transcript of this episode, go to https://harvardmagazine.com/podcast/2020/daniel-schrag-and-david-keithAsk a Harvard Professor is hosted by Jonathan Shaw, Marina Bolotnikova, Jacob Sweet, and produced by Jacob Sweet and Niko Yaitanes. Our theme music was composed by Louis Weeks.

Oct 2020

46 min 54 sec

For more information about Harvard Magazine and this podcast, visit www.harvardmagazine.com/podcast and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.For a transcript of this episode, go to https://harvardmagazine.com/podcast/2020/preview-ask-a-harvard-professor-season-threeAsk a Harvard Professor is hosted by Jonathan Shaw, Marina Bolotnikova, Jacob Sweet, and produced by Jacob Sweet and Niko Yaitanes. Our theme music was composed by Louis Weeks.

Oct 2020

1 min 54 sec

What should be done now about the federal budget and the deficit, with Doug Elmendorf, dean of the Harvard Kennedy School, and Karen Dynan, professor of the practice of economics.For more information about Harvard Magazine and this podcast, visit www.harvardmagazine.com/podcast and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.For a transcript of this episode, go to https://harvardmagazine.com/podcast/2020/doug-elmendorf-and-karen-dynanAsk a Harvard Professor is hosted by Jonathan Shaw and produced by Jacob Sweet. Our theme music was composed by Louis Weeks.

Apr 2020

26 min 38 sec

CHINA IS THE MOST POPULOUS COUNTRY ON EARTH, and until a few hundred years ago, it was also the most economically powerful. Today, China is ascendant on the world stage. What does its government seek in its relationship with the United States? Do China and the U.S. share common goals with respect to nuclear North Korea? How far will China press to reunite with Taiwan? What are the country’s economic prospects, and is the perception that it is governed by engineers accurate? How is China coping with pressing issues of the day, from climate change to coronaviruses? In this episode, William Kirby, Chang professor of China studies and Spangler professor of business administration, considers China’s aspiration to lead internationally in the twenty-first century. For more information about Harvard Magazine and this podcast, visit www.harvardmagazine.com/podcast and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.For a transcript of this episode, go to https://harvardmagazine.com/podcast/2020/william-c-kirbyAsk a Harvard Professor is hosted by Jonathan Shaw and Marina Bolotnikova, and produced by Jacob Sweet. Our theme music was composed by Louis Weeks.

Apr 2020

53 min 46 sec

Why would it take an Amazon worker, employed full time, more than a million years to earn what its CEO, Jeff Bezos now possesses? Why do the richest 400 Americans own more wealth than all African-American households combined? And how are these examples of extreme income inequality linked to the political disenfranchisement of the lower- and middle-income classes? The established “solutions” for restoring balance to economic and political power in the United States have been tax increases on the rich, on the one hand, and campaign-finance reform on the other. But in this episode, we’ll explore the idea that retooling labor laws for the modern economy may be the most effective way to address both these issues. Harvard Law School’s Kestnbaum professor of labor and industry Benjamin Sachs, together with Sharon Block, executive director of the school’s Labor and Worklife Program, explain.For more information about Harvard Magazine and this podcast, visit www.harvardmagazine.com/podcast and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.For a transcript of this episode, go to https://harvardmagazine.com/podcast/2020/benjamin-sachs-and-sharon-blockAsk a Harvard Professor is hosted by Jonathan Shaw and produced by Jacob Sweet. Our theme music was composed by Louis Weeks.

Mar 2020

30 min 24 sec

What role does diplomacy play in the modern world order, and what are the characteristics of a good diplomat? Which countries are the great powers today, and which will lead in 2050? Does NATO have a role in helping manage the political, economic, and military challenges facing the United States? And why is morale reportedly at a low ebb in the State Department? In this episode, former ambassador to NATO Nicholas Burns, the Goodman Family professor of the practice of diplomacy and international relations at Harvard Kennedy School, answers these questions and more, based on his long career in government service.For more information about Harvard Magazine and this podcast, visit www.harvardmagazine.com/podcast and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.For a transcript of this episode, go to https://harvardmagazine.com/podcast/2020/nicholas-burnsAsk a Harvard Professor is hosted by Jonathan Shaw and Marina Bolotnikova, and produced by Jacob Sweet. Our theme music was composed by Louis Weeks.

Mar 2020

31 min 59 sec

If judges truly are impartial arbiters of justice, why do politicians fight over who will be appointed to the bench? Are the courts actually a political prize? And are judges really akin to umpires, just calling “balls and strikes”? How does the back-and-forth between the legal profession and politicians shape the quality of nominees to the bench? In this episode, Harvard Kennedy School professor of public policy Maya Sen considers these questions as we discuss the power of the legal profession and the politicization of American courts.For more information about Harvard Magazine and this podcast, visit www.harvardmagazine.com/podcast and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.For a transcript of this episode, go to https://harvardmagazine.com/podcast/2020/maya-senAsk a Harvard Professor is hosted by Jonathan Shaw and Marina Bolotnikova, and produced by Jacob Sweet. Our theme music was composed by Louis Weeks.

Mar 2020

34 min 58 sec

No country in the world spends more on health care than the United States, or has less to show for it when compared to other wealthy nations. The U.S. spends nearly 50 percent more per capita than Switzerland, the second biggest spender among wealthy nations, but consistently ranks near the bottom on measures of population wellness and life expectancy. Is there a better system, and if so, what should it look like? What role does wasteful spending play in this equation? How much is attributable to administrative costs? In this episode, Eckstein professor of applied economics David Cutler considers these questions as we discuss the high price of American medicine.For more information about Harvard Magazine and this podcast, visit www.harvardmagazine.com/podcast and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.For a transcript of this episode, go to https://harvardmagazine.com/podcast/2020/david-cutlerAsk a Harvard Professor is hosted by Jonathan Shaw and Marina Bolotnikova, and produced by Jacob Sweet. Our theme music was composed by Louis Weeks.

Mar 2020

31 min 54 sec

Rating the foreign policy of presidents from FDR to the present day with Joseph Nye, formerly a government professor in FAS, later dean of the Kennedy School, now a University Distinguished Service ProfessorFor more information about Harvard Magazine and this podcast, visit www.harvardmagazine.com/podcast and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.For a transcript of this episode, go to https://harvardmagazine.com/podcast/2020/joseph-s-nyeAsk a Harvard Professor is hosted by Jonathan Shaw and produced by Jacob Sweet. Our theme music was composed by Louis Weeks.

Mar 2020

24 min 2 sec

For more information about Harvard Magazine and this podcast, visit www.harvardmagazine.com/podcast and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.For a transcript of this episode, go to https://harvardmagazine.com/podcast/2020/joseph-s-nyeAsk a Harvard Professor is hosted by Jonathan Shaw and produced by Jacob Sweet. Our theme music was composed by Louis Weeks.

Feb 2020

2 min 2 sec

What does hiphop culture—rap music, break dancing, and graffiti—have to do with Harvard? In this episode, Monrad professor of social sciences Marcyliena Morgan explains that hiphop began with the children of people who marched in the civil-rights movement: teenagers taking apart their parents’ jazz recordings and expressing their distress with a world that hadn’t changed for them, despite their parents’ efforts. They made a new urban poetry of social dislocation, set to music. Now the movement is pushing change in the broader culture, and a Harvard archive seeks to document its beginnings and significance.For more information about Harvard Magazine and this podcast, visit www.harvardmagazine.com/podcast and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.Ask a Harvard Professor is hosted by Jonathan Shaw and produced by Lydia Carmichael Rosenberg. Our theme music was composed by Louis Weeks.

Oct 2019

44 min 8 sec

What makes a photograph art? A great photograph may be the result of artistry, or it may be the result of dumb luck: a fleeting, perfect composition captured by chance. At a time when there is a camera in every pocket, how do curators distinguish between documentary and artistic work? In this episode, Burden professor of photography Robin Kelsey, the dean of arts and humanities, explores the role of chance in artmaking generally, and in photography in particular.For more information about Harvard Magazine and this podcast, visit www.harvardmagazine.com/podcast and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.For a transcript of this episode, go to https://harvardmagazine.com/podcast/2019/robin-kelsey.Ask a Harvard Professor is hosted by Jonathan Shaw and produced by Lydia Carmichael Rosenberg. Our theme music was composed by Louis Weeks.

Oct 2019

32 min 31 sec

Cities are an integral part of Earth’s future: by 2050, 68 percent of the world’s population will be living in an urban area. Solutions to social problems, from climate change to poverty, will therefore be tied to the fates of cities. In this episode, Glimp professor of economics Ed Glaeser explains why he is overwhelmingly optimistic about urban growth. Cities, he says, are engines of innovation and economic activity that create opportunity. “Humans are a social species that gets smart,” he explains, “by being around other smart people.” When they do, their impact on the planet’s climate is lessened in surprising ways—and in surprising places across the United States.For more information about Harvard Magazine and this podcast, visit www.harvardmagazine.com/podcast and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.A full transcript of this episode can be found at https://www.harvardmagazine.com/2019/podcast/edward-glaeserAsk a Harvard Professor is hosted by Jonathan Shaw and produced by Lydia Carmichael Rosenberg. Our theme music was composed by Louis Weeks.

Sep 2019

30 min 43 sec

Mass murders committed with firearms are becoming more frequent In the United States. And the total number of gun deaths, a majority by suicide, is now on par with those caused by automobile accidents. None of this has broken the political gridlock in Washington that surrounds the issue of gun control. In this episode, professor of health policy David Hemenway describes public-health strategies that can save lives, often without political intervention, by making guns inherently less dangerous, and by enlisting gun advocates and gun-shop owners in efforts to reduce fatalities.For more information about Harvard Magazine and this podcast, visit www.harvardmagazine.com/podcast and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.A full transcript can be found at https://www.harvardmagazine.com/2019/podcast/david-hemenwayAsk a Harvard Professor is hosted by Jonathan Shaw and produced by Lydia Carmichael Rosenberg. Our theme music was composed by Louis Weeks.

Sep 2019

28 min 16 sec

Weed, ganja, pot, flower, dope, grass, bud: marijuana has many names, but an even greater number of chemical constituents, from THC, the psychoactive component, to cannabidiols such as CBD, often touted for its therapeutic potential. In this episode, Dr. Staci Gruber, an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School who directs the longest-running study of medical cannabis use in the United States, discusses the effects of the plant’s components on human health. At a time when access to marijuana is progressively legalized, Gruber lays out the surprising ways in which its cognitive effects differ between youths and adults, and between medical marijuana patients and those who use the drug recreationally.For more information about Harvard Magazine and this podcast, visit www.harvardmagazine.com/podcast and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.A full transcript for this episode can be found at https://www.harvardmagazine.com/2019/podcast/staci-gruberAsk a Harvard Professor is hosted by Jonathan Shaw and produced by Lydia Carmichael Rosenberg. Our theme music was composed by Louis Weeks.

Sep 2019

31 min 18 sec

There’s a kind of academic corruption that most people have never considered. Not plagiarism. Not cheating on an exam. This is the kind of corruption that occurs when corporations and industry lobbying groups pay academics for expert testimony before Congress. Even the perception that such payments have occurred will result is an erosion of public confidence in scholarly research and the impartiality of the academy. And the people most vulnerable to this ethical trap are those who believe they are doing good. As Furman professor of law Lawrence Lessig explains in this podcast, “doing good can make you bad."For more information about Harvard Magazine and this podcast, visit www.harvardmagazine.com and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.A full transcript can be found at https://www.harvardmagazine.com/2019/podcast/lawrence-lessigAsk a Harvard Professor is hosted by Jonathan Shaw and produced by Lydia Carmichael Rosenberg. Our theme music was composed by Louis Weeks. 

Sep 2019

27 min 35 sec

For more information about Harvard Magazine and this podcast, visit www.harvardmagazine.com and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Ask a Harvard Professor is hosted by Jonathan Shaw and produced by Lydia Carmichael Rosenberg. Our theme music was composed by Louis Weeks.

Jul 2019

1 min 29 sec