Elsa Partan

Producer for Living Lab

Elsa Partan is a producer for Living Lab Radio. She first came to the station in 2002 as an intern and fell in love with radio. She is a graduate of Bryn Mawr College and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. From 2006 to 2009, she covered the state of Wyoming for the NPR member station Wyoming Public Media in Laramie. She was a newspaper reporter at The Mashpee Enterprise from 2010 to 2013. She lives in Falmouth with her husband and two daughters.

Ways to Connect

Western University Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry

Pro Football Hall of Famers are among those touting a new Flag Football Under 14 campaign, highlighting the risk of a degenerative brain disorder called chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. CTE is caused by repeated head trauma, and it can cause memory loss, aggression, and eventually, dementia. There’s currently no treatment or cure. The only sure prevention is to avoid repeated hits to the head, as in tackle football.



 During the summer of 2012, a raft of newly formed volcanic rock one and a half times the size of Boston appeared in the Pacific Ocean near New Zealand. It was scientists’ clue that a volcano was erupting deep below the sea surface. Five years later, scientists have released their first in-depth analysis of what appears to have been the largest eruption of its kind in the past century.

L. Brian Stauffer kateclancy.com

Allegations of sexual abuse, harassment, and misconduct rocked one industry after another in recent months. It usually doesn’t garner the same headlines as Hollywood stars or federal legislators, but several high profile scientists have been the subject of these kinds of accusations. And sexual abuse and harassment appear to be prevalent in academia.


If you’ve never heard of the LabLit genre, you’re not alone. Cell biologist and author Jenny Rohn went looking for novels about scientists and discovered there were only a couple hundred such books in existence. She now tracks fictional portrayals of scientists on her webzine LabLit.com, and she runs through some of this year’s best on Living Lab Radio.

Doctors can image your body and decode your genes in search of what ails you. But Kenneth Mandl of Harvard University says that, to reap the full benefits of big data, doctors need access to the records of as many patients as possible.

Mark Ballora

 Our ears are actually better at picking out trends than our eyes. That’s just one reason that Mark Ballora of Pennsylvania State University turns big data into beautiful soundscapes. He has transformed data from hurricanes and stars, and is working with deep-sea biologists. On Living Lab radio, we talk with Mark about data sonification, and seeing with your ears.

Merriam-Webster’s word of the year is feminism. How did they come up with that? In part, it’s based on how often people searched for the definition on the Merriam Webster website. That hasn’t always been the case. We talk with Peter Sokolowski, Merriam Webster’s editor at large. 

Apollo’s Science Legacy

Dec 18, 2017
NASA/Harrison Schmitt

It’s been forty five years since the last Apollo mission. Apollo 17 returned to Earth on December 19, 1972, and no one has set foot on the moon since. But scientists are still studying the samples brought back by Apollo astronauts. We talk to David Kring, principal investigator at the Lunar and Planetary Institute.


America’s first offshore wind farm went online just over a year ago, and three developers have plans to put hundreds of turbines in the waters south of Massachusetts and Rhode Island in coming years. Not everything has gone perfectly with Deepwater Wind’s Block Island Wind Farm. But scientists have found no evidence of negative environmental impacts, and neighbors, fishermen, and the tourism industry have been praising the project. Jennifer McCann is the director of U.S.

J. Junker

You probably knew that whales make sounds to communicate. But did you know that fish are chatting down there, too? It turns out that fish vocalize to find mates, and ship noise may be interfering. A new study looked at haddock and cod, two commercially important fish species, to find out more about how fish are managing in an increasingly noisy ocean. We talk to researcher Jenni Stanley of Northeast Fisheries Science Center at NOAA in Woods Hole.


Amy Aprill, WHOI

Cuba is home to some of the Caribbean’s most pristine coral reefs, in part because of the lack of tourism. As President Obama began normalizing relations with Cuba, Amy Apprill began working with Cuban scientists to study their reefs. Now, for the first time, a joint Cuban-American expedition has delved into the highly protected Gardens of the Queen reefs. But political tensions make the future of the work uncertain.

The North Atlantic right whale is Massachusetts’ state marine mammal, and a New England icon. Once hunted to the brink of extinction, the species is again in danger. There are only about 450 individuals remaining, the numbers are declining, and this year was particularly deadly. A leading researcher says that, under current conditions, North Atlantic right whales are just two decades away from extinction. But he says there are technologies and policies that could change that.

The influenza virus can kill tens of thousands of Americans in any given year. And this year’s flu season looks like it could be a doozy. Infection rates are higher than they were at this time in recent years, and the strain that hit the southern hemisphere caused record hospitalizations and deaths in Australia. One problem: although the virus strain that scientists selected for the vaccine was the correct one, it mutated once it was put into eggs. Researchers say this kind of situation highlights the need for a universal flu vaccine.

A protest this weekend at the site of a proposed natural gas power generator on the Cape Cod Canal highlights the controversy surrounding the rise of natural gas. Some say it’s an improvement over other fossil fuels, and a necessary bridge to a more renewable energy system. Others say it’s still a fossil fuel, and we should be investing in solar instead.

Teen depression rates jumped thirty three percent between 2010 and 2015, while suicide attempts rose by almost a quarter. Psychologist Jean Twenge of San Diego State University has sifted through the various possible explanations and says only one factor explains the abrupt shift in American teens’ mental health – smart phones.