Photo by Jonathan Velasquez / Unsplash

Beauty at Work explores how beauty shapes our lives and the work that we do. In this interview-based podcast, sociologist Brandon Vaidyanathan interviews leaders and experts across many fields to reveal new insights into how beauty shapes our brains, behaviors, organizations, and societies. Learn how to harness the power and promise of beauty in your life and work, while avoiding its pitfalls and perils.

This podcast builds on the world's first large-scale study of beauty in science. Learn more about this project here.

Music: Venkat Subramaniyam | Editing: Dave Visaya, Podcast Engineers

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S2 Episode 8: Beauty and Design With Pallavi Dean (click for show notes)

Pallavi plays at the intersection of design and entrepreneurship. She founded her design firm Roar in 2013. A trained architect and sustainability specialist, she has won multiple awards for work across a range of sectors including commercial, hospitality and residential. Recent work includes The Accor House of Original in Dubai, Sensasia spa at Kempinski Dubai and Mckinsey HQ in Doha.

She was born in India, raised in Dubai and spent years working in London; her designs reflect these eclectic influences. A former professor of design, she strives to implement the latest theoretical and practical research into the firm’s designs. As a product designer, Pallavi collaborated with Artemide to launch ‘Interweave’ an interactive lighting system for Euro Luce in Milan 2019. Her work has been profiled in some of the world’s leading international media including the Financial times, the BBC, Monocle, Wallpaper and the Architectural Digest. She was named Architectural Digest Middle East designer of the year in 2020 and Designer of the year globally by Interior Design Magazine in the 2021.

In this episode we talk about:

  1. Growing up as a third culture kid
  2. How Pallavi’s upbringing shaped her love for design and creation
  3. On creating spaces that engage and stimulate all five senses
  4. Finding the balance between designing poetic and functional spaces
  5. Highlighting the beauty of imperfection in nature
  6. The need for pain and suffering in order to appreciate beauty
  7. Exploring the vulnerability of artistic pursuits
  8. How Pallavi launched her own sustainable design firm, Roar
  9. The importance of empathy-driven design and architecture
  10. Debunking misconceptions of design innovations in Dubai

To learn more about Pallavi’s work, you can find her on:

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/roar_design_studio/
Website: https://www.designbyroar.com/about
Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/pallavidean/

S2 Episode 7: The Beauty of Teaching Science with Dr. Dave Gammon (click for show notes)

Dr. Dave Gammon is an integrative scientist who builds bridges beyond traditional scientific communities. Since 2006 he has taught mostly interdisciplinary science and general education courses at Elon University, where he is currently a Professor in Biology. His research projects in birdsong and in SoTL have become increasingly more interdisciplinary. He also performs a lot of science outreach, including running a science café, writing science articles for newspapers and magazines, and creating popular science podcasts.

In this episode we talk about:

  1. Dave’s formative experiences that led him toward biology and teaching
  2. The captivating musical nuances in birdsong
  3. On finding the beauty in special research niches
  4. On teaching a course on the fascinating journey through history & time
  5. Bridging societal narratives between the prehistoric time and the present
  6. Dave’s passion to draw connections between science and other disciplines
  7. The power of collaboration and curiosity among academics
  8. The need for a cultural shift toward interdisciplinary perspectives
  9. On introducing the beauty of science to the public through open science cafés

To learn more about Dave’s work, you can find him at: https://facstaff.elon.edu/dgammon/

S2 Episode 6: Beauty and Justice with Dr. Sheri Parks (click for show notes)

Sheri Parks, Ph.D. is a public intellectual, strategist, senior higher education professor, administrator, and author, working to bridge the wisdom of communities and the academy to address urgent societal challenges. Her positions have included Vice President of Strategic Initiatives at the Maryland Institute College of Art and Associate Dean for Research, Interdisciplinary Scholarship, and Programing, and Founding Director of the Center for Synergy at the University of Maryland. Her signature public projects include Baltimore Stories: Narrative and the Life of an American City.

In this episode, we talk about:

  1. What drew Sheri to study aesthetics
  2. Her research on everyday aesthetics
  3. Sheri’s inspiration to move beyond academia
  4. The relationship between beauty and aesthetics
  5. The "Baltimore Stories" project
  6. The relationship between aesthetics and social justice
  7. How aesthetics can be manipulated for unethical practices & propaganda
  8. Aesthetic experience and trauma healing
  9. The Natural Dye Initiative

To reach Sheri, email her at: slp@umd.edu
Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sheri-parks-a8029331/

Resources Mentioned:

Baltimore Stories: Narratives and The Life of an American City: https://vimeo.com/161042379

S2 Episode 5: Beautiful Business with Tim Leberecht (click for show notes)

Tim Leberecht is a German-American author and entrepreneur, and the co-founder and co-CEO of the House of Beautiful Business, a global think tank and community with the mission to make humans more human and business more beautiful. Previously, Tim served as the chief marketing officer of NBBJ, a global design and architecture firm. From 2006 to 2013, he was the chief marketing officer of product design and innovation consultancy Frog Design. Tim is the author of the book The Business Romantic (HarperCollins, 2015), which has been translated into nine languages to date. Tim’s writing regularly appears in publications such as Entrepreneur, Fast Company, Forbes, Fortune, Harvard Business Review, Inc, Quartz, Psychology Today, and Wired. His new book, The End of Winning, was released in German in 2020.

In this episode, we talk about:

  1. How beauty and art shaped Tim’s childhood
  2. How he paved a multi-disciplinary career in design and marketing
  3. How Tim started the New Romantic movement in business
  4. Tim’s pursuit to find the soul in business
  5. How The House of Beautiful Business began and expanded internationally
  6. Unpacking the industry shift from human-centered to life-centered design
  7. Changing the traditional way we view business
  8. Navigating the loneliness crisis in workplaces
  9. What does it mean to create hospitable spaces and workplaces?
  10. Practical advice to incorporate beauty at work

To learn more about his work, visit: http://timleberecht.com/
House of Beautiful Business: https://houseofbeautifulbusiness.com/
Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/tleberecht/

Resources Mentioned:

The Business Romantic: Give Everything, Quantify Nothing, and Create Something Greater Than Yourself by Tim Leberecht - https://a.co/d/eVPDt6I

The House of Beaut

Death Over Dinner - https://deathoverdinner.org/

The Good Enough Job: Reclaiming Life from Work by Simone Stolzoff - https://a.co/d/3BPWRY7

S2 Episode 4: Design Without Borders With Adi Cohen (click for show notes)

Adi Cohen is the founder of The New Movement, an architecture studio that designs one-of-a-kind projects worldwide. She is the host of the podcast ‘Go Out and Talk to Strangers’, TEDx speaker, Forbes-featured, passionate creator and free thinker. Adi is on a mission to create ‘the most inspiring places on earth’, with the intention of using the built environment as a tool to help people thrive. Adi is a global citizen, and the first architect to be living a nomadic lifestyle while working. She uses her travels as a source of inspiration, a way to connect to ancient wisdom and learn from local communities.

In this episode we talk about:

  1. How Adi’s childhood influenced her desire to explore
  2. Adi’s life-changing decision to leave behind her stable job to pursue a global education
  3. How little changes in a space can greatly influence the social behaviors of people
  4. Understanding the neurobiological pattern of prospects and refuge
  5. On reimagining offices that are able to genuinely cultivate creativity
  6. Designing international spaces with remote teams
  7. On bridging cultural differences among clients and teams
  8. The beauty of co-living in nomadic communities
  9. On the absurdity of how humans spend more than 90% of their lives indoors
  10. On rejecting traditional career paths and notions
  11. Adi’s commitment to helping others create beautiful lives

To learn more about her work, visit:

Website: https://thenewmvt.com/
IG: https://www.instagram.com/nomad.architect.me/
IN: https://www.linkedin.com/in/adi-cohen-architect/
FB: https://www.facebook.com/nomad.architect.me
Email: info@thenewmvt.com

Resources Mentioned:

Openness to Experience: The Gates of the Mind - https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/openness-to-experience-the-gates-of-the-mind/

Accidental Genius: Revolutionize Your Thinking Through Private Writing - https://a.co/d/9wZSJNp

S2 Episode 3: Art, Science, and Food With Rob Dunn (click for show notes)

Rob Dunn is the Senior Vice Provost of University Interdisciplinary Programs and a Reynolds Professor in Applied Ecology at North Carolina State University. As Senior Vice Provost he oversees efforts to spur interdisciplinary scholarship, education and public engagement at NC State. As a scholar, he studies the ecology and evolution of societies and the species with which they interact. This has included projects on the global ecology of sourdough bread, the evolution of sour taste, and the origin of yoghurt microbes, among many others. Dunn has published more than two hundred peer-reviewed articles and more than a hundred magazine and newspaper articles. He has published seven books, including, most recently, A Natural History of the Future and, with Monica Sanchez, Delicious, the Evolution of Flavor and How it Made us Human

In this episode, we talk about:

  1. How Rob’s love for art and biology often intersect and interact with each other
  2. The distinction between elegance and beauty in ecology
  3. How art can disrupt science in a productive and positive way
  4. How can we better communicate important scientific discoveries to the general public?
  5. Rob’s interest in the interplay between speculative fiction and the future of science
  6. On the sublime adaptability of nature
  7. Is the scientific pursuit beautiful or violent? Or both?
  8. How can we make the funding for science endeavors more just?
  9. The surprising lack of research on the development of sour taste
  10. On the psychology behind cultural preferences for spicy food

To learn more about his work, visit: https://robdunnlab.com/

Resources Mentioned:

Delicious: The Evolution of Flavor and How It Made Us Human by Rob Dunn and Monica Sanchez - https://www.amazon.com/Delicious-Evolution-Flavor-Made-Human/dp/0691199477

S2 Episode 2: The Spirituality of Design with Rachael Grochowski (click for show notes)

Rachael H. Grochowski is an award-winning architect and designer who is leading the conversation of designing what truly matters. She believes that design surpasses simply being beautiful -- design has the power to inspire a sense of calm, interconnectedness, presence and gratitude, leading to the belief that “Design is Spiritual.”

As an architect and designer, a traveler and seeker, and both a yoga student and teacher, her personal and professional mission has been to guide others towards environments that make them feel grounded in their histories and inspired to grow into their futures. Under Rachael’s stewardship, her firm RHG Architecture + Design, has built and designed award-winning residential, commercial and hospitality projects that are each defined by a spiritual evolution of collective care.

Rachael’s work has been featured in Architectural Digest, Forbes, Interior Design Magazine, Interiors Magazine, Fast Company, Aspire, MindBodyGreen, Hospitality Design, Sweet Jane and Open House NYC among others. She lives in Montclair, NJ with her three children.

In this episode we talk about:

1. How Rachael’s passion for architecture began in childhood

2. How architecture can cultivate closeness and community

3. The importance of designing structures that bring out good energy within us

4. How architectural choices are related to spiritual truths

5. How architecture can shape our well-being

6. The role of ugliness in architecture and design

7. The importance of infusing authenticity into design projects

8. How spaces can shape relationships

9. How to build genuine trust with clients

10. Safety and ethics in design

To learn more about her work, visit: https://www.rhgdesign.com/

S2 Episode 1: Aesthetic Intelligence with Pauline Brown (click for show notes)

Pauline Brown is a marketing professor at Columbia Business School, where she teaches a course on ’the Business of Aesthetics.’ Earlier in her career, she held senior executive roles at design-driven companies, including LVMH, and Estée Lauder. She also is the author of a business book, Aesthetic Intelligence, published in 2019 by HarperCollins, and the founder of an e-learning platform Aesthetic Intelligence Labs.

In this episode we talk about:

  1. How Pauline discovered the power of aesthetic genius
  2. How did Steve Jobs tap into universal beauty to create the success of Apple?
  3. How can we better understand the roots of personal taste and style?
  4. How do we distinguish between mimetic desire, trends, and genuine personal styles?
  5. Unpacking the limiting nature of the education system in developing our personal identities
  6. Can learning to embrace other aesthetics from other people help you become “more yourself”?
  7. What is the role of aesthetic intelligence in organizational culture?
  8. What does it mean to possess aesthetic empathy?
  9. How aesthetics help better communicate and embody company cultures
  10. How do we actually measure aesthetic intelligence in businesses?
  11. How mood boards can be effective exercises to trigger aesthetic curation and thinking
  12. Unpacking the ethics of aesthetic intelligence
  13. How can individuals and organizations cultivate aesthetic intelligence?
  14. Can artificial intelligence be considered true intelligence?
  15. How humans possess an inherent intelligence toward goodness

To learn more about Pauline Brown’s work, visit: https://aestheticintelligence.com/

Resources Mentioned:

Pauline’s book Aesthetic Intelligence: How to Boost It and Use It in Business and Beyond: https://a.co/d/eIUpkEH

Aesthetic Intelligence Labs Course: https://www.aestheticintelligencelabs.com/course/

Season 2 launches on June 1st!

Podcast Episode 16: How Beauty Leads Science Astray - Dr. Sabine Hossenfelder (click for show notes)

Dr. Sabine Hossenfelder is a physicist, science communicator, author, musician, and YouTuber. She has published more than 80 research papers on topics ranging from quantum gravity to particle physics, cosmology, astrophysics, statistical mechanics, and quantum foundations. She is the author of Lost in Math: How Beauty Leads Physics Astray, and most recently, of Existential Physics: A Scientist’s Guide to Life’s Biggest Questions. She is also the Creative Director of the popular YouTube channel “Science without the gobbledygook”.

In this episode, we talk about:

1. What drew Sabine to pursue mathematics and physics
2. How mathematics can describe the nature of the universe
3. The criteria of beauty (simplicity, elegance, and naturalness) and how they help shape physics
4. Why “Naturalness” is a problem in physics
5. The problems with the reliance on beauty in physics
6. What physics tells us about existential questions such as life after death and free will
7. On how her research has affected her life
8. Science communication, public support, and the inclusion of non-experts in scientific discourse
9. How we can cultivate the beauty of understanding
10. On her sense of meaning and her mission, and how they shape her work.

Resources mentioned:

Sabine's website:

YouTube Channel, Science without the gobbledygook: https://www.youtube.com/c/sabinehossenfelder

Dr, Hossenfelder’s book Lost in Math: How Beauty Leads Physics Astray:

Dr. Hossenfelder's new book, Existential Physics: https://www.amazon.com/Existential-Physics-Scientists-Biggest-Questions/dp/1984879456/

Podcast Episode 15: Science, Art, and the Sacred - David Clayton (click for show notes)

Born and raised in England, David Clayton is an internationally known artist, teacher, writer and broadcaster living in Princeton, NJ. He is Provost of online Catholic university www.Pontifex.University where he created their unique Master of Sacred Arts program; and is currently Artist-in-Residence of Scala Foundation, a non-profit based in Princeton, which has a mission of transforming American culture through educational programs that encourage creativity. 

He has a popular blog at thewayofbeauty.org and writes weekly also for scalafoundation.org; and the newliturgicalmovement.org. He has written several books including: The Little Oratory, A Beginner’s Guide to Praying in the Home; The Way of Beauty and The Vision for You - How to Discover the Life You Were Made For. As an artist, he has major commissions from churches in the US and the UK. He has also illustrated several books, aside from his own.

In this episode, we talk about: 

  1. How Catholicism inspired David to pursue art.
  2. How his scientific background influences David’s iconography work.
  3. Science and mathematics as a source of creativity and creative inspiration.
  4. The similarities in the methodical approach of scientists and traditional artists in the sense of learning and revealing truth, before the romantics broke from it.
  5. Defining beauty in art and science: on patterns and harmony.
  6. Discussing how beauty can mislead, and how the judgment of beauty lies in the perception of “correctness.”
  7. The beauty of science and how it can build trust in science for people of faith.
  8. What can mathematical and/or scientific training provide to artists?

Resources mentioned:

David’s blog:


David’s book The Little Oratory: A Beginner's Guide to Praying in the Home:



This episode is sponsored by Templeton Religion Trust as part of a grant on the aesthetic dimensions of science. It is also sponsored by the Institute for Advanced Catholic Studies at the University of Southern California, and you can learn more about them here: www.iacs.usc.edu

#podcast #beauty #mathematics #science #physics #philosophyofscience

Episode 14: What’s Beautiful About Mathematics? - Dr. Carlo Lancellotti (click for show notes)

Carlo Lancellotti is a Professor of Mathematics at the College of Staten Island and a faculty member in the Physics Program at the CUNY Graduate Center. His field of scholarship is mathematical physics, with a special emphasis on the kinetic theory of plasmas and gravitating systems. He has published in a variety of journals, including Physical Review, Physical Review Letters, the Journal of Statistical Physics, Chaos, the Journal of Transport Theory, and Statistical Physics. He has also translated into English and published three volumes of works by the late Italian philosopher Augusto Del Noce. Lancellotti has also written essays of his own on Del Noce and other topics, which have appeared in Communio, Public Discourse, Church Life Journal, First Things, and other outlets.

In this episode, we talk about:

  1. Beauty, structure, and harmony and their role in the study of mathematics.
  2. The aesthetic criteria used by some mathematicians.
  3. The beauty found in the Boltzmann equation.
  4. Beauty and truth in simplicity and consistency—understanding reality through math.
  5. The limitations of mathematics in what it can tell us about reality.
  6. Mathematicians and the Platonic world of ideas.
  7. Appreciating the beauty in mathematics—how beauty can help encourage the study of math.
  8. Understanding math is a necessity in learning art.

Resources mentioned:

David Bohm’s Wholeness and the Implicate Order:

The Redemption of Scientific Reason by Carlo Lancelloti

Episode 13: Can Viruses be Beautiful? - Dr. Mark Painter (click for show notes)

Dr. Mark Painter graduated from The University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota with a B.S. in Biology in 2014, and subsequently entered the Graduate Program in Immunology at the University of Michigan. There, he studied how HIV evades the immune response and establishes a persistent infection, working to develop therapeutic strategies to reverse these processes. He completed his PhD in Immunology in November 2020. He began a postdoctoral research fellowship to study human immunology and vaccination in John Wherry's lab at the University of Pennsylvania in January 2021. His current focus is on immune responses following SARS-CoV-2 infection and vaccination, and his work has been published in journals including Science Immunology, Immunity, Nature Medicine, Science, and Cell.

In this episode, we talk about:

  1. What drew Mark Painter into the study of biology and virology?
  2. The elegance and importance of viruses
  3. The beauty Mark finds in biology and virology
  4. The usefulness of beauty in scientific understanding
  5. The obstacles to encountering beauty in science, and what can help scientists face those obstacles.
  6. Mark’s insights into what could be done to establish more public trust in science, especially in the realm of vaccines
  7. Cultivating the love of science

Resources mentioned:

Mark Painter’s research:


This episode is sponsored by Templeton Religion Trust as part of a grant on the aesthetic dimensions of science. It is also sponsored by the Institute for Advanced Catholic Studies at the University of Southern California, and you can learn more about them here: www.iacs.usc.edu

Episode 12: Wonder: Cultivating the Love of Science - Dr. Frank C. Keil (click for show notes)

Frank C. Keil is Charles C. & Dorathea S. Dilley Professor of Psychology and Linguistics at Yale University, where he is also a member of the Cognition and Development Lab. After his BS in Biology at MIT in 1973, he went on to get his MA in Psychology from Stanford in 1975 and PhD in Psychology from University of Pennsylvania in 1977. Keil has published extensively on topics concerned with many areas in the development of cognition and language. He has written two books on aspects of conceptual development. He has served as president of the Society for Philosophy and Psychology and has received numerous awards for his scholarship, including the Boyd R. McCandless Award from the American Psychological Association (Developmental Psychology), the Distinguished Scientific Award for an Early Career Contribution to Psychology from the American Psychological Association, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a fellowship at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, a MERIT Award from the National Institutes of Health, and the Ann L. Brown Award for Excellence in Developmental Research. His recent work focuses on how children and adults grasp the causal structure of the world around them and how they cope with explanatory gaps. His latest book is Wonder: Childhood and the Lifelong Love of Science (MIT Press, 2022).

In this episode, we talk about:

  1. Defining “wonder” and how it differs from curiosity and its importance for children.
  2. Causal mechanisms and their importance in the realm of science.
  3. The factors that facilitate wonder and the drive to understand causal mechanisms.
  4. How the American school system contributes to the repression of wonder.
  5. How the pressure of chasing grants and the lack of agency is an obstacle to a scientist’s wonder.
  6. How to sustain the sense of wonder.
  7. Qualities that one can have that can contribute to the pursuit of scientific inquiry.
  8. Does learning how something works diminish the wonder we can feel for it?
  9. On the weaponization of wonder.
  10. How to make assertions with confidence while also saying that it’s fallible.
  11. Tips for cultivating wonder in (1) children, (2) teachers who feel pressured to produce by the system, and (3) scientists who are losing their sense of wonder.

Resources mentioned:

Frank Keil’s book, “Wonder: Childhood and the Lifelong Love of Science”:

Episode 11: The Beauty of Applied Science - Dr. Marcia Otto (click for show notes)

Dr. Marcia Otto is an Associate Professor at the University of Texas Health Science Center in the Department of Epidemiology, Human Genetics, and Environmental Health. Marcia's research focuses on the effects of different aspects of diet on cardiometabolic health and cognition. Marcia received her postdoctoral training in Nutritional and Cardiovascular Epidemiology at Harvard T.C. Chan School of Public Health. She holds a Ph.D. in Environmental Health from the University of Texas School of Public Health, an M.S. in Environmental Science from the University of Sao Paulo, and a B.S. in Physics from the University of Rio de Janeiro State. Marcia’s work has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, the American Heart Association, and the Department of Defense. Since 2020, Marcia has been serving as the leading investigator of a multi-site collaboration to inform the response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Harris County, TX.

In this episode, we talk about:

  1. Why Dr. Marcia Otto became a scientist and her career in public health and epidemiology.
  2. Her study in metals and their effects on the human body.
  3. The beauty in Dr. Marcia Otto’s work as a scientist: the wonder in being able to understand the workings of nature.
  4. The relationship between the beauty of understanding and the usefulness of science.
  5. Navigating institutional pressures that may become an obstacle in finding beauty in science.
  6. Dr. Marcia Otto’s advice for other scientists who struggle to find beauty in their work: “Do not forget your passion.”
  7. How the dedication to contribute and being receptive to discovery opens you to finding beauty in the field of science.
  8. What makes some scientists be open to being surprised, and why some are locked into a more confined goal?
  9. Navigating the difficulty of communicating thorough research to the public while being maintaining the possibility of expanding or even correcting said research, especially in the field of public health.
  10. What Dr. Otto wants the public to understand about her work and the field of science in general.

To learn more about Dr. Ottos’s work, visit: www.uth.tmc.edu

Episode 10: Finding Beauty in the Limits of Science - Dr. Marcelo Gleiser (click for show notes)

Marcelo Gleiser is the Appleton Professor of Natural Philosophy at Dartmouth, a world-renowned theoretical physicist and public intellectual. He’s authored hundreds of technical and nontechnical papers and essays, and six books in English translated to 15 languages, the latest being Great Minds Don’t Think Alike. His popular writings explore the historical, religious, and philosophical roots of science. 

Marcelo is a Fellow of the American Physical Society, a recipient of the Presidential Faculty Fellows Award from the White House, and founder and past director of the Institute for Cross-Disciplinary Engagement at Dartmouth. He co-founded NPR’s 13.7 Science and Culture blog, and currently writes weekly for BigThink.com. He is the 2019 Templeton Prize laureate, an honor he shares with Mother Tereza, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Dalai Lama, and scientists Freeman Dyson, Jane Goodall, Francis Collins, and Sir Martin Rees. In this episode we talk about: 

  1. What first drew Marcelo to physics in his childhood
  2. His first encounters with beauty in science
  3. Why Marcelo finds asymmetries in the world beautiful
  4. Why scientific models can be misleading
  5. Can we view science as the absolute truth?
  6. On the problem with ultimate theories of everything
  7. How can realizing science is limited actually fuel our pursuit for more knowledge?
  8. How does our lost connection with nature affect us as a society?
  9. What is the relationship between science and spirituality?
  10. How can one overcome corrosive institutional pressures in science?

To learn more about Marcelo’s work, visit: https://marcelogleiser.com 

Resources Mentioned: The blind spot: https://aeon.co/essays/the-blind-spot-of-science-is-the-neglect-of-lived-experience

 This episode is sponsored by Templeton Religion Trust as part of a grant on the aesthetic dimensions of science (TRT0296). To learn more about them, visit www.templetonreligiontrust.org 

This episode is also sponsored by the Institute for Advanced Catholic Studies, a global research center located at the University of Southern California. IACS works to create dialogue, spark ideas and sustain academic research on Catholic thought, creative imagination and lived experience. Learn more at iacs.usc.edu

Episode 9: Why Aesthetics is Essential for Science Education - Dr. Punya Mishra (click for show notes)

Dr. Punya Mishra is Associate Dean of Scholarship & Innovation and Professor in the Division of Educational Leadership & Innovation in the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at Arizona State University. He is internationally recognized for his work in technology integration in teaching; the role of creativity and aesthetics in learning; and the application of design-based approaches to educational innovation. He has received over $7 million in grants, published over 100 articles, and edited 3 books. He is an award-winning teacher, an engaging public speaker, as well as an accomplished visual artist and poet. And like any true Douglas Adams fan, he is interested in life, the universe, and everything.

In this episode we talk about:

  1. How Dr. Mishra began seeing the beauty of the world through science
  2. How can we revive the sense of wonder and curiosity in our classrooms?
  3. How education fails to cultivate the skill of curiosity and perception
  4. The role of beauty in science
  5. Dr. Mishra’s framework to better understand aesthetics in science
  6. Can curiosity be both helpful and harmful?
  7. Why do the aesthetics of coding matter?
  8. Can learning about the aesthetics of science help cultivate public trust?
  9. How can we develop generative curiosity?
  10. Why are the aesthetic aspects of science important?

To learn more about Dr. Mishra’s work, visit: https://punyamishra.com/

You can also find him on Twitter: https://twitter.com/punyamishra

Resources Mentioned:

His framework for the role of aesthetics in STEM education: https://punyamishra.com/2019/02/10/aesthetics-stem-education-introducing-a-new-framework/

Creativity & the Mindful Wanderings of Dr. Jonathan Schooler: https://punyamishra.com/2022/06/22/mindful-wandering-creativity-new-article/

Episode 8: The Science of Awe and the Awe of Science - Dr. Dacher Keltner (click for show notes)

Dacher Keltner is a professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, and the faculty director of UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center. A renowned expert in the science of human emotion, Dr. Keltner studies compassion and awe, how we express emotion, and how emotions guide our moral identities and search for meaning. His research interests also span issues of power, status, inequality, and social class. He is the author of The Power Paradox and the bestselling book Born to be Good, and the co-editor of The Compassionate Instinct. His latest book is titled Awe: The New Science of Everyday Wonder and How It Can Transform Your Life.

In this episode we talk about:

  1. What drew Dacher to the scientific study of awe
  2. How awe differs from wonder and beauty
  3. What has surprised him the most about what he learned through his research
  4. What are the causes and triggers of awe, and why it matters for us to experience it
  5. How might experiences of awe facilitate scientific inquiry? And conversely, can scientific work deepen our sense of awe and mystery?
  6. Can awe lead us to both action as well as contemplation?
  7. Are there problems with the structure or culture of science that inhibit experiences of awe?
  8. How can we nurture awe in research culture?
  9. What is the relationship between awe and spirituality?
  10. How can we practically cultivate awe in our daily lives?

To learn more about Dr. Keltner’s work, visit: www.dacherkeltner.com

Resources Mentioned:

Awe: The New Science of Everyday Wonder and How It Can Transform Your Life

Edmund Burke on the Sublime and the Beautiful

Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species

The Invention of Nature by Andrea Wulf

Episode 7: Beauty, Desire, and Rivalry in Science and Technology - Luke Burgis (click for show notes)

Luke Burgis began his career on Wall Street in investment banking and private equity and went on to found multiple companies in technology, consumer products, and wellness. He is Entrepreneur-in-Residence and Director of Programs at the Ciocca Center for Principled Entrepreneurship at The Catholic University of America, where he is also a professor of business. He graduated from New York University’s Stern School of Business with a degree in Finance and Accounting and later studied philosophy and theology at a pontifical university in Rome. 

Luke is the co-author of the book Unrepeatable: Cultivating the Unique Calling of Every Person, with Dr. Joshua Miller, and the bestselling book Wanting: The Power of Mimetic Desire in Everyday Life (St. Martin’s Press), inspired by the ideas of the social theorist René Girard on the mimetic or imitative nature of human desire.

In this episode, we talk about what beauty has to do with mimetic desire and rivalry, especially in the worlds of science and technology.

We explore:

1. What attracted Luke to pursue finance, entrepreneurship, and then to study philosophy and theology

2. What is mimetic desire, and why does it matter?

3. The work of Rene Girard on mimetic desire

4. How mimetic rivalry relates to unhealthy competition in science

5. How to foster healthy competition instead of mimetic rivalry

6. Comparing the worlds of technology and academia when it comes to mimetic desire

7. Luke’s conceptual framework called The Three-City Problem, examining the relationship between reason, faith, and technology

9. How one can focus on deeper beauty rather than mimetic desire

10. The Scapegoat Mechanism and the Mimetic Crisis

11. How to become anti-mimetic

To learn more about his work, visit https://www.lukeburgis.com and subscribe to his newsletter

Check out his book: Wanting The Power of Mimetic Desire in Everyday Life: https://www.amazon.com/Wanting-Power-Mimetic-Desire-Everyday/dp/1250262488

Episode 6: Does nature prefer symmetry? Beauty at the intersection of physics and biology - Dr. Ard Louis (click for show notes)

Ard Louis is a Professor of Theoretical Physics at the University of Oxford where he leads an interdisciplinary research group studying problems on the border between chemistry, physics, and biology. He was born in the Netherlands, was raised in Gabon, and received his first degree from the University of Utrecht and his PhD in theoretical physics from Cornell University. Prior to teaching at Oxford he taught theoretical chemistry at the University of Cambridge. 

In this episode we explore: 

1. What drew Ard to study physics 

2. Where he encounters beauty in his work 

3. What beauty means to scientists in the fields of biology and physics 

4. The role of awe and the sublime in science 

5. Ard’s recent research of the frequency of symmetry in nature 

6. Is there beauty in asymmetry? 

7. The significance of beauty in science 

8. Can beauty be misleading—a source of bias? 

9. How does beauty in science relate to the beauty we encounter in art? 

10. Why should the public care about beauty in science? 

Visit Dr. Louis’s research group website: https://www-thphys.physics.ox.ac.uk/people/ArdLouis/

Episode 5: Beauty and the brain: The science of neuroaesthetics - Anjan Chatterjee (click for show notes)

Dr. Anjan Chatterjee is a Professor of Neurology, Psychology, and Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania and has served as the Chair of Neurology at Pennsylvania Hospital. His clinical work focuses on cognitive disorders, and the focal points of his research are neuroaesthetics, spatial cognition, language, and neuroethics.

Dr. Chatterjee is the author of The Aesthetic Brain: How We Evolved to Desire Beauty and Enjoy Art and co-editor of Brain, Beauty, and Art: Bringing Neuroaesthetics in Focus. He received the Norman Geschwind Prize in Behavioral and Cognitive Neurology by the American Academy of Neurology and the Rudolph Arnheim Prize for contributions to Psychology and the Arts by the American Psychological Association. Dr. Chatterjee is a founding member of the Board of Governors of the Neuroethics Society, and the past President of the International Association of Empirical Aesthetics and the Behavioral and Cognitive Neurology Society.

Dr. Chatterjee joins us to discuss the following:

1. His academic path from philosophy to neuroscience to neuroaesthetics.

2. Are humans hard-wired for beauty?

3. Is beauty driven by nature or nurture (or is that the wrong question?)

4. The Aesthetic Triad

5. Beauty and morality

6. Using beauty as a heuristic

7. Why humans can find beauty in non-sensory subjects, like mathematics

8. The big questions that neuroaesthetics is seeking to answer

9. What we can learn from exploring aesthetics in science

Visit Dr. Chatterjee’s blog on Psychology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/brain-behavior-and-beauty

Visit his lab page at the Penn Center for Neuroaesthetics: https://neuroaesthetics.med.upenn.edu/chatlab.html

Check out his recent books on aesthetics:

The Aesthetic Brain: How we evolved to desire beauty and enjoy art https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00FHZZYOU/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vapi_tkin_p1_i1

Brain, Beauty, and Art: Essays Bringing Neuroaesthetics into Focus (With Eileen Cardillo) https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B09LVVRY54/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vapi_tkin_p1_i0

Episode 4: Beauty and innovation: Science, art, and entrepreneurship in Italy - Luca Cottini (click for show notes)

Dr. Luca Cottini is Associate Professor at Villanova University and host & creator of the YouTube show Italian Innovators. He holds a PhD from Harvard University, a MA from the University of Notre Dame, and a BA from the University of Milan. He was trained as a classical philologist in Italy, and a cultural historian in the US. His interests touch upon Italian literature, visual arts, and intellectual history of the 19th and 20th centuries, and on the birth of Italian industrial culture, advertising, and design. His books include a monograph on Italo Calvino (2017) and a cultural history of the origins of Italian design (The Art of Objects: The Birth of Italian Industrial Culture, 1878-1928). 

His YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/@ItalianInnovators) explores the Italian model of entrepreneurship and innovation through cultural profiles, interviews, and lessons across different disciplines (fashion, food, technology, sports, music, engineering). 

In our conversation, we discuss: 

1. What attracted Dr. Cottini to study design and innovation

2. His thoughts on Galileo being the father of modern science

3. How Italy’s humanities-focused education influences science

4. How different ideas contribute to each other and create innovation

5. Some examples of encounters with beauty that spurred innovation

6. How aesthetic principles might also hinder innovation 

7. The role of beauty in the future of science

8. How to cultivate intellectual humility and drive in the face of failure

To learn more about Dr. Cottini’s work, visit https://www.italianinnovators.com/

Episode 3: Beauty and mental health - Eloise Ballou (click for show notes)

Dr Eloise Ballou is a psychiatrist specializing in psychotherapy for adolescents and hospital-based emergency psychiatry. She received her medical degree from the University of Ottawa in the French stream and completed her Psychiatry residency at the University of Toronto. She enjoys supervising Psychiatry residents in psychodynamic psychotherapy at the University of Toronto, and also works as a locum psychiatrist in Northern Ontario in acute care and emergency room settings. She studied Art History and Psychology at the University of Toronto prior to starting her medical training, and has a particular interest in applying insights from the humanities to her medical practice.

In our interview, we explore:

  1. What drew Eloise to medicine/psychiatry in the first place
  2. Where she encounters beauty in her work as a psychotherapist
  3. The obstacles to encountering beauty in her work and in the medical profession generally
  4. How beauty might be relevant to mental health
  5. What it might look like for scientists, physicians, and the healthcare field more generally to take beauty more seriously or to cultivate the conditions for professionals to encounter beauty in their work

To learn more about her work, visit drballou.com

Episode 2: Can scientific experiments be beautiful? - Milena Ivanova (click for show notes)

Dr. Milena Ivanova is Bye-Fellow at Fitzwilliam College, University of Cambridge. She studied history and philosophy of science at the University of Athens and holds a Ph.D. in philosophy from the university of Bristol. She is the co-editor of The Aesthetics of Science: Beauty, Imagination and Understanding (Routledge, 2020), author of Duhem and Holism (Cambridge University Press, 2021), and is currently coediting a book on The Aesthetic Nature of Scientific Experiments, forthcoming with Routledge.

In this episode, we explore:

  1. What drew Milena to the topic of beauty in science
  2. What makes beauty relevant as a concept to scientists
  3. What scientists consider a beautiful experiment
  4. How beauty matters both for the design and significance of experiments
  5. Whether beauty can be a source of bias in science
  6. How the role of surprise (e.g., unexpected and even disruptive findings) may affect the aesthetic value of experiments
  7. How understanding the aesthetic dimensions of experiments may be helpful for scientists and philosophers
  8. Implications of her work for those of us who aren’t scientists

You can learn more about Dr. Ivanova’s work at http://www.milenaivanova.co.uk

You can also explore the topic of our interview in the following articles:

When is a scientific experiment like a beautiful work of art?

What is a beautiful experiment?

The aesthetics of scientific experiments

Episode 1: Beauty in Physics - Mario Livio (click for show notes)

Dr. Mario Livio is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. For 24 years, Dr. Livio worked with the Hubble Space Telescope. He has published more than 500 scientific articles on topics such as cosmology, supernova explosions, black holes, extrasolar planets, and the emergence of life in the universe. He is the author of seven books including The Golden Ratio, Is God a Mathematician, and Brilliant Blunders. His latest book is Galileo and the Science Deniers.

In this episode, we explore:

1. What attracted Mario to astrophysics in the first place

2. Mario’s definition of beauty in science, which consists of three specific criteria

3. Mario’s experiences of encountering beauty in science

4. How mathematics may be relevant to our understanding of beauty

5. Whether the beauty we can encounter in science and art are similar or different

6. Whether scientists should care about beauty in their work, and if the public should care about beauty in science

To learn more about Dr. Livio’s work, visit https://www.mario-livio.com

Also check out his books such as

Galileo and the Science Deniers

The Golden Ratio

Is God a Mathematician?

Why? What Makes Us Curious


This podcast is made possible with funding from Templeton Religion Trust and the Institute for Advanced Catholic Studies at the University of Southern California.


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