River of Suck

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11 - Anne A. Madden - Bugs on Bugs

by Andy Reiner
November 25th 2019

Bugs on Bugs is a pivotal River of Suck episode about the intersection of microbial science, mental health and the learning process.  Anne A. Madden's experience speaking at TED conferences, thinki... More

Welcome to the River of Suck Podcast Episode 11. You have to suck at something before you can be good at it. I am your host Andy Reiner. I too am swimming through the river of suck constantly every day but with a growth mindset, Thanks for joining my guests and I on this journey into fear and existence. My guest today is an madden, a research scientist, science communicator and engagement strategist. Hey and how's it going? Awesome. Andy awesome, why is it awesome? Because I get to talk with you and share some stories. You really love to work with microorganisms. I do, I love microorganisms in a way that I often hear people talk about loving their pets. It's much more than just a profession. So as a microbiologist, I study them but I am fascinated by them. I find inspiration in them and I think they're beautiful, beautiful and small, mighty but powerful. So for a while in life I didn't know how to define myself because I have a lot of jobs and I take a lot of gigs and I realized that the best way to describe myself is mission focused, which I highly recommend if you don't have a mission statement is to sit down and think about what your mission is.

And so my mission is to reveal the utility and relevance of the micro organisms around us. And I do this as a research scientist, I do this as a science communicator and I do this as an innovation and engagement specialist. So basically I get to find new microbes in the world, new species discovered them and explore. Then I get to highlight their relevance by showing how they can make our lives better, making better beer or making new therapeutics. And then as an engagement specialist and scientific communicator, I get to share their stories with the world and let you know about all the ways that microbes are helping your life that you may not know yet. So here at the River of Sock podcast we have a concept called the U. S. You. If you want to be a happy person, I think you need to find what it takes to make you feel like the U. S. To you that you can be. So I'm wondering two things which is what makes you feel the U.

S. To you and how did you get there? And how does it involve sheep? Yeah the US U. Is I think such a core concept and if I could answer it I feel like then I would be on the mountaintop and have a lot of things figured out. And so I think I'm still working on identifying and myself what makes me the meatiest me. The meanest me is someone who's creatively solving problems exploring the world and finding joy in the mundane. And the origin of that probably starts back when I was in middle school they're around and I suffered from major depression and it was awful. I even had a phobia of school. So this is funny later as someone who's been through so many years of schooling, I think I overcompensated. But during middle school had a phobia of school, things were awful. And this was back at a time where there wasn't a lot known about depressive disorders.

And so I was on every medication in the world that doctors could think of and each one held the promise of taking me away from the darkness and they kept not working. And so there's really nothing more frustrating as a child than being told, don't worry, don't worry, this will fix it and then it doesn't. And so with time things got better with different pharmaceutical interventions and work and playing with sheep and spending time in the quiet with sheep sheer so good. But um also during that time came back to school and took a science course and in one of these science courses it was anatomy and physio. And we were dissecting a cat and I love cats. So this is emotionally traumatizing. Yeah, charge is a better word. But I saw that you know underneath our skin there is muscles and bones and bones don't move and muscles just pull them close together.

And with that simple principle comes all of the dynamic movement that is dance, that is our ability to play music and speak. And I loved that such a simple principle could predict all of these emergent things that seem so magical and that's what science was. And so I think that's what brought me to that part of who I am. It's pretty cool that you were afraid of school and that it caused you stress, but yet you didn't quit when it was hard. You got a doctorate. Like that's cool. Thank you. Yeah. In high school my parents didn't ever think I would graduate. They thought that I might get a cheery. So ninth grade is kind of the, the inflection point was ninth and 10th grade. And before that, in ninth grade, there was a big question about whether I ever graduate high school and so Six billion years later, maybe 15 years of school later, I don't know so many years of school later. It's hard to be a kid and know what you're supposed to do with your life.

And it's like, what are you gonna do? What are you going to go to college for? It's like, I don't know, I'm a kid. I just need to be a kid for a little while longer. Yeah. And then, yeah. What is your purpose? What is your value to society? What is, what is it that you do uniquely well, Oh yeah. And what also makes you happy doing it? That's a lot to figure out when you're like 14 in your ted talks the thing that you do right off the bat is to make people aware of their uncomfortable itty around microbes and the way that we think about it, We need to move past the era where we're like sterilizing everything, cleaning everything. Oh no, it's dirty. Well maybe we need that to live. You're trying to bring us into the future of microbes instead of this bizarre past. Yeah. So when we talk about microorganisms, we're talking about over a trillion species that live around us.

But most of us only have kind of a few microbial moments and those microbial moments are like, oh, I remember that time that I had strep throat hate those microbes or the microbes that we know are associated with rot and decay and human waste. And so those are oftentimes the association's think of with microbes, but that's just like an alien coming to our planet and meeting animals and the two animals that they got to meet were sharks and tigers and they're like, we should get rid of all animals, They have big teeth, they can eat us. That seems mean and horrible. We should get rid of animals. You're like, wait, wait, let me show you kitten videos, the world is so much better if you just learn about more animal species and like here's a burger, like life gets better. The more animals you get to know. When I gave my ted talk, it seemed like a lot of the audience was afraid of microorganisms were revolted by microorganisms. There was a, and I want to sterilize things to, to kind of move away from those things that could be gross.

I have hand sanitizer in my pocket right now. Yeah, and I'm a big fan of hand sanitizer. I want to be clear some microbes are not our friends, but it's interesting in the last few years there's also been this kind of counter movement of the microbiome and these microbes that are inside us that have so much promise to make our lives better. And it's interesting because now a lot of my work in communicating the science of microbes is about what the microbiome can do. But also to be wary of some of the claims around some companies that are saying the microbiome is the silver bullet of everything you had a bad day. Your succulent looks wilted. You need extra kittens in your life. The microbiome will save you. Well I hear that it does, I'm taking probiotics and I have I love kombucha. You know those are supposed according to some research, some people did not that I could cite my sources which seems to be important in actual science. Um I'm told that you're that you're that your your stomach microbiome does have an impact on your happiness.

I've noticed it has also an impact on my digestion. So that's one of the things I can observe in myself. Oh definitely. The microbes in us are doing remarkable things and I mean we know about some of them. They're breaking down plant material for us there, creating vitamins for us. They are interacting with our immune system, which in turn influences everything from our broad health. Two aspects of our mood. There's just a lot more yet to figure out than there is known why they're inspirational for me is that they do a really good job of taking the crap that is around them and turning it into high value items. Did you just call microbes optimistic? Yes, I did. I consider them to be motivational. Really? They are my gurus. That's awesome. One of the many hats that I wear is Chief scientific Officer at company and there we use yeasts that come from wasps and bumblebees and all sorts of bugs to make new beer flavors.

Yes. And we're expanding from beer into sake and cider and all of these different fermented beverages. And we're going over the data and it's really interesting to talk to experts in the field of wine and food and they're like, you know what? We really want our microbes to be able to do X, Y and Z. We want them to create these flavor profiles because flavors super complex trait because its aroma, it's taste, it's mouth feel different molecules involved in all of those things. And so they're interested in finding microbes that can do this. And we found microbes in a wasp that are really good at producing floral and honey aromas and we think it's because evolutionarily the microbes are signaling to the wasps that there's sugar for them to find in the form of nectar or rotting fruit or tree sap and that by the yeast creating these floral and fruity aromas, the wasps go on over to them and then act as an airplane bringing those immobile yeasts from sugar source to a sugar source.

And so I like that whenever we have a beer made from these yeasts were enjoying the same flavors and aromas that wasps are, I like being connected in that way Too little things that I don't think about, people think bugs are gross and weird and they don't think they want to taste them. How much do you like honey? You know? Yeah, that's a really good point. And it's not just about flavor. There's also microbes right now that can break down plastic. So anything that you can imagine the world that today is a problem, whether it's plastic, whether it's a pesticide that won't go away, whether it's even a greenhouse gas, there is a microbial species out there that has evolved an ability to munch on that and poop out something different. And so what I'm really excited about these days is how, knowing that there's a trillion microbes species around us? How do you find that microbe that does that so that we can then harness it and do what we do with yeast to make beer grow it up, give it the space to make our world better. Well, there's so many yeast strains that have been used for hundreds of years in certain kinds of beers, yeast is like the secret magic.

I mean, people used to pray to God or whatever they prayed to that their beer would ferment because that was the only way they could get anything safe to drink. And we've been cultivating some of these same yeast for centuries, millennia and you're saying, wait, do not rest, we're not done. There's more and we can make it better. I mean, as a home brewer, I want to get my hands on some of these yeast. I'm excited for more chances to experiment with different flavors. Especially. I think Bugs are cool Bugs with little bugs. You're all about the little bugs on the big bugs. The little so many bugs. I studied so many Bugs. Bugs. Bugs on. Bugs on Bugs. Yes. Bugs on. Bugs on. Bugs. Yes, yes, someday soon. Hopefully we'll be able to release our yeasts for the home brewers market because it's been really cool to work with commercial brewers and see what they've done with these yeast because the yeast are functional aid tools and as you know, changing temperature parameters or how long your brewing them or what you're brewing them with or what you're adding all changes of beer and it's really fun to see what brewers have done with it.

Well, I eagerly await the results of that so I can use it in my creative beer making. And he's going to get to try a beer tonight. That's made with one of the bumblebee yeasts. He doesn't know this yet though. Life is good. Let's get into the river of sake. So do you skinny dip through the river of soccer? Do you wear lots of equipment? Is anybody watching? Does it matter? Well, the river of suck is an imaginary river in your mind, so if it helps you to be naked heck Yeah, skinny dipping, skinny dipping through the river of suck with anne Madden. Yeah. So you're standing on one edge and behind you is your comfort cave and you're standing on your comfort shore and you're looking across the river to the other side where you see future versions of yourself, who can do the things that you wish you could do now and you're all jealous of the future versions of yourself.

Like look at them, Gosh, I wish I could do that. And the problem is you're you now today you want to get to the other side. But in between is the raging whitewater rapids of the river of suck the rocks that create those rapids and worst of all thought piranhas. Everyone's worst enemy. The negative thoughts that appear in your head trying to self sabotage us, Why are they here? What are they doing? Stop making me afraid of everything. I thought prom is scary, scary thoughts, you know? So that's the river of suck and the idea is that in order to get to the other side, accomplish your goals. You're going to need to suck at something before. You can be good at it. You're going to need to dwell in this process land where you want to do a thing but it's just not coming out right yet and you have to trudged through some mud rocks and get bit by piranhas and it sucks to suck.

Yeah. So that's the river of suck. My question to you is how do you see this river of suck in your life or your science or your science life? Yeah. The river of suck comes to me as all of the catastrophes that have never happened but could and all of the catastrophes that have happened and the weight of all of that feels exhausting and uncertainty and so it becomes knowing that if I could be more confident, if I could not get in my own way, I could be on that other side of the river of suck And instead it's like my body is refusing to swim and so there's that extra layer of, oh no, this is my own fault that I can't get across the river. So it's all very abstract. It often comes down to fear of failure. There's absolutely fear of failure, but failure looks like different things.

So as one example, I get very scared before I give any talk. This is something that not everyone is familiar with, but anyone who has ever been in my life 24 or 48 hours before I've given a talk. I am sobbing. I am, I am a mess. Like I think that ted staff actually like have jokes about me. I am a mess. I have no confidence and I think about not, you know, Oh no, I'm scared about going on stage. But of letting people down. Like I have this opportunity to talk about microbes and what if I don't do a good job? What are all the consequences of that? Or as a woman in science? What happens if I suck? Will that hurt someone else? So this is why we're talking about this in a way that people can listen because we all experience these fears and we think that we're alone. But we're not, Everyone feels this way. When I watch a video of you speaking on the ted stage, you look super confident. You look super passionate. You sounded, everything is awesome.

It's a great talk. I can't see any of that that you're saying happened, which I believe you, but you got out there and you did it. So what happened in between the sobbing and getting out on stage? I've been told I have a very ugly process but that that's okay for the deliverable. That's the river of suck. Yeah, ugly process. Super ugly process. Tell me about this ugly process. Yeah. So it happens in science. It happens in research. It happens in business giving a talk is such a good example, because it happens over and over again, and it shares a lot of the same parallels, so I'll get invited to give a talk and it's shocking and wonderful, and it's all of that serotonin and dopamine and oh my gosh, someone wants to hear something that I have to say that feels so glowy and shiny and kittens and butterflies and all of those good things. And then, like, pretty much immediately I'm excited about the, like, puzzle of how do you talk about something in a new way that might engage an audience?

So, Give a different kind of talk to K through 12 students than you give to technology. Mhm moguls. Um So I like that. Then it's then it's a puzzle, and then almost immediately after that, and we're talking in the span of a few hours, it starts crashing into the Oh no, what have I done? Thank you so much. This is magical. Get really excited text, friends, text my sister. Oh my God, this is really fun. Um and then there's usually a point right in there that they've started to get into the pattern of knowing, I'm like, are you sure you want to give another talk? Like you told me last time to say no to you, and I'm like, no, no, it's gonna be great, this one's going to be different, it's not going to take that much time, I'll be fine, and then I get really nervous and it's about believing that I will let people down certain ted events, you're, you're looking out and you see political leaders, you know, allegories over there to the left and Sergei brin of google's over to the right and like I think that's Karlie Kloss in the background and superman, but but those are not my most intimidating audience members because honestly, they're probably not gonna remember who I am, not really care and not going to influence my world much, but I will almost never give a practice talk in front of people who know me hmm because I care about my friends and my family and what they think of the work that I do.

Were you also worried about your own expectations of yourself letting yourself down, not just other people or even like hearing your voice. So I don't really listen to a lot of my talks. I get very much in my head and and like, oh, I'm making a weird face, like go back to my ted talk. I make like a frog face at one point. I don't know when I developed that yeah, you start to overthink things and just do a lot of negative critiques and so I try and move on once I've done something um fair enough, but al gore, no problem. I mean then it just becomes a funny story like al gore is a stranger right there, like it really doesn't matter. Stranger al gore um Yeah, but like family and friends, um or even people I was working with. So staff of ted Okay, so is it easier to talk in front of people you don't know or scientists in your field compared to general public? So scientists are just one type of audience and they and I think that any talk for me is more scary if I don't think that I have a handle on what the audience is expecting and what they value.

And so sometimes that's been a mismatch. I've gone into academic spaces where scientists are expecting a specific type of talk and it's usually like 45 minutes or an hour. And I hate giving really long talks because they're really boring and I get bored by my own voice. And I've had those real mrs and I am watching the audience and so when they start to do the glare and the checking phones, you're like, oh no, like I failed at doing this and that means that the information is not being conveyed and that feels like a such a missed opportunity because it takes so much energy to put together any kind of project. Okay, So I watched a TED talk from 2017 and I think that's probably your famous popular one, I don't know. Yes, the one that's been seen by the most people.

Yes, probably that one. Yeah. The one where I said sex on your face, on the same stage that the pope spoke on the day before. Yeah. Yeah. That one claim to fame right here In 2019. You did. Was it somewhere in India? No. Yes. Okay. You looked a little bit more confident in that one. I guess. I'm wondering if you feel like you've learned anything since you started giving these big talks that get recorded? If you make a frog face, it's on the internet forever. If you stutter anything you do will not just be seen by the people in the room, but potentially analyzed and just seen by people because the internet, nothing ever disappears. So don't ever do anything in your life you'll ever regret because it will be up there forever. Holy cow. What a world he's spawning piranhas right now, right? I mean, I guess I'm just wondering like what you learned about this level of public speaking in between or are you just getting better by doing it? I think that there's definitely an aspect where I get better at public speaking with the experience, like so many things, the more you do it, the more it starts to feel like the flow, almost muscle memory.

Um and trust, like, oh my gosh, I didn't get up there and like poop on the stage the first time I probably won't this time. I mean I was terrified before that talk too. So it's one of those funny things that I think I understand, it's part of my process and that that I've had a couple talks where I haven't been at all terrified like that. I'm really like calm and like, yeah, let's let's do this is gonna be great. And they don't have the same level of energy to them. And so I am learning that there's somewhere in between where I do need to put that focus and energy on it. It doesn't have to take so much of me that I am a mess. But it's a process of creation. It does take work if you're sobbing backstage. I mean, there are people who would sob and then who wouldn't go on stage. That's the moment of self destruction where they just everything explodes, emotions go awry. I can't do this. But you didn't do that. You didn't say I can't do this. You acknowledged that it was hard and then you did it. How did you do that?

So, my skill set is in finding the most incredible friends in the world. Like, I do think that that is my superlative skill. And often in my times where I'm most doubting myself, I turned to some of those friends or my sister and they remind me of who I am and in that they sort of question my illogic that like some of the narratives that I'm saying are just they're just fear rather than being a fear that can be helpful and I distinguish the two because it's one it's you know, okay, yeah, you should practice. Like if you don't know the words right now and you're afraid of, you should be really nervous. You're not ready, right? Right. Like it should motivate you to get ready. But then there's a point where it's like true imposter syndrome or when it's just fear without words, when it's that fear in the body. Um and that's where my friends are truly kind and patient and deserve all the credit in the acknowledgement sections of any talk that I give, where they just sort of walk me back from the cliff where it's like, alright, but remember we love you, no matter what.

Yeah. So there the emotional support, but you won't practice in front of them. Yeah. I'm just saying I have work to do a really great therapist. I'm working on this stuff. Oh wait, so you have a therapist and you're willing to admit it. Can we talk about that? A lot of people think they have problems and they won't talk to anybody about it. Oh my gosh, I love learning from professionals. I think that that's my like dictum to go by, you know, like where do I learn about cool coffee stuff from people that do a lot of research and work on coffee and what kind of music do I like? People that are spending time with their craft and so I feel that way about therapy where it's like people that are trained to help me work through the things that we all have to some degree. That's awesome. That's great to have someone that can help you on something and that they're professionals in that space. So I find therapy useful. I don't really like it. It's hard, but I find it really useful.

This is a really good space to talk about this because some of the people who seem like they need therapy the most would be the most resistant unless they're super open minded. I think that it would be treading on dangerous territory for almost anyone that I know for me to go to them and be like, you need therapy. Like I don't think it's appropriate for me to say that to most people. Yeah, but I mean I recommend it. Like even if you think you're like, oh my gosh, my life is at the most amazing point. Like you're sitting back there and you're just like I got I got it all. Whatever all means to you, you have it all. You sleep well, tell me what that's like. Like if you're in that space, go get a therapist now life is full of ups and downs the only constant and it's way easier to have the tools and skills developed before you need them. So I'm a proponent for like prophylactic therapy as well. I don't know what that is like therapy before you need it. So Okay, yeah, prophylactic antibiotics before you get hit with the pathogen is going to make you super sick and have any kind of disease.

You take some antibiotics. It always comes back to microbes at least in this house. 100 percent. Except cats are not microbes. And we still like them that they carry microbes with them and unique ones. Cat probes One of the reasons that I'm so excited to talk to scientists is because they don't always take failure personally. They say oh well negative result. I didn't do the right experiment or we need to do more experiments. Not, I am terrible at this, I'm a bad person. And so I'm really interested in hearing like what do you consider to be failure and why is failure a good thing or why is it? I mean I don't know what is failure. I think it's a great question to think about what is failure because there's the idea of a failed experiment so often in science things fail.

I remember when I was a young science and industry trying to develop novel antibiotics and had this beautiful test and the chemical that we were really interested in going to going to be the next greatest antibiotic I came in and the test revealed. But nope it's like really good at killing microbes but it's also really good at killing human cells. So that's just bleach functionally. And so I was I was really sad and one of my co workers had been professional scientists for a long time. And he goes, he like looks at me and he like giggles and he's like, why did you ever think it would work? Science is 99% failure. That's a very sad thing to hear as a young scientist. Because you're, you almost feel like, oh, this is an impossible trek that you're about to go on. But it does also make these moments when you find new truths or you discover new species or something works there. They bring great elation because it's like, oh my gosh! Despite it all. Yeah. Despite it all, There were so many late nights and painful, painful amounts of work and hardship in the river suck so much sucking from the river.

Just like a waterfall of suck And And yet in that you saw that it polished the stones that ended up being the things you wear on your necklace. I don't know. It's just sure. Yeah. Getting through it. Seeing the beautiful moments. So would you say that failure is a crucial part of your life? Oh, failure is absolute failure is the journey of my life. Mhm. Is failure is a crucial part of my life in terms of every step along the way, Including that sentence. But but you never quit. You kept going. Yeah. How did you keep going? So I get asked that And upon reflection, it never felt like I had a choice to quit. Mm hmm That's why I never quit music. Awesome. A bad attitude little kid. That is why I didn't quit music. I didn't think I would be allowed to. Yeah. So I think that's that there's some like enough years in like was I going to just turn away from science?

I mean I joke about that all the time that I want to start a goat farm. But then whenever I start talking about that, invariably I'm like, oh yeah, that'll make cheese and I'll find new microbes on goats. And the joy sort of pulls me back. And I think that that's part of the resilience is in remembering that, um, that a lot of it is hard, but there is something that I find joy in and that feels like it's me and I can't actually quit on a big scale. On a small scale. It might have been healthier for me to quit actually to listen to some of that fear at some point. I'm stoked you didn't there? I mean broadly I'm happy. I'm a scientist. Do you find sometimes that you're working so hard on a problem that you're so zoomed in that the answer only comes when you're like running or taking a shower or like eating a sandwich or doing something else that's not specifically trying to accomplish the task that you're working on. I find that I'm my most creative And that's usually when I find solutions when I'm exposed to a lot of different types of information.

So it's usually when I'm out in the world and I'm meeting up with friends that are in business and friends that are in economics or artists and start talking to them about the things going on in their world, the challenges that they face professionally. And that that's when connections get made, that I wouldn't have thought about afterwards. And so so often my life is about finding microbes that can help solve problems. And there's two different ways of approaching that you have this problem. Oh my gosh, we want to breakdown plastic. So go on a hunt for things for microbes. Break down plastic. But there's another way that people don't often talk about, which is okay, you found some of these microbes that like didn't do a great job of breaking down plastic, but they have these other unique skills like this one happens to grow at this really cold temperature, where would that ever be useful? And that where would that ever be useful? Is oftentimes where you can find really remarkable things. So, you're talking about meeting different kinds of people.

Do you think there's even a getting outside of your comfort zone of people that, you know, elements of that to just being challenged on your ideas and you know, it's that makes a lot of people uncomfortable. Oh yeah, so I love meeting new people. That's a very weird thing about me and unusual, at least within my field, Okay. That's the notable trade that I have. That's different from a lot of people, not everyone, but from a lot of people. It's not what people think of when they think of scientists. I'm not reserved. I'm super happy to go all the way down talking about everything on a plane. So beware if you sit next to me, She'll be in row 22 in the aisle seat. I really love in general meeting new people because I get to hear their stories and two things. Yes, I learn about new things, you know, challenges of one profession or another. But there's another point where you talk to enough people and you find out that the wealthiest people in the world are also struggling with the same struggles that I feel like I've faced and the people that are the most successful or the most beautiful or the most glamorous or seem like they walk into a room and you're like, what's that like?

Like that's the confidence of like wearing a white suit. Ah And yet those people like to talk to and they're like, they're terrified of what's going to happen to their kids or their terrified of boredom or they're also terrified of financial crises even though they're very far away from it, but there's a being unified with humans over shared experiences. Something I find very valuable. Maybe that's one connection even between musicians and scientists is I think we're correct me if I'm wrong, but we both interface sometimes with some of the people with the least money, but also some of the richest people in the world and some people in the middle and I think what you're saying is just they're all people and that's important to remember. Yeah, I think it's kind of fun being able to talk to people of the different, I hate to say classes, but this is a world of economies and capitalism and it does change people but I don't want to be stuck talking to one kind of people for I think I'm with you.

Meeting new people is in its own way a comfort zone. You know what I'm afraid of? I'm afraid of boredom. Oh big, huge, huge fear is boredom. Like if I'm being challenged on my ideas. Cool. That's great. That's not boring. Yeah. And and so Ok, great. Great. Example from the other day, I'm coming back from a few days trip and I've given a talk and I've had some business meetings and met up with some colleagues and like there were a lot of highs and lows like life is full of adventures and catastrophes and it, I was dealing with the emotional repercussions of all of those things swirling around in my head, I get in my left. Um and the lift driver was like, how are you doing? And I was like, oh rollercoaster of a day and he laughed. He was like, I was, I was not expecting you to say that. And I was like, yeah, I'm sorry. You know, it's nice to meet you. Why are you down here? How are you doing? He's like, well, I just retired. I used to live up in new york city and I worked for the subway and I was like, oh, I bet you have stories that I've never even thought about.

He goes, well, yeah, one day it's like a lot of people don't know that a lot of people commit suicide in the new york subway and he's like, one day I was there someone had just done that on the tracks and I was really struggling with it. And I go up to my supervisor and I go, I just, I got to take a drive. I got to get away from this experience, supervisor said, sure, no problem. It's like I go out to my car and half of the body is on my car because it was an elevated rail. Whoa. And I was like, sir, I'm so sorry. Before, when I said my day was a roller coaster, I lied that day was a roller coaster. I'm fine. I just had some meetings and like maybe have to think about my confidence in certain science faces huge perspective and I feel like that is the gift that I get sometimes from interacting with people is perspective. Yeah, we could all use a little perspective Yeah. When are the piranhas? Really piranhas? And when are they minnows with big shadows? Whoa, Hold on, Stop the presses. Minnows with big shadows tell me about that.

So I think it's important for me to understand perspective because all of my fears can feel overwhelming and that's not, that's not helpful for me, because then I just get overwhelmed and that's what stops me from being my missed me. And so I like the perspective, whether that's from learning about what other people are going through, from experiencing the world, from helping someone else and kind of getting a little bit of like, okay, you're this, there's a lot of ego in that fear that you have, um, all of that sort of helps me understand when, when a fear is truly overwhelming, when it can be educational and when it needs to be just ignored, wow, that is the real right there in Madden, just saying cute, cool music. Okay, how do you stay positive in the face of impossible seeming challenges, imposter syndrome, self doubt or like a world of people denying that science is real.

Do you have any strategies to deal with any of that? Who how do you get through the big beds? So, when, I mean, I think one is community and for me that really helps, like whether it's um, what's so funny, community was the one word that I didn't say out of all the bubbles. And you got to the one word? I didn't say. So it must be something about the community of people that we surround ourselves with. Yeah, yeah. Your support team. Yeah. And it's it's solidarity. I think part of the job of being a friend, a good collaborator, a colleague is inspiring the best and others but also reminding them of their best selves. And that's important to me because I don't like feeling alone. If it's the idea that vaccines, vaccines are awesome. Technology keep us all safe. Really remarkable. And yet there's a big fraction of the population that doesn't believe this and it leads to horrible consequences.

Um that can feel daunting and isolating and it's pretty easy to give up in that space. But community can help provide that buffer to keep hope alive. And I think that that's key is like for me getting that energy to keep going through those moments and knowing that there will be an adventure to go along with that catastrophe. There will be a moment where you in grad school I used to have a story of the turtle moments. So this is a very small scale story, but it works throughout other examples where I'm in the rainforest doing research and one weekend I'm at a beach like a beach clubbing. I think it's a lot of fun. But I'm with three or four friends and we realized that all of the taxis have stopped going back down the street to the hotels. And so I have to walk down the beach a few miles now in the middle of the night without headlamps and this is a space where like there are ants that come through that you walk through and just start stinging and biting and I'm tired and I've been working in this whole summer without sleep and I'm just like, this is the worst.

I made so many bad decisions that got me to this moment where I'm walking in the dark alone in the heat with bug stinging me hating everything. And then I walk over what looks like four Wheeler tracks going up the beach and I was like, wait brain is processing like there are no four wheelers in this part, but something's off and so you take a step back and realize that there's a giant Oliver Ridley sea turtle nesting and these are the turtles that are like bigger than four wheelers, they are huge animals. And in this perfect, beautiful moment in the silence of a Costa Rican evening, I get to watch a giant turtle lay eggs. It was magical. And it's like, okay, this is a turtle moment. Like when I feel at my worst, it's right before something cool happens, something beautiful. And I think that I have to remember those past experiences to get through some of the really rough ones that happened where okay, this is daunting, I feel alone, this is horrible, but it won't stay like this, hmm, what are your turtle moments listeners send river of suck podcast, an email to Andy Reiner fiddle at gmail dot com.

I'd love to hear your turtle moments. We'll send them dan internal Moment. That could be a song like that story. And it's called Turtle Moment. I was on the beach walking on home when I saw four wheeler track, but it wasn't a four wheeler track. I had a Turtle moment, Turtle moment, Turtle moment, Turtle moment was on the beach track, but it wasn't a four wheeler tracks. Had a turtle moment, moment moment moment, moment, moment moment, turtle moment, moment, moment, moment, moment, umbrella, gender issues in science.

What's going on over there? Are you doing okay? Thank you for asking. Um, maybe it's better than it was. Um it's frustrating is when that has to be the discussion about anything related to science. Like, oh and she's a woman scientist or being in a business meeting with my co inventors and people keep assuming I'm the student. My wife is a doctor of cello and she quote, looks like she could be a student and people underestimate her all the time. So I'm guessing you're getting that too. Yeah. Yeah. I think that there are a lot of assumptions that we make as people and I dye my hair blonde and I show up in stilettos. And so I it's not often assumed that I'm the one in the room with the most education about microbes and when I do a lot of work communicating science. And I think that that's really important, but very often people will then assume that I'm quote unquote, just the communicator rather than the person that's doing the work or the strategy work or building businesses, but you just want to be yourself and part of being yourself is wearing what you want to wear because that makes you feel comfortable and you're a scientist, yep, so get used to what scientists look like world.

Yeah, it used to be my quiet actor of rebellion when I was in middle school, I started wearing heels or even younger at that age and people made fun of me like, oh you're going to a business meeting. Um and then I'm in science and its people are like, I, I almost didn't get accepted into my PhD lab actually because I showed up in like suit pants and high heels and they were like, there's gonna be a lot of field work, you're gonna have to go out and get dirty, but at some point it's the winter and it's massachusetts and the people that are interviewing me, bring me out to an apiary a place where they keep bees in a shed and they're like, oh we can't bring you inside because it's iced over and I said, oh no worries, and then I proceed to chip away all the ice with my high heel and they were like, okay, you're good, this will be fine. And so the clothes are, they are what I feel most comfortable in. You can't look too good, you can't look too bad. What are you supposed to do? Like it's an impossible goal that, you know, it's like, it's there's like, how do you win that?

Right? It hurts a lot when you start to believe that no matter how good you are, you still can't succeed because it's not about you. It's about the system and it's that, you know, death by 1000 cuts. So it's one of those, like it never really hurts whenever anyone says it just, oh, oh my gosh, I thought you were in marketing. I never knew you were a scientist. But there's a message that you start internalizing of um I've been told, oh, it's impressive that you're a scientist given the way you look. And that's not the message that I want people to hear in the world because that has a lot of meaning behind it that I don't want any other woman or young girl to internalize dang real talk real talk. So the discussions about the systemic problems that we face, whether it's gender discrimination in science so many other things too. It sucks in itself because it feels hopeless. Like, oh, how am I supposed to combat that? I have no ownership over that. And so what I do like is that I'm mindful now when I'm doing collaborations with other scientists with artists, all sorts of people to understand how to do it more ethically.

And in that we create statements of okay, how do we make sure that we have voices represented from not just those voices that tend to get the podium and how can I be mindful about choosing partnerships that elevate people who don't have that space. And so that's been really fun, is to try and create a better future than the one that maybe I experienced and knowing that I experienced a lot of privilege. And that also enabled me to get here just to make sure that continue to make it a better system rather than just throw up my hands and say this sucks. I hate it feels unfair. It does sometimes suck to be a woman in science and I can only imagine what it's like to be a person of color in science and I can only imagine what it's like to be a woman who's a person of color in science but that there are ways to make this space better and that that is what helps me navigate that part of the river of suck is to make it better concretely and to not feel like I am trapped in someone else's idea of what things should be like didn't you win some kind of crazy award at some point.

Are you speaking of my amazing hair award? Yeah, you won the amazing hair award. I am the 2015 luxurious flowing hair club for scientists. Woman of the year. My hair now exists in two museums, one in europe and one in the US. I know my claim to fame. How does that make you feel like as a scientist to be singled out for your hair? I mean, I kind of love the ridiculousness of it, because it's all from a society that sort of revels in the whimsy. Let's not take science to seriously. So let's create the Society for Scientists, just about ridiculous hair. Um and it's by the same group that produces the egg nobels, right? So these awards that make you laugh and then think it was a surprise to be awarded that I love it because it has nothing to do with merit. I don't particularly have good hair. Usually when I say like, oh, I have this hair award, people look at my hair and then they're like, really like your, your hair looks a little over processed, maybe like little little rough.

But awards make people think differently. I'm like, oh well, and has won awards for hair, She has great hair, right? And that's how ridiculous it is. Right? It's on my Wikipedia page, like, and has the most famous hair in science and that that doesn't matter. And I enjoy that whimsy. What parallels do you see between art and Science. Oh, I love this question. Um so I have to say I'm not an artist. My mother is an artist and my sister is trained in art. Um so I'm not sure she would now identify as an artist and growing up. I did not have science parents, so I did not have that as a model. My dad was a businessman, my mom was an artist and an incredible athlete. And what I think science is is much more similar to art than what a lot of people initially describe. That makes sense. There's a space of incredible creativity that's required and uncertainty. And then you spend a lot of your your energy and your heart, your soul, your time creating something that then you put forth to be judged by your peers, the people that know the most and judge the harshest and everybody else and that you are in a space where you also have a lot of uncertainty in terms of the process, in terms of the what you create, in terms of how it is received, in terms of what your job then is in this world of jobs and careers, people think of science and art sometimes as callings, oh, is your higher calling?

But at the same time, we we all do need to get paid in different ways. And there's an interesting discourse there on are you providing a service or are you doing something that is your skill? Are you doing something that you're good at that? People say, oh, well you're a scientist. Well, I don't I've never been good at math. No, no, no. Like I I build up skills in my space and I've noticed the same thing with friends who are artists and people like, oh I don't I don't draw, I don't I can't do that. It's like these were developed and honed skills. You too can have skills. That's why we dive in, we do not dip our toes cautiously into the river, we dive in head first and we get wet. Yeah. Yeah. So I think there are a lot of parallels between art and sex. Tell us real quick. Why should we follow you on instagram? Are you making cool pieces of art with mold or something? I definitely like delving into the cool world of microbes, whether it's through art exhibits or through the lichens and mold that you can find on a nature walk or the microbes and new beers that I get to try.

We can see them. They look cool. They do look cool. Even unfiltered. Nice. How do we find you on instagram? On instagram and twitter? I'm ann A N N. E A Madden. So A N N E A M A D D E N. Okay. And a sweet. So that's like a middle initial. It is and with an E A. In the middle madden, like the football or the shoe. And you've also got a website and a madden dot com. No way. Look at that. What are we going to find on your website on my website. You'll find some links to some of the research that I've done as well as some of the collaborations that I've got going in, either the brewing space, the art space or in the education space. Cool. So if you want to learn more and a madden dot com and a madden instagram and a mad on twitter, you will see a tea light that is powered entirely by soil microbes and happily blinking away by what microbes?

Microbes. Well, what is this soil, soil, soil microbes oil like a kind of bird that you get on the Okay, mm hmm. No one ever said crossing the river of suck would be easy or that you had to do it alone. So thanks for tuning in and giving it a chance. I'll be back with a new episode every month forever. So make sure to subscribe wherever you listen, Leave a review. Here's an action item, open your favorite social media app, facebook instagram, twitter or all of them right now and make a post about how this episode had an impact on you. Be sure to visit river of suck dot com for all the latest updates and to check out our stylish blue swim team t shirts become a member of the river of suck swim team for just $1 a month to support this podcast and access boatloads of extended interviews and full music tracks.

My name is Andy Reiner. My name is anne Madden. Until next time. Keep swimming. Turtle Moment, Turtle moment, Turtle moment, Turtle moment, Turtle moment, Turtle moment, Turtle moment, Turtle moment, Turtle Moment.

11 - Anne A. Madden - Bugs on Bugs
11 - Anne A. Madden - Bugs on Bugs
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