Brandeis alum nets major award for podcast on human rights and the sciences

Vivek Vimal PhD '17 was honored by the Association for the Advancement of Science for exploring whether everyone deserves access to information. And he plays his own piano compositions!

Vivek VimalPhoto: Mike Lovett

Vivek Vimal

Is access to knowledge a fundamental human right?

Vivek Vimal, Phd ’17, explores this question in a series of 20- to 40-minute podcasts featuring interviews with a refugee from communist Czechoslovakia and a Brandeis philosophy professor, graduate student and postdoctoral fellow. The podcasts won the first-ever American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Science and Human Rights Student Digital Media Competition. The assigned topic was “building bridges between science and human rights.”

“I really wanted to bring together people from different walks to life — not just from different academic disciplines, but different spheres of existence,” Vimal says. The interviews he conducted for the podcasts have led him to believe access to knowledge is a human right. “Intrinsically, gathering knowledge is integral to who we are as human beings,” he says.

Vimal, who earned his doctorate in neuroscience, opens each podcast with a dramatic flourish of classical music for the piano. He wrote and recorded the music himself specifically for the podcast.

In the first podcast, Vimal speaks with Jan Srajer, a professional carpenter, contractor and owner of J.V.S. Harvest Builders in Woburn, Massachusetts. Vimal and Srajer met last summer after a 200-year-old tree on Vimal’s lawn fell over. Vimal wanted to salvage the wood and formed a woodworking group with his neighbors that Srajer joined.

Srajer describes his flight from his native Czechoslovakia in the 1980s to escape the oppression of the country’s communist regime. Srajer recently became interested in the medicinal powers of wild mushrooms. In the podcast, he discusses the difficulties he’s faced as a nonscientist in researching the subject because he can’t access academic journals, whose subscription rates are often expensive.

In the second podcast, Vimal speaks with Nikhil Krishnaswamy, a postdoctoral researcher in the department of linguistics and computational linguistics, and Andreas Teuber, an associate professor of philosophy. Both discuss whether access to knowledge can be considered a human right.

The final podcast features Maria Genco, PhD '17, and Mikael Garabedian, a graduate student in biology. They speak about their efforts to spread scientific literacy among the public and to persuade U.S. government officials to support scientific research.

Categories: Alumni, Research, Science and Technology

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