Master Minds: A podcast grown amidst quarantine 

| Senior Cadenza Editor

Sophomores Mishka Narasimhan (left) and Will Leidig (right) created the Master Minds podcast as a way to pick the brains of top scientists and doctors in the community. (Photos courtesy of Mishka Narasimhan).

 

During the beginning of quarantine – a period of uncertainty and medical unknowns — two Washington University sophomores, Mishka Narasimhan and Will Leidig, started the podcast Master Minds to spotlight leading medical professionals and scientists.  

The name Master Minds describes not only the podcast’s “candid hour-long conversations with these brilliant scientists,” as Narasimhan said, but also could accurately describe the two founders. 

Narasimhan is studying biology and bioinformatics. She juggles a demanding school schedule with other extracurriculars that actively outreach to other St. Louis communities. She is a Student Union Treasury representative, a member of Synapse and a researcher in a developmental biology lab on the medical campus.

Leidig, who is studying neuroscience and minoring in jazz studies, is passionate in combining “the two loves of my life: music and medicine, specifically neurology,” he said. Leidig is a saxophonist in WashU’s jazz band and also does brain tumor research at the medical center. 

Two such brilliant minds did not meet by accident; Narasimhan and Leidig were a part of WashU’s Ampersand Program, “The Hallmarks of Cancer.” They decided to start the podcast to showcase rising medical professionals and spark student interest and knowledge across healthcare fields.

During their time working on Master Minds, both Narasimhan and Leidig have grown as interviewers and researchers in the medical field, expanding their knowledge and perspectives.

“I have personally really learned how to interact with faculty. At first it seems daunting to go up to these professionals, but at the end of the day, they are just people who love to talk about their work,” Narasimhan said. 

Leidig agreed with Narasimhan, noting how “they are all very funny and nice to us. It is wonderful to see the personal side of these people and to be able to tell a story behind a name.”

In particular, Mishka highlighted a funny exchange in one episode with one interviewee. 

“We had a wonderful interview with him, however, it seemed like he was distracted the entire time,” she said. “Come to find out later that his dog was biting his leg the entire time!” 

The process of releasing a podcast episode from start to finish is certainly no easy feat. Reaching out to professors often takes the least amount of time and the professionals are usually very receptive. Leidig stated that they can get this done in a week.

On the other hand, editing is certainly where a team of masterminds is more powerful than just one. 

“We have to find the right music, write the narration, record the narration, sometimes reformat the podcast to flow better — this can take anywhere from a week to a couple of weeks,” Narasimhan said. 

However, mishaps are bound to happen. On one occasion, they conducted an interview over Zoom, only to be unable to find the recording afterwards. This certainly put them behind schedule, not to mention lacking a valuable interview.

“Will magically found this interview months later in his Zoom account,” Narasimhan recalled with a laugh.

In the future, both undergraduates plan to continue educating students on current medical news and professionals through their podcast. They understand that their efforts are vital to undergraduates as they transition from students to adults, many of whom are undereducated or misinformed about current healthcare policies. 

They are aiming high with their hopes for future guests.

“Rochelle Walensky is another big name we hope to one day join us on Master Minds: she is both the director of the Center for Disease Control, or CDC, and a WashU alumni,” Narasimhan said. 

Although Narasimhan and Leidig both refer to Master Minds as a “home-grown podcast,” it has now expanded to a large team that includes content leads, production leads, marketing leads and nine more masterminds.

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