Joshua Pautz and Bryna Destefani are the new hosts of the ‘Science and Ethics’ radio show. Crystal Schupbach | Collegian

Dr. Laura Niklason, a noted sci­entist and pro­fessor of anes­the­si­ology and bio­medical engi­neering at Yale Uni­versity, was inter­viewed by Lillian Quinones ’18 on Quinones’ radio show “Science and Ethics.” 

“A syn­thetic blood vessel that you developed was grafted into the arm of a kidney dialysis patient. The research that pro­duced this result took 20 years and drew upon your expe­rience in a variety of sci­en­tific fields. Could you walk us through this project?”

Quinones asked ques­tions such as this to explore dif­ferent ways in which sci­en­tists deal with large ethical questions.

Now, senior Joshua Pautz and sophomore Bryna Destefani con­tinue this legacy.

Beginning in fall of 2017, Quinones began working with junior Sarah Becker as her co-host. Becker had interned at the Uni­versity of Minnesota’s Center for Bioethics while working as a nurse assistant. 

“I found that the two roles over­lapped con­sid­erably,” Becker said in an email. “Every­thing I did, saw, and expe­ri­enced in a healthcare setting had pro­found ethical implications.”

After hearing of her interest in bioethics, Assistant Pro­fessor of History Matthew Gaetano helped introduce her to Quinones and her show. The two worked on the show together. 

With two new hosts, the show embraces a slightly dif­ferent trajectory.

“In the past, bioethics hap­pened to be the content of a lot of the episodes because Lillian was a bio­chem­istry major,” Pautz said. “Bryna is doing psy­chology, I’m doing math­e­matics, and so we’re hoping to delve into those issues this year.” 

Pautz and Destefani are answering a new question with the show — are there really ethical ques­tions in mathematics? 

“Sur­pris­ingly enough, there are,” Pautz said. “One episode we’re hoping to do is algo­rithmic injustice.” 

In the criminal justice system, he explained, courts use algo­rithms to help with sen­tencing. Judges are able to look at how pre­vious crim­inals with similar back­grounds have acted. 

Pautz explained that a judge might look at the records to decide what the chances are that someone might commit another crime or break parole. That can be useful, he said, but it can also be biased. For example, someone shoplifting in the inner city may be flagged much higher than someone shoplifting in a wealthy sub­urban area.

He explains some of the ques­tions this might raise.

“Should that be allowed in the judicial system since it is strictly math­e­matics-based? It’s only a prob­a­bility, so does that bias our judges towards a par­ticular decision? Or is it only a useful tool in helping to make a decision?”

This is only one of many topics the pair plan to cover, according to Destefani. She cites some of the others: de-extinction of lost species through sci­en­tific dis­covery, the ethics of trans­plants, and the mis­di­ag­nosis of ADHD.

According to Pautz, there is a lot involved with running a radio show.

“There’s the skills of finding content, doing the research for these topics, writing up ques­tion­naires, finding indi­viduals in these various pro­fes­sional fields,” he said. “There’s also the skills of being an inter­viewer, keeping the con­ver­sation going, such that your audience who has not done the hours and hours of research can still follow along.”

When pro­duced, the half-hour show will run biweekly. This means they will be able to cover a lot of topics in a wide variety of fields. In fact, Pautz said they’re open to con­sid­ering many dif­ferent issues. 

“If anyone has an idea for the show, whether a pro­fessor or a student, we’d be inter­ested to hear from them,” Pautz said. 

The two hope to interview pro­fes­sionals nationwide, as well as give their own com­mentary on certain subjects.

Stu­dents who are inter­ested in lis­tening can tune in to Radio Free Hillsdale 101.7 FM during the broadcast time, which is yet to be decided. Those who are in class can still catch up later by going to Radio Free Hillsdale’s Sound­Cloud website, where all of the radio station’s pro­grams are available. In addition, Pautz and Destefani plan to upload their show to YouTube about a week after it is aired. 

With the first broadcast only about a month away, Pautz and Destefani are looking forward to getting started.

“There’s so many issues and topics,” Destefani says. “That’s really exciting.”

Even though the focus might shift slightly, Pautz and Destefani still have the same goal in mind as Becker and Quinones. 

“That was the goal of the show— to bring science and ethics together in order to develop a more com­plete, more nuanced, and more full picture of the world,” Becker said.