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The Big Electron Wins Big

March 13, 2017

Anahita Zare (left) and Jacqueline Gamboa Varela seated with headphones during The Big Electron

Beyond research, teaching and writing dissertations, doctoral candidates Anahita Zare and Jacqueline Gamboa Varela have a side gig: a collegiate public radio show.

Last week, the two learned that their weekly series entitled “The Big Electron” was recognized as the 2017 Best Public Affairs Program by the Intercollegiate Broadcasting System.

“Jackie and I worked very hard to deliver important science news in an understandable way, and it is an honor to be named the winner of this award.” Zare said.

Since 2013, Gamboa Varela has served as host and producer of The Big Electron for KCOU, the student radio station. Zare joined as co-host in 2014. On the show, the two explain interesting and relevant happenings in the realm of science and technology.

Old fashioned silver microphone on marble trophy base  They also invite other scientists and graduate students to talk about popular
   topics emerging in the STEM fields.

  “We strive to communicate the science that's being done here at Mizzou
  and elsewhere in an approachable way for a general (non-scientific)
  audience,” Gamboa Varela explained.

Public education (outreach) is a critical component of the University of Missouri’s Land Grant mission.  Gamboa Varela and Zare are highly committed to that cause.

Gamboa Varela also worked on a PBS documentary TV series called Roadtrip Nation, and helped to bring the international Three Minute Thesis® (3MT) competition to Mizzou. 3MT is another effort to promote the societal benefits of research.  In 2016, Gamboa Varela was the first place winner in the Mizzou 3 MT competition.  She is also the current vice president for the Graduate Professional Council. 

Zare works for the National Broader Impacts Network and is the president of Science Communication and Public Engagement, a student-led organization that helps prepare science graduate and undergraduate students to effectively communicate their research. Her other outreach endeavors include Art in the Park Science Tent, Science on Tap and Science Café.

Both women are also recognized as campus leaders and have taught young girls through the nationally-recognized Magic of Chemistry program that originated at Mizzou.

The Intercollegiate Broadcasting System is a not-for-profit educational association and foundation that serves education affiliated high school, college and community radio stations. The national winners were announced at an award ceremony on March 4 in New York City.

Gamboa Varela said that The Big Electron airs every Sunday from 5-6 p.m. on KCOU 88.1 FM from Columbia. The show is also available online at and on podcast apps. 

“This is a great recognition for the work we have been putting in the past 4 years. Anahita and I are thrilled with our award," she said.