Jen Pechal discusses necrobiome on Public Radio International’s Science Friday

As a guest on Science Friday, Jen Pechal conversed about her research on the necrobiome and how it can provide clues to how a person lived and died.


What happens to the bacteria and other microorganisms in your body when you die? This is part of the necrobiome that takes over your body once you’re deceased and can be used as a forensic tool. It’s part of Jen Pechal’s research, and the topic she got to discuss on the March 23, 2018, episode of Public Radio International’s Science Friday, “After You Die, Your Necrobiome’ Lives On.”  Science Friday is a weekly talk show broadcasted on public radio stations, including National Public Radio, that covers entertaining and education stories about science, technology and “other cool stuff.”

It all started with an email to Pechal, assistant professor of entomology, from the producer of Science Friday who was researching a segment on the necrobiome and its use in forensics. Once confirmed Pechal would be on the show, the producer arranged for Pechal to go to the MSU Communications Center studio in Olds Hall to take part in the interview.

“It was exciting because I regularly listen to the show, and I always like to learn from the experts they interview,” said Pechal. “Also, it’s not very often that work on decomposition and forensics, especially insects and microbes, is discussed in a positive light on a national scale. I was happy to share the results to a wide audience from our collaborative project.”

The whole process from point of initial contact until completion of the interview took less than 36 hours.

“The interview was more like a conversation with a friend that has a broad knowledge of science,” said Pechal. “Ira Flatow, the host, was genuinely interested in a topic most consider gross, and thoughtful in his exploration of the science behind the ‘CSI’.”

The show is recorded and aired live and guests on the show have no idea what questions will be asked from the public. One caller in particular caught the attention of Pechal.

“I was very impressed, as were many others I’ve spoken with since the interview aired, by Matthew’s questions about insects bringing their own microbial communities. It was a thoughtful and on-point inquiry on a topic our field is still exploring,” said Pechal.

It was a great experience for Pechal and one she would recommend to other scientists. She also felt that without the outstanding collaboration from Eric Benbow of MSU Entomology, Carl Schmidt, Wayne County Chief Medical Examiner, and Heather Jordan of Mississippi State University, this opportunity would not have been possible.

“It was an absolute honor and really awesome to be on a show with a mission to convey the wonders and power of science through compelling storytelling,” said Pechal. “I was excited to be a part of this story.”

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