Signals Blog

“Canada is home to numerous stem cell discoveries and StemCellShorts is an excellent medium through which we can convey these accomplishments to Canadians and others worldwide.  The ‘shorts’ are innovative, educational and entertaining”.  — Dr. Mick Bhatia, Director and Senior Scientist at the McMaster Stem Cell and Cancer Research Institute, and Canada Research Chair in Human Stem Cell Biology

As a science communicator, there isn’t much that is as exciting as moving into a new medium. Channeling the collective passion of everyone involved in this project into each one-minute short has been a fun and challenging process, and it really is the individuals that make the project what it is. I asked Dr. Mike Long, who was co-applicant on the SCN Public Outreach Award, to convey some of his experiences from recording the narration with each professor in Ontario.

I must admit that the prospect of recording the narration was somewhat intimidating. We had recruited three prominent scientists with very busy schedules and I didn’t want to waste their time with a low quality recording that would need to be repeated. Ben or I usually record narrators under a blanket, which helps to block out background noise, but I certainly wasn’t going to ask our distinguished narrators to hunker down under a blanket and read their script with a flashlight. Their offices would have to do.

As it turns out, I really had nothing to worry about. Drs. Till, Rossant and Bhatia are all passionate science communicators and were extremely generous with their time. In fact, each narrator was happy to read multiple takes of the script until we were satisfied with the quality.

After recording was complete, all three of our narrators were happy to spend quite some time discussing the StemCellShorts project as well as the importance of science communication in general. In particular, Dr. Bhatia pointed out that in addition to engaging the public, science communication also serves engage scientists from other fields, thereby facilitating multidisciplinary innovation.” – Dr. Mike Long, post-doctoral fellow in Dr. Henry Krause’s laboratory at the University of Toronto

We are excited to move forward with this project and are mid-production on a second set of five StemCellShorts. These videos are scheduled to be released in the spring of 2014 and we hope to have them featured at next year’s ISSCR meeting, conveniently located in beautiful Vancouver. This set will be focused on different types of tissue-specific stem cells and their potential therapeutic applications. We’ve chosen the following speakers/themes:

4. What is stem cell tourism? Narrated by Tim Caulfield

5. What is a cancer stem cell? Narrated by Dr. John Dick

6. What is a hematopoietic stem cell? Narrated by Dr. Connie Eaves

7. What is a retinal stem cell? Narrated by Dr. Derek Van Der Kooy

8. What is a neural stem cell? Narrated by Dr. Sam Weiss

Finally, a quote about the labour of brevity that was certainly taken to heart in the process of StemCellShorts:

I have made this letter longer than usual, only because I have not had the time to make it shorter.” — Blaise Pascal, French mathematician, physicist and writer

Stay tuned for more!

This is the third video in the series. Watch videos one and two.  


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Ben Paylor

Ben Paylor

Ben Paylor completed a Bachelor of Medical Science at the University of Western Ontario, which included a 1-year research exchange to Umea in Northern Sweden. Following his Bachelors, he completed a 2-year Masters of Philosophy in Cardiovascular Biology and Medicine at Maastricht University in the Netherlands. He is currently a PhD candidate in the Experimental Medicine program under the supervision of Dr. Fabio Rossi at the University of British Columbia. His research focuses on understanding the role of tissue-resident mesenchymal progenitors in repair processes of the heart. Outside of science, Ben is an avid pianist and tennis player, as well as being very interested in the field of science communication and policy.  The writer and director of several award-winning science films, Ben is also the co-founder and director of InfoShots (, a science-based animation studio that is currently producing the Stem Cell Network's StemCellShorts series. Ben is the Chair of the Trainee Communications Committee at the Stem Cell Network, sits on the National Advisory Committee of the high school outreach program StemCellTalks and is a 2012/13 Action Canada fellow.