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Clever Apes #21: Secret lives of nuclear scientists

Marius Stan and Dan Pancake lead double lives on top of their scientific pursuits. (WBEZ/Gabriel Spitzer/Michael De Bonis)

In pop culture, we tend to pigeonhole scientists into a few stereotypes: out-of-touch nerds (Jerry Lewis’ Nutty Professor), bumbling head-in-the-clouds types (Doc Brown) or obsessed madmen (Dr. Frankenstein/Moreau/Jekyll/Strangelove). In truth, research shows that the picture is a bit more nuanced, but scientists still have to work uphill to convince people they are three-dimensional people.

Which is what makes it so much fun to pull back the curtain on the secret identities of a couple of local players in nuclear science. It would be one thing if their after-hours passion was playing in a cover band or tap dancing (both noble pursuits). But in the case of Marius Stan and Dan Pancake, these guys are entitled to some serious hipster cred.

Listen to the episode:

Marius Stan is a chemist, physicist and computational materials scientist at Argonne National Laboratory, doing theoretical work and computer modeling on materials for nuclear reactors and such. He also has a recurring role on what might be the best show on television, Breaking Bad.

Dan Pancake runs nuclear cleanup projects at Argonne, spearheading the technically complex work of removing radioactive uranium and plutonium from the lab. He’s also a chef and restaurateur, owner of a new (and well-reviewed) fine-dining Mediterranean restaurant in Berwyn.

On this edition of Clever Apes, we reveal the secret lives of nuclear scientists. Just think of what other hipness lurks below the surface in labs and biology departments across our region.

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