Wilmette grade-schooler Nate Butkus says he was born with a passion for science. At just 5-years-old, he created a science podcast called The Show About Science with the help of his dad, Eric Butkus. Nate’s first guest was his mom.
Nate is now 8-years-old and his podcast gets thousands of listeners per episode. It even caught the attention of Ellen DeGeneres, who had Nate on her show in early 2017.
The Show About Science covers everything from coral-reef restoration and genome editing to how sugar affects the brain. His dad produces the show and helps him find guests for the ideas and interests that swirl around Nate’s head.
On Wednesday, the soon-to-be third-grader talked about what he thinks he’ll want to be when he grows up and how he fell in love with all things science in the first place.
How his love for science began
Nate Butkus: My dad was trying to let my mom sleep, and I was always like, "I wanna wake Mom up!" So he decided to start playing the Mars rover videos, and I got super into them. Then, I started getting older and I started watching The Amoeba Sisters, and … that’s where it all started.
What he wants to be when he grows up
Nate: Biology includes evolution and natural selection. And when I grow up, I want to be an unnatural natural selector, which is basically a scientist who slowly but steadily helps species evolve. Like, you can take a bunch of freshwater fish, put them in a tank with a little bit of salt (and this is why, when I’m older, I want to get a degree in biology). So the ones that survive the best, you take them and put them in a tank together and breed them.
How his podcast has evolved
Nate: It’s totally different [now]. My style of interviewing has changed so much. … First of all, I’ve learned to ask follow-up questions. And I’ve learned the basic interviewing style, but I’ve added a few twists and made my own interviewing style.
Tony: What advice do you have for kids who may be struggling in science class or don't have an interest in science?
Nate: Have curiosity. You can just guess, and if it’s wrong, you’ll be like, "OK, these are the other options. Which one sounds more plausible?" And whichever sounds more plausible, you should go with and then you can test your answer. And if it works, great! If it doesn't, keep on trying until you get it.
Landing 'the big guy'
Tony: Who is your dream guest for your podcast?
Nate: That would be Bill Nye [the Science Guy].
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. Click the “play” button to listen to the entire conversation.
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