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Our Ally, Bacteria – Episode 009

Our Ally Bacteria
Sattler College PodcastAcademicsHuman Biology

Our Ally, Bacteria – Episode 009

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Dr. Nelson Chepkwony began studying microbiology after bacteria in crops caused an outbreak of disease in his native Kenya. He has been admiring the beauty and complexity of microorganisms ever since. In this episode, he talks with Zack Johnson about his academic journey, helping African students study in North America, and growing faith in secular academic environments. He also shares some of the benefits bacteria bring us, including preventing cancer, teaching us new engineering techniques, and helping us make insulin and cheese.

Dr. Nelson Chepkwony holds a Ph.D. in Microbiology from Indiana University and a Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences from Cornell University. His research focuses on bacterial adhesives and biofilm formation, aiming to develop synthetic bioadhesives for various applications. With a background in microbiology supervision and quality control, Nelson has also contributed to industry standards in food and pharmaceutical testing. Committed to education and mentorship, he has taught microbiology courses, tutored undergraduates, and spearheaded mentorship programs for African students. Outside academia, Nelson is actively involved in Christian fellowship and enjoys soccer, travel, and herding cattle in his native Kenya.

Learn more about studying human biology at Sattler College.

Mentioned in this episode:


0:04 Microbiology Research and Career Path
6:32 Mentoring International Students in Academia
14:14 Faith, Education, and Microbiology
28:41 Harmony Between Science and Faith
34:42 Education and Faith Discussions at Sattler


This transcript has been auto generated and likely contains errors.

Zack Johnson: 0:04

It is February 8th, 2024, and I’m here with Dr Nelson Chepkwony. Thank you so much for being here with me today.

Nelson Chepkwony : 0:11

I am so excited.

Zack Johnson: 0:12

Yeah, me, I am as well, and moving forward is okay if I call you Nelson throughout this, we can just have a conversation. So I usually love to just read through people’s bios. I was looking at your bio and I might need some help pronouncing a couple things, because you’re in the realm of microbiology, those are your passions and I am not, so I always need corrected. Are you ready to go? Yep, all right. Dr Nelson Chepkwony received his bachelor’s of science in biological sciences from Cornell University and his PhD in microbiology from Indiana University. Nelson has worked as a post-doctoral fellow and research scientist at okay, you’re going to have to say this from Canada and French.

Nelson Chepkwony : 0:56

University of Montreal.

Zack Johnson: 0:58

In Quebec, canada. That didn’t sound French to me, but there’s some accents on it. He has researched extensively how bacteria attach the surfaces and form biofilms, with a specific focus on the synthesis and properties of bacterial adhesives, or holdfast, and their adaptation to different ionic environments marine versus freshwater. His research aims in part to develop synthetic bioadhesives in order to eliminate biofouling and corrosion and improve adhesive uses on wet surfaces. Wow, yeah, anything you have to say about that, or explain that part of your bio to somebody who doesn’t know what I just read.

Nelson Chepkwony : 1:42

Yeah, that is mouthful, but in just very layman terms is bacteria want to stick to service, so they produce a very specific glue. And my interest is actually how can we mimic that glue and be able to use it in medicine in binding things the way we usually use other glues? Usually most glue don’t work in wet surfaces, but the bacteria have engineered a way of doing it and it’s amazing that we can leverage that and people to synthesize the glue that can work in different environments.

Zack Johnson: 2:17

Wow, I have a hunch that when you began your college studies that wasn’t one of your passions. So can you tell me a little bit about the journey to how you specialized throughout your studies and just sort of the path that your research took you on and how you chose to study that particular topic?

Nelson Chepkwony : 2:41

Yeah, so I’ve been passionate about research since high school. But when I joined Cornell University for my biology program, my advisor, dr Rebecca Nelson, was doing studying Aflatoxin. Toxins are like toxins that are produced by some fungus that poison food. The Aflatoxin had an impact in Kenya sometime in 2003. It killed about 40 people. So when I saw our lab was studying how this toxin can be prevented, I was excited about research and that is how that was the gateway to research. So I worked with her studying how Aflatoxin is produced. It’s produced by this aspergillus flavors just fungus and then eventually that was for my own anesthesies. But eventually, when I was now after graduation, when I wanted to kind of focus, I look at the labs and I was also looking for something that had application. So when I look at bacteria how people use bacteria to produce different components I saw that those group in Indiana was studying how bacteria stick to surfaces and how we can not really mimic that bacteria to produce a synthetic glue. That is important. That’s how I end up now moving from studying the Aflatoxin to more friendly, because the water bacteria that I produce are friendly. You don’t have to worry about the toxins. So that’s how I was drawn now into the field of studying microbes and the interest was like how can we leverage bacteria to be our own allies? Most people think bacteria is some pathogenic that causes disease, but when I read actually the description in this Indiana website, we’re saying that actually we can make this as allies to help us develop new things like nuclear, new components. So that’s how I end up moving from studying the Aflatoxins to now to bacteria.

Zack Johnson: 4:43

And what like as a young person. How many years did it take you to sort of develop that? To me it sounds like a very specific research topic, and my guess is that you didn’t walk in as a freshman, thinking I’m going to study Aflatoxins.

Nelson Chepkwony : 5:04

So yeah, so yeah, badly is because also my advisor. So the only way I could end up narrowing down was my advisor and the knowledge that I already got from the environment. So as a freshman, I went to my advisor and I told, okay, I don’t have any other interest that I wanted to study. I wanted to study C elegans, which are a different organism that I use in research for medicine. When I took to my advisor, my advisor say well, you can join our lab. We studied this, and given that I had already been have some knowledge about Aflatoxins having effect in Kenya, then that kind of connected me to be able to choose. So always having good advices, I guess for me it’s been also one fact that helped me to choose a given topic. So, yeah, so, moving from. So that was more like my advisor helping me to navigate through research and then also, after working for four years and then also attending different conferences, I started opening up my mind and trying to see what is really interesting me out there, and when I read at different universities, I reached out to Indiana. Well, if so, by then I reached out to the lab itself. Then I wrote an email like I’m interested in joining your lab because you’re studying this bacteria that produces this wonderful glue and I wanted to study. So yes, and then I went through the application process, so that’s yeah.

Zack Johnson: 6:26

All right, let’s make sense. Let’s keep reading through your bio here and see if anything else comes up. Previously, nelson also worked as a microbiology supervisor at Pathogenia Inc in Montreal, where he developed and validated analytical methods for testing presence of microbes in food and active pharmaceutical ingredients for compliance with FDA regulations and licensing from Health Canada. Prior to pursuing his graduate studies, he worked as a lead quality control chemist at PCI Synthesis in Newburyport, massachusetts, so tell me about that section of your background too.

Nelson Chepkwony : 7:07

Yeah, so when I finished my undergraduate at Cornell, I wanted to take two years off before going to graduate school. So during those two years off I decided to apply to work in a pharmaceutical company here in New Barric Port as a chemist. So there is your analyze how the drugs meet the FDA standards. So I was pretty much as a quality control analyst there. So I worked there for two years before going back to graduate school, and the other working in a pathogenia was also during the time. I was sponsored in University of Montreal. Having mastered how the pharmaceutical industry I guess the quality control in the pharmaceutical industry I took that knowledge to help this startup company in Montreal to help them develop the method to test for the presence of bacteria, because when you are luckily producing or testing drugs, you need to have those methods and protocols to develop. So I was helping them to develop that protocol at the same time. Yeah.

Zack Johnson: 8:09

Right, I know somebody who works at a food lab and I got a tour of it here in East Boston I love. One of my favorite parts was there was a room full of unreleased products that I wasn’t allowed to look at. So there are marketing companies that, or just companies that sent their food to the labs to be tested to be kind of approved for market. Yeah, so that maybe this is just not necessarily. This is sort of a naive question. But what is the threshold for what kinds of foods need approval from that kind of lab versus which foods don’t need approval? And maybe I know you know the Canada system, canadian and the US system. So how do you know? Like what is it every food that’s sold at a supermarket? In a package? Or how does the FDA regulate that?

Nelson Chepkwony : 9:02

Yeah, so the regulation for the food is if you’re going to cook the same, if the food are going to be cooked in terms of, then you don’t have to meet the regressionist law, because then you still be able to kill the pathogens it’s present there. But any packaged food, anything that is sealed, like sugar, or anything that is sealed that whenever you want to eat it you have to open, that is now you need to meet the standard. But for, like potatoes that you’re going to buy, or salad that are already pre-packaged, we don’t do testing on those ones. So the only test is like, those things that are already fully packaged, yeah, so that’s and that doesn’t.

Zack Johnson: 9:42

I’m just very curious Does that include bakery products like bread that’s not technically sealed?

Nelson Chepkwony : 9:49

That is not technically sealed, because it’s still kind of exposed to the service, anything that is like yogurt, for example yogurt, you will need to pass, milk, you need to pass standard. Yeah, you need to measure the amount of pathogens that is in there and most of the drinks that are already fully sealed. But anything that is open usually doesn’t need to start.

Zack Johnson: 10:09

Yeah, I learned something every day. Did you know that Krim? No, Krim didn’t know. All right, Nelson has a passion for teaching and mentoring students at Indiana University. He taught at a microbiology lab courses, tutored undergraduates with their biology homework and formed a mentorship program with other graduate students in the Department of Microbiology that offers top performing African students the chance to have research experience in Indiana University labs. In addition, he served for two years as a student president of KENSEP.

Nelson Chepkwony : 10:42

Yeah, exactly.

Zack Johnson: 10:43

An NGO that supports international students, mostly from Eastern Africa. He supported KENSEP students by providing a platform where they could raise issues affecting their academics and careers. Tell me about your relationship with students and why you’re passionate about students in the classroom and mentoring.

Nelson Chepkwony : 11:01

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yes, you’ve seen that I was an international student at some point and that environment. When I was a student I had to navigate a lot of different hurdles, like immigration, application for new school, like culture, otherwise, I had to adapt to so many different aspects in terms of academia. So it kind of nature brought up, I guess, the urge for me to mentor other students. So in terms of mentoring, I do fast. When I was president for the KENSEP KENSEP is an organization that brings students from Kenya to undergraduate school here. So when I was the president I was a student president I helped the student to raise questions like OK, what are the different challenges that you have and how do we solve them? So in terms of, like I would do, navigating migrations or just even choosing courses or choosing universities or what to do during summer. So that is what the platform that I raised. So we had more like a website where you can put in your questions and answer. So whenever we have new students, we just refer them to that space. And then the other aspect was OK. After I completed my graduate degree, I realized that in those classes for the graduate school I was the only almost African student in those classes. So me and Gabriel and other guys at Indiana University decided to OK, how can we help improve the number of African students in this research institution? So we formed the AFRESnet. So AFRESnet now focus on graduate students. We help them to apply for schools. We talk them about research facility, because sometimes they are really smart students but they don’t have the resources. They don’t know how to apply. They don’t know even if I write a recommendation application letter, what do I include? So what we do here is we mentor the students to know how to write the recommendation letter, to do the required exams, and also we also guide them through that process. For example, this this IMAAM already guiding four students who are really top students from Ghana and they’re applying to different schools. So I guide them through the process. I don’t do the application, but I tell them what to do and give them examples on what to do and what not to do. So, yeah, Great yeah.

Zack Johnson: 13:20

And then I’ve been really encouraged People don’t know, but we have, is it? Four students from Eastern Africa here and I’ve been really encouraged to see sort of a cluster of the community here at Sallar. Have you managed to talk to them about sort of their experience being international students and things like that?

Nelson Chepkwony : 13:42

Yeah, so yeah, yeah, briefly, we’ve, we’ve. I’ve already met with them and I’ve talked to them how to navigate. First of all, is the immigration and how to navigate to balance between school and all the other requirements. So I’ve already talked to them how to plan for summer and if they need to work outside, they always have my, my, my. My door is always open for them to come in. So but I’ve already met with them and I already helped them to navigate the same process.

Zack Johnson: 14:09

Right, that’s great. And then finally, nelson. This is the last paragraph of your bio. Nelson grew up in an evangelical church in Kenya and served as a Christian Union chairperson in high school. After he moved to the United States, he served as a student Christian fellowship leader and Bible study teacher at Cornell University and student president for the Adventist Christian Fellowship at Indiana University. Nelson likes to run, play soccer, travel and cook. When he visits his native home in Kenya, he enjoys farming, cattle herding and soaking in the sun. I love it.

Nelson Chepkwony : 14:42


Zack Johnson: 14:43

Yeah, how often do you get to go back to Kenya?

Nelson Chepkwony : 14:45

I try to go home once a year. Okay, but it’s been difficult due to pandemic and and yeah, yeah, so, but once a year it’s really good, okay, yeah.

Zack Johnson: 14:55

Yeah, and then was your. Did you grow up in in the faith? Was your family? Your parents are Christians as well.

Nelson Chepkwony : 15:03

Yeah, so my mom was a Sunday school teacher. So I grew up in a in a Christian family where every Sunday a mom will take us to the church and she will teach us the Bible. I was just from the, from the. When I was a kid I started reading the Bible and my dad was not a Christian in the early, early childhood but he became a Christian when I was a teenager and all of us now, the entire family. We used to have an evangelical church we had. We were at the end and also we were able to read Bibles and we used to perform skits in church, sing, and then when I moved here, it was a little bit there was a. I was a little bit afraid moving to America, given America tend to be very secular society and what I knew about America was just in the movies and really like the.

Zack Johnson: 16:00

Texas Hollywood.

Nelson Chepkwony : 16:03

Yeah, so, yeah. So I was a little bit afraid so, but I moved in with my Bible and the first week at Cornell oh no, the first semester when I was at Cornell, cornell is a secular college I didn’t know which church to go, which student or connection to stay. So I read my Bible for the. For one one semester I just every Sunday I just read my Bible and pray and then calling back home and fellow shipping. But eventually I met the Adventist Christian group here at Cornell and that they kind of breached now that spiritual fellowship that I really needed, because even though I was reading the Bible I was just I wasn’t feeling good, I wasn’t feel my faith was not strong enough. So when I met this group now for we used to fellowship every Friday evening and that really kind of bring like, bring the faith and strengthen me in terms of going in Christ here- Great.

Zack Johnson: 17:00

And then just this is a we’ll move topics here. When I hear you talk about your career, it seems very natural to me that the things you studied were very applicable to the career you were pursuing. You studied microbiology and then you end up, you know, working in a lab. But Sattler is a. We’re technically a liberal arts college that have we have Bachelors of Sciences too, and so I’d love to hear you talk about how you can make education applicable beyond, just beyond the other things you study, and I know many students right now in the country are really considering is college worth it? Is university worth it? Should I go under the trades and I, obviously, we work at a college, so we’re, we should be able to make a case for of course. Of course it’s applicable. You can make the classroom applicable to a broad scope of things. So do you have any thoughts about how to how to make education applicable, probably beyond the scope of a specific thing, or even using it? No, you can use education to craft a specific trade like or skill like, like you’ve done in the sciences.

Nelson Chepkwony : 18:18

Yeah. So I would say yes, my passion is in class. When I, my passion is a teacher, is to work in the make education applicable. So when I’m preparing for class lessons, most of my lessons are also geared towards like, how can you, just by understanding what bacteria do, what is, does that impact on your just day-to-day life? So, in reality, making educational curriculum, being able to, to have applicable things, is that’s how I I focus on my teaching. So when I’m teaching microbiology, I don’t focus on you getting. I’m knowing the small details only. But also, if you know, okay, how does bacteria grow, what does that have to affect? So one way is, like you should know that if you both put your food on the fridge for a long time, then remove it and then and leave it on the table, things can grow because bacteria, they can stay dormant in the fridge. But how do we know that? So we study all bacteria live and survive, and that now helps you out every day. I don’t want to leave food outside. I need to be able to take care of food. So how, making just education and connecting to to real life, that is how, like I’m passionate when I’m teaching how, how we can intertwine that Now, if you’re not in biology major or if you are in other chemistry, other other areas, usually knowledge of chemistry sometimes knowing one thing how to calculate the volume of something might not be important when you’re in class, but when you later in life, or when you are like a medical doctor, or when you need to feel or doing other things, it might help you to have just that critical thinking.

Zack Johnson: 19:57

Got it, yeah. And then there’s a running. It’s not a running joke here at the campus, but we make it’s kind of a joke. We make all of our students get to take a core microbiology class or human biology as freshmen. And I think it was a couple of years ago. Everyone made shirts with a specific protein drawn on and it said something like praise God for our protein, something to that sorts. And I’ve heard it said by Saller’s founder that studying DNA and even the microbiology is one of the most worshipful experiences that he has encountered, because of just the intense intricacy of humankind and even what’s going on inside our bodies. Do you have any thoughts on linking science? And I’ll just say, the worship of God got worship of God together.

Nelson Chepkwony : 20:57

Yeah, yeah. Sometimes when I’m explaining those details, like how DNA is just a cookbook that makes everything like the entire human, sometimes it’s just like how can this happen? I’m like, okay, it’s just like how intricate life or how wonderful and fearful God made us. So usually I try to tell students how this is amazing, because things just don’t fall into place just by chance. There’s had to be a intelligent or some sort of intelligent design in it. So whenever we study even a simple protein or simple DNA structure, you always see how God revealed himself in this creation. So that is how life is wonderful is because God had a very, very specific way of creation. It’s just wonderful that it just cannot happen by just random chance. So when students understand how DNA makes proteins and eventually that proteins make the human being, then they’re able to see God in a small like, in a microscopic view.

Zack Johnson: 22:06

Right. And then, just mapping a little bit further on to this, you can use this question both as a spiritual lens or a scientific lens. How can we make bacteria our ally? I’ve heard you say that a little bit about hey, we don’t have to fear an Alaska fallout, we don’t have to fear bacteria, and maybe try to maybe go at it from like a explain to me who doesn’t really have a working knowledge of it. But how do we make it our ally and what can the normal average person do to support your passion there?

Nelson Chepkwony : 22:45

Yeah, so, yeah. So my passion is in microbiology is just studying how bacteria live and survive. So bacteria. When we talk about bacteria, there are two types of bacteria. There are bacteria that don’t cause disease and there are bacteria that cause disease. So actually what causes disease is almost 1% of the bacteria population On your body. You have millions and billions of bacteria. Most of them are really important for you, like microbiome how he helped your cat to digest and get new nutrients. So they are actually are helping us and we are. We help them by eating food. We provide food for them. They provide essential nutrients that we need in our bodies. Most of them are actually don’t cause disease. Like the skin microbiota don’t cause any disease. They are still there. They just live there and they provide actually they prevent the bad bacteria from growing on your skin. So if you, if you actually wash all the bacteria in your skin, then the bad bacteria might come in and cause disease. So usually they actually help us. So when I say we can make them as allies is if you have a good bacteria that actually on your body, that can also prevent you getting disease. We’ve actually known that most of the cancers can be our actually lives our microbiome in our stomach. So actually, you see that if you keep our microbiome in a good state, we prevent most of the cancers. Okay, so in my research that we discussed earlier, bacteria can be useful in terms of technology. For example, we know bacteria. God made this bacteria and they able to engineer this amazing glue. We don’t know how this glue is produced, but luckily we can copy, and we’ve been doing this in other things, like how planes fly, we just copy from the nature. How you know the ships, we just copy from the nature. So the same way, we can copy what bacteria do. So in this case, bacteria produce this glue for them to stick to the surfaces and not be washed by the river. We cannot really use that knowledge to for them to give us the structure of the glue, and then we can, we can make it. Another thing is most of the drugs, like insulin, for example, bacteria actually, instead of bacteria. We can give them the DNA that makes the insulin we give the bacteria. The bacteria produces the insulin, so which is the protein? So again, we’re already using bacteria as our allies. So even you know making cheese, for example, or other things, those are bacteria fermenting sugars and giving us good cheese. So they’re already our allies. And when I say we can help people to understand, or if your passion is in microbiology too, you can always look for areas where you can copy what bacteria do and help improve health or solve the world problems. The world problems, for example, the plastic. There are a lot of plastic and we can use our bacteria that digest the plastic. So it’s actually upon like new researchers who are looking for. Bacteria eat plastic and then we can now just be just growing bacteria on this plastic and then just destroy the plastic. So we can make them allies to solve our problems that we have by just adding. But we have to choose a leg for those bacteria. So we have to do a reason, we have to culture them and we have to like, engineer them to be better at what they do.

Zack Johnson: 26:00

Okay, this is more of a a non-scientist asking a scientist question. Is there anything that you do on a regular basis because of your study of microbiology that you recommend other people doing? Any habits, diet implications, product consumptions, anything that you recommend to your family to do to leverage your knowledge of microbiology? The examples that come to my mind are like consuming probiotics and things like that. I’m just curious if there’s anything that you change about your daily life because of your study.

Nelson Chepkwony : 26:42

Yes, usually what I do is I don’t like to shock my internal microbiome, so meaning that you don’t want to change your diet suddenly. So if you travel to a new place, don’t change your diet completely, because also that when you get to a diet it’s kind of interferes with the microbiome and then excessive use of antibiotics. So don’t use, because whenever you take antibiotics it always kills everything, just kill any bacteria. So minimize unless the doctor orders. If you are going to lose that.

Zack Johnson: 27:13

So don’t if you have any infection, don’t Consult your physician. I’m just kidding.

Nelson Chepkwony : 27:17

But usually yes. So how to yes? So just picture and just, I guess, taking foreign precautions. So for example, during coffee times I just fall in the precaution what the health ministry or whatever, as I was just advised, usually I follow them because I know if you do fall those guidelines you can be able to prevent spread of diseases here Got it.

Zack Johnson: 27:43

And then I’d love to just talk about. This is, I think, a topic that I’m semi-passionate about, because I don’t know all the answers completely but the relationship between Christianity and science. We were chatting a little bit before we started here. And how do you go about thinking about how to have an intense belief in Christianity while trusting in the scientific method, in the evidentiary part, and I’m kind of hoping to hear you talk about? Do we have to choose one or the other? Can Christianity mix well with science? And just how to go about thinking about how to avoid some of the narratives that hey, there’s this agenda built behind the scientific community, maybe a political agenda or something like that. I’d love to hear you talk about it.

Nelson Chepkwony : 28:37

Yeah, that is a big question. That’s a long big question. But what I can, I guess, give my own view on this subject is I don’t see, I see science and Christian faith as almost complementary. It is sometimes people try to see like weigh them in different scales, but I think you can be able to match them together and in retrospect I always see that, ok, christian right. Science is just like trying to disapprove Christianity, but that is more like a notion that many people tend to believe in. How do I reconcile both? So whenever I do any scientific research, I should be able to collect facts and collect tangible things. But in faith it is more than that. We know that when you think of intelligent creation, when we are intelligent in science, when we look at how things, how life is, how marvelous things are made in my mind, I’ve never found any proof in science that actually this thing can just fall into place. So usually what I take is that science is more like just generating evidence of how complex the creation is, and then, in terms of Christian faith, we already know the answer. We have the faith. So how do we reconcile just believing on something and just seeing the evidence? Usually I don’t see any contradiction in that too. So the only way it can help is trying to learn science as much as possible, like when people say, ok, dna is something that is used to generate life, we need to study that. And it doesn’t mean that we are disapproving what God made the DNA for sure. Not for sure, but that’s what we believe, that God made the DNA. And science says, ok, what is the DNA to study? So more like both of them are just in parallel, like science is contributing to the knowledge of what we see and what we feel. But faith is more, or just believing is more faith. You have to believe that God created this, because things are very complex. You cannot just see things fall in place. So I have met many, many Christians who struggle and say, ok, science is trying to disapprove that God created. But when you look at what science is doing in my field, in microbiology, we are not trying to, we are not disapproving the faith, we’re just showing the complexity and how things work. So it’s more like if someone came in and found a house and then decided, ok, how this house was built. You have to look at the bricks and look at the mortar and cement. But of course there was a creator. It doesn’t mean that this building just grew up in its own. So that’s how I see how the science is more like studying how things work. But faith is, or faith in God, just believing that God created us. Those are two different parallel, I guess, feelings.

Zack Johnson: 31:58

And then another. We’ll switch topics a little. Is there anything that you love to recommend that people read or study? Is there a book that’s influenced you, some sort of regular news program that you like to recommend it to people around you?

Nelson Chepkwony : 32:20

So for graduate students, if you’re already a science student reading both intelligent design journals, you can just Google intelligent design journals. If you were to be able to give you a different how you can actually see God in creation and at the same time actually you’re not just blanketing and just having a big plank and say, oh, this was created, but just having to see the details, like, for example, if you study the structure of DNA and how those DNA are regulated in these journals the Christian journals that are publishes are such fighting.

Zack Johnson: 33:00

Just Google intelligent design, like the Discovery Institute journals or something like that. And then in related to that sorry I was going to ask this before it triggered my thought. I haven’t researched this extensively, but my general instinct tells me that over time the number of scientists who sort of proclaim faith in God up to about 50 years ago used to be an overwhelming majority, and then suddenly we’ve seen a sort of a decline of the number of sort of secular people in science versus faith-based people in science. I don’t know if that’s a little bit anecdotal, but I’ve seen a couple of studies, at least at some of the Ivy Leagues, about the number of professors. But then when you look back to a lot of the giants of science on who a lot of what we believe in is, bill, we see that they were people of faith. Do you have any hypothesis as to what’s happening behind the scenes here and why is science secularizing? And that’s a big statement. I’m not saying that as a statement of fact, but that’s what I generally kind of suspect is happening and that didn’t used to be the case. So what’s happening here?

Nelson Chepkwony : 34:27

I think what I usually say is that there’s an increase of knowledge. These are like in the last days there will be an increase of knowledge. So just having many Like this institution. Initially, most of the colleges were built under Christian faith.

Zack Johnson: 34:46

That’s right.

Nelson Chepkwony : 34:46

Yeah, but eventually different people just come in and the way they disseminate information is more of I would say more of just trying to disapprove something. Sometimes what we can say, sometimes actually the negative things tend to make big noise Compared to like a good thing. So that’s what I’m saying. We might be seeing a lot of people saying, okay, talking about evolution, evolution. Evolution is because that’s the thing that makes big noise as compared to what the faith. So it could be just an anecdote in terms of what. The news that gets covered the most are the negative news or things that try to disapprove something.

Zack Johnson: 35:36

Yeah, and actually to my, just to take back something I said here, not to take back but to illuminate it when you actually survey some of the historical scientists, like Nobel Prize winners of the day some of the top physicists go back 30 years you actually find quite a few Christians in the field and even I’ll even map this onto the study of creation and evolution and Darwinism. I like to make that distinction that there actually are significant skeptics, both Christians and non-Christians, on the Darwinian theory and I don’t think enough people know sort of the skeptical side of that theory.

Nelson Chepkwony : 36:26


Zack Johnson: 36:26

I right or am I wrong?

Nelson Chepkwony : 36:27

You’re right If you actually read a lot of people who wrote about Darwinian when it came out, even the scientists themselves the disputed. So sometimes what we are trying to now read and what we see mostly is just what is making more noise. But there are actually a lot of critics and you should be able to during those, like if you read the intelligent design papers we should go back to and see how clearly different and how people give their views, but not the popular view.

Zack Johnson: 37:01

Right, Well, is there another topic that you want to talk about? Or, Graham, do you have any recommendations on other questions? I’ll ask one more question. We have a at tea time. We have this pearl of wisdom, and I heard one of your pearls. Is there any general pearl of wisdom that you carry with you that you like to share with people? Just lessons you’ve learned in life that are meaningful to you?

Nelson Chepkwony : 37:31

Yeah, so I think most of I think that’s why it’s a big question.

Zack Johnson: 37:36

It’s a big question, yeah.

Nelson Chepkwony : 37:38

I think that is stood up. For me, most of the time, it’s just having identity. Like what do you like whenever you’re doing something? Like what is your, how do you perceive yourself and how the world perceive you. The most important when it comes to those aspects is, like the most important is how you perceive yourself towards the environment. In this case, when I’m a scientist, how do I see myself as a Christian scientist? That is usually important as opposed to how other people see me Like. So I guess trying to distinguish that that is usually my picker’s advice. Like always have a positive view from your own views as opposed to expecting positive view from the outside.

Zack Johnson: 38:23

Right, that makes sense. And then I’ll just close by thanking you for being here and talking a little bit about some news at Sattler. So we just launched something called Intrustment Tuition this is just for everybody where on January 22nd every single accepted students gets a fully funded tuition offer. It’s a pretty big deal. And then one important deadline, just for anyone listening we really want to have a healthy body of international students here and that’s it’s significant. You have an international background. The hard deadline for international applicants is March 15th, so we’re going to be announcing that. But I would love if anybody listening can recommend anyone considering Sattler. March 15th is our deadline to show up at the fall of next year and I’m hoping that over the course of time we can have people from every livable continent here. Every livable continent is Canada livable, and so we’re hoping to go down that road here. But that’s probably a significant, probably the most significant announcement for students considering Sattler. And then also we’ll be. We always hire, and so keep your eyes out for some vacancies to come and work at the college. And Nelson, thank you for being here, and I did I actually, when I opened the episode. We usually podcast have like a little intro, but we’re thinking about calling this podcast the entrusted podcast, is that right, graham? And so the idea is that God has entrusted us with a sort of a sacred commission and then, hence, the institution, entrust students by investing in them, and we get to talk about a lot of things surrounding God’s entrustment of humanity and what he’s given here. So thanks for exploring microbiology with us today, and I hope you had a good time.

Nelson Chepkwony : 40:36

Yeah, my pleasure. I really enjoyed sharing my experience in microbiology and walking outside playing mental insurance here.

Zack Johnson: 40:44

Yeah, amen, all right. Thanks, Nelson.

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