Joe Hanson joins High School Quiz Show, which premieres its 15th season on February 3, as the new host. Hanson is creator and host of PBS Digital Studios’ award-winning Be Smart, which has amassed more than 5 million subscribers across all platforms and more than half a billion views on YouTube. With a Ph.D. in cellular and molecular biology, Hanson has been published by WIRED, Nautilus, Scientific American and Texas Monthly. He replaces long-time host Billy Costa, who has stepped away to focus on other professional ventures. “Joe brings a palpable love and excitement for learning that’s aligned with High School Quiz Show competitors and fans. He’ll fit right in,” said High School Quiz Show co-creator and Executive Producer Hillary Wells. We spoke with Hanson, who was the captain of his junior high academic team. “I feel like my life has come full circle.” 

What appeals to you about hosting High School Quiz Show?
I grew up in a house where asking questions and finding answers was always what we did, whether it was at the dinner table or going out camping or on hikes. I love to celebrate curiosity, not just as a cute word that we like to throw around, but really embracing the fun of learning new things. I want to instill that attitude in people. 

Why are academic competitions like High School Quiz Show important?
These are anything but “trivia” games. This is showing why we learn what we learn and how to connect it and use it later in life. I remember from my high school years the value of interacting with other students outside the classroom. It helps create a full student, a full human being. I can see that in the students that I've gotten to meet at High School Quiz Show

How did you become a media personality?
When you're a scientist and have friends that aren't scientists, you’re constantly explaining what you do. When social media exploded a decade or so ago, I thought they would be great tools for that kind of education and communication. And I knew there were huge audiences out there, younger audiences that were hungry to learn about the world and learn about how the universe works. 

How did your first shows go?
I discovered that my hypothesis was correct. The people were there, and they were curious and hungry for science information. I started on Tumblr, Facebook and Twitter, and even blogging. Then my YouTube program just took off like a rocket. I'm always trying new things and seeing how we can grow the audience and increase the impact. 

How did science become your passion?
I had a really cool, formative experience at summer camp, when I was in eighth grade. We were dissecting a baby shark and inside of it we could see what it had just eaten. It was like picking apart an entire ecosystem right in front of me, like being a detective. What was its last meal? What kind of place did it live in? 

What are you most looking forward to as host?
High School Quiz Show has such a legacy and fan base even beyond GBH and the Greater Boston area. Getting to be involved in that is super exciting. I’m looking forward to putting a new spin on the program as it moves into its next chapter. It feels really good to be involved in that. 

Watch the 15th season of High School Quiz Show here.