UC Davis junior Brent Valentine got the idea for the podcast Discovering Academia when he saw the Crocker Nuclear Laboratory, a campus research facility he hadn’t noticed before. He started to wonder about the other research that was happening on campus and going unnoticed by the undergraduate student population. Valentine teamed up with fellow junior Keller Kramer to interview professors about their research specializations.
With the help of friends, the duo made a theme song and logo for Discovering Academia, which debuted in March.
For each episode, they contact lab directors and professors from different departments at UC Davis. The pair said they want to expose students to the opportunities in research and inspire students to use their studies to explore more.
“Ideally, a new student can [listen to] the podcast and discover options to pursue,” Kramer said.
Each episode is an hour long, and editing, researching and updating the website can take an additional four hours. They currently use AI to edit and are focused on streamlining the process to optimize their time. “We are making a commitment to get this out,” Valentine said.
Kramer and Valentine said they have found professors to be receptive and enthusiastic about speaking on the podcast. “They are extremely thankful, and it’s nice to know the feeling is reciprocated,” Valentine said. In addition to spreading information about research, they have been able to build connections and learn from quantum cosmologists to experts in sustainable energy. As a result, they have explored the depth of knowledge UC Davis has to offer but also feel closer to the faculty. “How receptive this community is, I don’t think you could get that at a lot of institutions,” Keller said.
Currently, Valentine is studying abroad in London, and Keller is spending the summer in Paris. They have started recording with professors at the London School of Economics and Political Science. They will spend fall quarter studying abroad in Singapore and plan to meet with professors in the National University and in surrounding Southeast Asian countries. “We couldn’t have imagined the scope that we operate in now,” Valentine said.
For the future of the podcast, Keller and Valentine said they want to reach a broader audience. Their listeners at the moment are mostly graduate students and instructors who have learned about the podcast from their peers. “We want to expand beyond the academic circle,” Keller said. They added that they want the podcast to be a resource for college students and graduating seniors, and they hope to leverage their social media for more coverage. The pair plan to do the podcast until they graduate and even get a grant to talk to professors around the world. “There are endless possibilities,” Valentine said.