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Davis, California

Saturday, July 20, 2024

‘Discovering Academia’ gives students an inside look at the world of scholarly research

Founders Brent Valentine and Keller Kramer discuss the creation of the podcast


By ANA BACH — arts@theaggie.org

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Discovering Academia” is a student-run podcast that explores the seemingly endless research opportunities here at UC Davis. Brent Valentine, a second-year managerial economics and neurobiology, physiology and behavior double major, and Keller Kramer, a second-year international relations and agricultural and environmental technology double major, help bridge the gap between students and their professors’ research outside of the classroom.

“The initial point for [creating the podcast] was that I needed a letter of recommendation,” Kramer said. “I started to reach out to different people and try to learn more about what they are doing.”

Kramer’s first conversation prior to starting the podcast was with a political science professor who discussed her training in engineering and how she applied those principles to political science at a higher level. 

“I hadn’t really considered how each of these professors could be interdisciplinary within their own field,” Kramer said. “I had always wanted to do some kind of podcasting, and Brent and I first connected because we listened to the same podcast. It kinda just made sense to do it together.” 

The process for producing an episode of “Discovering Academia” begins with Kramer and Valentine reaching out to professors via email. They typically reach out to anywhere from fifty to seventy professors and then accumulate a list of topics to log any ideas that may spark interest.

“After we email them, we will gauge their interest and see if they want to do the podcast,” Kramer said. “If they are interested, we have a link to send them where they can sign up for a quick [introduction] meeting.”

The first meetings consist of a general outline and fleshed-out plan for how the episode will flow. 

“We will explain what the point of the podcast is and what we are hoping to get out of it,” Kramer said. “We talk to them about their current research and primarily focus on that work because a lot of the databases where the research is recorded haven’t been updated in a while.”

Additionally, Kramer said that many professors’ websites aren’t easily navigable by those who aren’t experts in the professors’ respective fields. The goal of “Discovering Academia” is to make the content of these websites and databases more digestible by manipulating complex content within research into a conversation that the majority of students can understand. 

“We will then send the questions over to the professor,” Valentine said. “They have the freedom to edit what they want to keep in and take out. We want them to know the general flow we are trying to go for.”

The format of their episodes is to spend the bulk of the conversation centered around a professor’s experience within their field. The podcast then closes by drawing attention to if the professor has opportunities for student involvement, advice for undergrads or anything that listeners may find interesting that is not directly related to the topic.

The two said that pursuing this project has been difficult at times amidst all the chaos of being an undergraduate student, but so far, it’s proved to be worth the work.

“My GPA definitely took a hit, and that was just something that we were comfortable with because we knew we needed to get it done,” Kramer said. “We both thought that it was more important than grades. As long as we still understand what we are learning, and we are still trying, that’s all we can ask for.”

“Staying organized is so critical,” Valentine said. “When you start to lose that, it falls apart completely.” 

Valentine and Kramer want students to be able to find opportunities and learn about research that might lead to more creativity on their academic paths rather than studying what they believe will be the most efficient way to success. 

“Especially at Davis, there is so much out there and so much freedom,” Kramer said. “There is a ton of funding and a lot of people who would want to help you move forth on that idea.”

The podcast gives students the encouragement, tools and network to truly dive deep into their own curiosities about the academic systems they interact with every day.


Written by: Ana Bach — arts@theaggie.org