I enjoy trying out new ideas especially when it means I can develop my skills in content creation. Earlier this year I decided to try my hand at podcasting for the first time. I didn’t want to be the person asking the questions but I was keen to find out how it all worked and produce a podcast.
Through Humans of York I often find myself learning about research I never even knew was happening at York and I regularly end up with more content than I have space to include. I wondered if I could tell a more in-depth story of some of our research in a podcast, but with a twist: why couldn’t our undergraduates ask the questions?
I pitched the idea to our Student Content Team at the time (eight undergrad students) and they agreed it was worth trying. It was a good opportunity for them to gain new experience and several of them volunteered to take part.
We started trying to think of research topics that would primarily appeal to undergraduates: sleep, addiction and mental health, popular culture, sports. And we were able to match the topics to York academics currently working in these research fields.
The next step was to work out the practical side of things – how to actually produce a podcast. I was confident in editing of audio through my filmmaking/music experience, but I needed access to some high-quality recording equipment.
I approached University Radio York (URY) to see if they could help. I already knew some of the URY team as we’d worked together on social media content in the past – most recently a behind-the-scenes takeover on the University’s Instagram. They’d recently won funding through the Big Alumni Project to refurbish their studios and thankfully part of their pitch included opening the studio so that people could go and record podcasts. Perfect!
I set up some training with Naomi from URY and she taught us the basics: how to record, set levels and export our recordings. The studio can feel quite intimidating when you first go in, but Naomi put us at ease and explained how everything worked.
It takes a while to coordinate and organise everyone for a podcast episode – studio, interviewer and interviewee (and my) timetables often conflict. And the editing can be time consuming, but as episodes are more ‘long form’ there’s not usually much to cut out. That’s the beauty of a podcast episode – there’s no standard duration for the conversation. For the purpose of this series, we were aiming for a maximum duration of 40 minutes per episode and we managed to achieve that without too much editing.
The first recording was with Ian Hamilton from Health Sciences. Alex, a Politics and Philosophy undergraduate, spoke to Ian about research into drugs, addiction and mental health.
In our second episode, first year Archaeology student, Amy, chatted with Ruth Penfold-Mounce (Sociology) about death in culture. I liked that the students weren’t in the same department as the academic they were interviewing, as it made them go into the situation without any preconceptions. They didn’t know the terminology or background – they just had an interest in the topic and wanted to explore it further.
Each student did an impressive amount of prep for their recording and came up with some really great questions which resulted in insightful answers. As a result I think the podcast episodes are accessible and interesting to a broad audience. We’re hoping they also have the potential to inspire undergraduates to pursue research beyond their degrees – that was one of our aims.
So far we’ve only produced two episodes of the ‘University of York Student Podcast’ (catchy!) but there are two more in development and we’re hoping we’ll be able to continue to develop the project throughout 2020.