Did you know that UTM has its own podcast? View to the U features University of Toronto Mississauga faculty members “from a range of disciplines who illuminate some of the inner-workings of the science labs and enlighten the social sciences and humanities hubs at UTM.” For this issue, The Medium sat down with Carla DeMarco, the Research Communications and Grants Manager at UTM and the founder of the View to the U, UTM’s very own podcast.
An avid listener of podcasts, DeMarco was inspired to start a podcast herself after discussions with her director, Devin Krueger, who also enjoyed podcasts. DeMarco thought it would be great to feature UTM’s researchers and started formulating the idea in 2015. In 2016, she presented a plan to the Vice-President of Research and started recording.
The podcast’s mission, “at its very base level, is to showcase the research [at UTM].” DeMarco has also innovatively assigned a theme to each year. For instance, the first podcast was released in 2017, the year UTM turned 50. DeMarco “focus[ed] on researchers who had been [at UTM] for a while and who had seen changes over their time.” The first person DeMarco interviewed was Ulrich Krull who had been a member of the UTM faculty since the eighties. She asked him about the changes he had observed throughout his career and those that he perceives will occur in the future.
The theme of the second year of the podcast was ‘Women in Academia’ and DeMarco “profiled women across the seventeen different departments.” In 2019, the theme was “Global Perspectives” where DeMarco interviewed “researchers who were doing research around the world” and whose research had “broader global implications.”
DeMarco mainly interviews UTM professors and “would like to involve student research down the road.” When reviewing grants as part of her role as the Research Communications and Grant Manager, she gets to know what professors are researching which helps her “learn what to be focussing on” when deciding the theme of her podcasts and her interviewees. Her upcoming podcast will feature Dr. Norman Farb, an associate professor of psychology, who discusses “why meditation is important, why should we be incorporating it, and why are we talking so much about it now.”
The podcasts also provide a glimpse into “the other side of a professor” to students who usually only interact with them in a classroom. An interesting question DeMarco asks her interviewees is what the impact of their work is. They discuss the benefits of the professors’ research but also their impact on students who “are the next generation of researchers.” DeMarco asks about the professor’s journey to academia which is often very interesting. For instance, when she featured Liza Blake, an assistant professor of English, as part of her ‘Women in Academia’ series, she found out how Blake came from a science background and how she ended up teaching English. “Her parents were both scientists, but she was really interested in forensics and wanted to be a detective. [Blake] started [studying forensics but when] she took a Shakespeare class, [it] changed her life [and] she became a literature professor,” DeMarco relates. DeMarco thinks it’s important “for students to hear that sometimes, people don’t have it all figured out when they start out, but then you [eventually do] find something.”
The podcasts are free and are all available on SoundCloud. There have been “over ten thousand listens” with the most popular podcasts being about psychology research. It takes DeMarco about an hour to record the podcast and about six to ten hours to edit the recording. She also adds to her podcast original music recorded by her spouse, who is a former musician.
It is interesting to learn that DeMarco taught herself how to create a podcast through YouTube videos and tutorials available on Lynda.com. She uses a Zoom recorder to record the audio and Audacity for editing. Although it “was outside [her] comfort zone and a huge learning curve” for her, DeMarco has persevered since she loves podcasts and really believes in sharing the innovative research being conducted at UTM. DeMarco has also “presented at four different conferences about podcasting in academia, one each in Toronto, Ottawa, Saskatoon, and most recently San Francisco.” Although public speaking “is not something that comes easily to [her], [she is] trying to put the View to the U podcast out there as much as [she] can.”
For those new to the podcast, DeMarco recommends listening to the episode with Dr. Loren Martin, an assistant professor of psychology. As he conducts research on pain, DeMarco aimed to debunk the many myths associated with pain but ended up finding out that some of the myths were actually true. Another podcast she recommends is the one featuring Dr. Jennifer Stellar, who is also an assistant professor of psychology, and who has given multiple TED talks on positive emotions and how they promote well-being.
While DeMarco enjoys reading and appreciates the video format, she says that with podcasts, one does not have to stop what they are doing to listen. They can be on a run or folding laundry and listening at the same time. She also says that “there is something very comforting about having someone talk to you” and that podcasts can show “a fuller picture.” DeMarco is “really glad to be able to profile researchers in such a different way” and encourages those interested to check out a View to the U podcast.