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URMC / Education / Graduate Education / URBest Blog / January 2019 / Podcasting: How We Started and What We Learned Along the Way

Podcasting: How We Started and What We Learned Along the Way

News Article by Keith Morris-Schaffer and Katrina Jew, PhD Candidates for Toxicology

Graduate school is not just an opportunity for academic pursuits but also an opportunity to empower your voice through podcasting! Podcasting allows you to share your passion and fill in a deficient niche. We are two fifth-year toxicology graduate students who have appreciated the opportunities provided by URBEST to promote all avenues of employment a PhD could pursue. This seed of inspiration encouraged us to expand this style of opportunity by making a live podcast, titled “Interview with an Expert” for interested graduate students, which are all housed, under “Graduate Student-Focused Webinars”. As we’ve been developing out podcast, we’re following a couple of our own guidelines below.

Step 1. Know your goal

The purpose of the podcast will define your audience, content, structure, and potential sponsorship. With this in mind, it is critical to have your goal fully defined and operationalized before proceeding with the next steps. We know that not all graduate students are fortunate enough to have the resources of URBEST but are still eager to learn more about career trajectories of doctorate-level professionals. We sought to solve this deficiency with our mission statement being “to facilitate student and post-doctoral interest in alternative careers in toxicology, including, but not exclusive, to consulting, consumer goods, and regulatory affairs.”

Step 2. Audience

A key priority when setting up a podcast is knowing your audience; for us our audience was graduate students and postdocs who are interested in learning about non-academic careers. Using this mindset, we set up the first half of the podcast as an interview between a graduate student, the interviewer, and an early-stage professional toxicologist. The graduate student lends perspective on the uncertainty of career hunting and knowledge of career paths (e.g. What skills do I need? What are the benefits of a given field? What are the challenges? What are the joys?). The young professional toxicologist provides contemporary insight into their career pathway and the struggles of transitioning into a professional role. The goal of this portion is to provide a streamlined and informative dialogue.

Step 3: Engagement

Another priority is to foster engagement within the podcast, in our case, student engagement. To achieve this, following the interview portion, we integrate a Q&A component in which listener-submitted questions are discussed by the interviewer and interviewee. This encourages student participation and involvement within the framework of the podcast by allowing them valuable access to the expert. Along with the live component, the post-broadcast recordings are publicly available through the Society of Toxicology’s webinar site, open to all who are interested. Furthermore, this format serves as a channel for students who want to follow up with these experts to learn more!

Step 4: Sponsors

Ideas for podcasts are all well and good but at the end of the day, you need money to execute. Part of our costs emanated from the live broadcast component in which we require a web conferencing service, WebEx, to facilitate the Q&A. We were granted initial seed funding, through the Society of Toxicology, to run one pilot podcast using our proposed format. This provided an opportunity to receive feedback and review listener interest. After the pilot episode, we put together a funding application, which included listener statistics, future interviewees, and itemized cost breakdown. Thankfully, Society of Toxicology saw value in this new resource and funded our series for three quarters of the fiscal year.

Step 5: Awareness

If a great podcast is uploaded to the internet but no one listens, is it truly great? Our ongoing challenge is promoting our podcast and expanding our audience. Our past attempt included utilizing the Society of Toxicology’s international graduate student and postdoc network. Another outreach effort was done using social media through a LinkedIn post on URBEST’s group page. Finally this newsletter in of itself is a terrific opportunity to promote our podcasts and encourage students to listen. Our first podcast was with a senior scientist at the consulting firm Exponent, our second was with a toxicologist in the consumer goods industry, and we have more episodes in the works. In the future, we are planning to use other social media platforms to promote our podcast to a broader audience.

You too can create a podcast to share your perspective! There’s no set format, no set subject matter (within reason), no set viewpoint, and no rules (just guidelines). We encourage utilizing potential resources including professional organizations, university-based funding resources, government agencies, and self-publication to aid in helping your ideas become reality. Your voice should be heard!

An easy way to start participating is to join us for the next podcast. The Graduate Student Leadership Committee (GSLC) of the Society of Toxicology is pleased to present another episode of “Interview with an Expert” with Brian Lee PhD, DABT from L Brands (Victoria’s Secret, Bath and Body Works), who will share his career path and experience pertaining to product safety and regulatory affairs as a senior toxicologist. This will be followed by a live Q&A from students/postdocs. If the world of personal care products is a career pathway you are interested in pursuing or want to learn more about, this webinar is for YOU!

If you are interested, please use the registration link,, to join the live broadcast on January 23, 2019 at 1:00 pm ET.

Additionally if you missed them, our last two episodes, Interview with an Expert: Consumer Goods and Interview with an Expert: Consulting, are online




Tracey Baas | 1/15/2019

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