Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

UT student hosts video podcast featuring conversations with expert guests

Courtesy of Jason Bott
Dr. Deirdre Shoemaker, left, and Jason Bott, right, in a Heights of Humanity episode.

In his freshman year at UT, geophysics junior Jason Bott began having long conversations with his professors and research advisor. Inspired by the knowledge, wisdom and perspectives they shared, Bott decided to create a digital library of thought-provoking discussions he could share with listeners.

On June 10, after a three-month hiatus, Bott re-launched “Heights of Humanity”, a long-form video podcast featuring one to two-hour-long conversations covering budding research, career advice and STEM knowledge. Previous podcast topics included colliding black holes, YouTube content creation and Icelandic volcanism. Featuring UT professors, entrepreneurs and authors, the first nine episodes of “Heights of Humanity” can be found on all major streaming platforms. 

Bott said he remembers the day he secured his first podcast guest, Dr. Michael Pyrcz, an engineering and geosciences professor.

I was really nervous, scripting through what I was going to ask him,” Bott said. “(When) he was like, ‘Yeah, I’d love to,’ I remember that was an amazing feeling. Walking down Speedway, it felt like this was really happening.”

Dr. Pyrcz said he was impressed by Bott’s earnestness, enthusiasm and skill at asking in-depth questions. He said Bott went beyond facts and figures, seeking motivations and bigger trends.

“If he would have told me he was a Moody journalism student, I would have believed that,” Pyrcz said. “We both want to contribute to positivity (and to the) sharing of knowledge. He wants to thin the membrane between people so that we share the best ideas.”

Since freshman year, Bott said he has taken the initiative to ask questions after class and at his research job at the Institute for Geophysics. Bott said these conversations provide an avenue to finding new guests for the podcast. 

“(The faculty is) so open to questions and absolutely love it when students go up to them and try to pick their brains,” Bott said. “Everyone (in) the geoscience school is so supportive.”

Bott said he puts in about five to 10 hours of research per episode. For professors and researchers, Bott said he prepares by reading their research papers and watching their seminars. 

“A lot of the questions come from my own curiosity,” Bott said. “I want to do things according to what I want to hear, and then I’ll build an audience that enjoys the same things that I do. (That way), it’ll feel very genuine.”

UT physics professor Deirdre Shoemaker, who discussed her research into colliding black holes and gravitational waves on the podcast, said Bott’s questions were detailed and well-prepared.

“Jason really impressed me because he had really researched my research,” Shoemaker said. “I even at one point thought, ‘Did you read my PhD thesis?’”

Bott said that the skills he gained from “Heights of Humanity”, including making connections, understanding complex topics and building a brand, will be applicable to his long-term goals, including starting a clean energy and carbon capture company.

“To me, it’s like, ‘How am I changing the world and leaving it better than I found it?’” Bott said. “Being successful means channeling my passions into doing something that will really help people and help the world and make people’s lives better.”

Bott said he hopes the podcast will become a positive force for its listeners and serve as a bank of information and unique perspectives.

“I hope you’ll learn something, no matter what subject,” Bott said. “It doesn’t matter if you have a PhD or you have a master’s or you never went to college or you didn’t graduate high school. The internet is amazing. You can learn anything.”

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