The Oregon State University Sesquicentennial Oral History Project

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Zhian Kamvar Oral History Interview

Life history interview conducted by Mike Dicianna.

June 19, 2015


“Documenting the Lives of Graduate Students”  June 19, 2015  Location: Valley Library, Oregon State University.  Watch Video | Download Transcript (PDF)

In the interview, Kamvar discusses his upbringing in Cupertino, California, his early interest in science, and his decision to attend Truman State University in Kirskville, Missouri. In recalling Truman State, Kamvar notes his move toward biology as a discipline of focus and recalls his involvement in the school's student radio station. From there he reflects on the three years that he spent teaching English in Korea, following his graduation from Truman State.

The primary focus of the session is Kamvar's life as an OSU graduate student, his creation and hosting of a successful radio talk show, and his perspectives on graduate student life at Oregon State. In this, he describes his enrollment at OSU, his initial impressions of the campus and community, his rotation through two different laboratories, his establishment of a research agenda, and his experiences as a teaching assistant. He likewise shares his perspective on securing research funding and details his involvement with the Coalition of Graduate Employees, noting the specific issues that are important to the coalition and the graduate students that it represents. He also provides his thoughts on graduate student culture and social life, changes that he has observed at OSU, and the specifics of the laboratory where he conducts most of his work.

The final third of the interview is devoted to the history and mission of Inspiration Dissemination, the radio talk show program that Kamvar co-founded in 2012. Kamvar discusses the creation of the show and its forward evolution, commenting on the ways in which fellow graduate students are enlisted to appear as guests and the techniques that are used to facilitate discussion of research to a lay audience. He also reflects on the closing down of KBVR-FM at Snell Hall, the technical infrastructure now available to student radio at the Student Experience Center, memorable guests who have appeared on the show, and the show's receipt of a national award for innovation in 2014.

The session concludes with Kamvar's thoughts on the culture of student radio at Oregon State as well as details on a typical day in his life, his ambitions for the future, and his advice on surviving grad school.