Can you tell the story of a complex research project in just three minutes? Could a presentation emerge from extreme time compression transformed like a coal diamond? The public presentation of the MIT Research Slam on April 11 put these questions and more center stage as the four postdoctoral finalists and five doctoral students competed for cash prizes.
The ability to convincingly present scientific research to an intelligent but lay audience is a bankable skill essential for success in any professional setting, within academia or beyond – and the MIT Research Slam competition provides an arena for support. but competitive to hone that skill set. The Research Slam Public Showcase gives each participant 180 seconds to present their research, a format adopted by more than 200 universities around the world for annual competitions. Along with the thrill of competition, these events offer trainees the opportunity to develop and showcase their research communication skills.
In the weeks leading up to the event, attendees participated in training workshops on pitch content and presentation, and had the opportunity to work one-on-one with educators from Career advice and professional development (CAPD), the Engineering Communication Labs, and the Writing and Communication Center, all of which co-sponsored and co-produced the event.
Simona Rosu, Senior Associate Director of Postdoctoral Career and Professional Development at CAPD, explains why this event is especially valuable for PhDs and postdocs: “The ability to present their research achievements in a clear, compelling and concise way to non -experts is a key skill for the career development of doctoral and post-doctoral students. This will help them put together strong application materials; shine in interviews, job interviews and networking; and compete convincingly for funding opportunities, whether in academia or industry.
The finalists included five doctoral students – Leonard Boussioux, Juana De La O, Reuven “Beny” Falkovich, Olivia Kim and Vrindaa Somjit – and four post-docs – Maria Kanelli, Jamie Karthein, Constantinos Katsimpouras and Scott Odell. Topics ranged from superconducting qubits to proton melting.
A panel of accomplished judges gave their opinion after each of the discussions. Alisa Machalek, team leader and science communication and outreach at the National Institute of Arthritis, Musculoskeletal, and Skin Diseases; Jermey Matthews, acquisitions editor at MIT Press; and Babak Movassaghi, CEO of Vitruvia Holding, served as judges. After the event, Movassaghi said, “What a joy to be part of this year’s MIT Research Slam as a judge. Congratulations to all the passionate PhD students and post-docs who have mastered the challenge of explaining their complex scientific research in just three minutes.
At the end of the evening, Jamie Karthein was the jury’s choice in the postdoc category, Scott Odell was the finalist, and Jamie also won the hearts of viewers and walked away with the audience award for postdocs. After the competition, Jamie said, “What I found most valuable was using a new communication technique to interact with a large audience about my fundamental research in physics. I enjoyed the opportunity to engage with the audience during the Q&A session. »
In the doctoral class, Leonard Boussioux won the highest distinction as well as the audience award, followed closely by Reuven “Beny” Falkovich. Leonard summed up his Research Slam experience with enthusiasm: “Since I am interested in an academic position after my doctorate, I found the three-minute thesis exercise very insightful…I also realized that it is practical to be ready to present at any time to any audience what I do with my time, and I naturally saw myself explaining what I have been doing for the past few weeks.
The runners-up received a cash prize of $600, while the runners-up and People’s Choice winners each received $300.
A full list of showcase finalists and their talk titles are below. Video entries made public by presenters will be available for viewing on the MIT Research Slam Youtube Channel.
Research Slam organizers included Diana Chien, Director of MIT School of Engineering Communication Lab; Simona Rosu, Senior Associate Director of Postgraduate Career and Professional Development at CAPD; Elena Kallestinova, director of MIT Center for Writing and Communication; Alexis Boyer, deputy director of the career service for CAPD graduates; Amanda Cornwall, Associate Director of Graduate Student Professional Development at CAPD; Viraat Goel, PhD student in biological engineering at MIT, Communication Lab Fellow, and representative of the Council of Graduate Students Council of Foreign Affairs; and Pradeep Natarajan, PhD student in chemical engineering at MIT and Communication Lab Fellow. The awards were sponsored by MIT Career Advisory and Professional Development.