On Monday, April 13, more than 70 WPI graduate students will showcase their research at the final rounds of two prestigious WPI events.
From 1 to 3 p.m., 63 master’s and PhD candidates will display updated research posters to a panel of campus and community judges at the Graduate Research Innovation Exchange (GRIE) finals. The finalists were chosen from over 200 students who presented at the first round of the contest in December and are eligible to win cash prizes for first and second place selection in business and social science, engineering, life sciences and bioengineering, and science.
Then, from 3 to 5 p.m., 11 graduate students will present at the i3: Investing in Ideas with Impact (i3) finals. Contestants will make three-minute pitches to a panel of judges, without the use of visual aids, explaining how theirinnovations could become the foundation for new products, processes, or companies. Finalists were chosen from department-level events and semifinals hosted by the deans of Arts and Sciences, Business, and Engineering and will compete for Best Concept and Best Presentation prizes.
The events and subsequent awards ceremony will take place at the Rubin Campus Center Odeum. All members of the WPI community are invited to attend and vote for their favorite poster and speaker to win the People’s Choice award.
PREVIOUS I3 WINNERS OFFER ADVICE AND ENCOURAGEMENT
In anticipation of the final events, winners from last year’s i3 spoke with the Daily Herd to describe their experiences, offer advice for participants, and encourage WPI students, faculty, and staff to attend.
Sarah Hernandez, a PhD candidate in biology and biotechnology, won both Best Presentation and People’s Choice awards for her pitch of a novel cell culture system that can be used to develop diagnostic markers for precancerous cells. Lindsay Lozeau, a PhD candidate in chemical engineering, won the Best Concept prize for her idea of using antimicrobial peptides to prevent hospital-acquired infections.
Hernandez, who participated in the competition three years in row, notes that the i3 offers a valuable perspective for students who spend most of their time working in labs.
“As scientists and engineers we can become so immersed in the technical side of our work that it becomes difficult to explain the big picture of our research in simple terms,” says Hernandez. “If you can’t explain what you do in a concise manner in terms that anyone can understand, you may sacrifice the benefits of a first impression.”
Lozeau participated in i3 for the first time last year and agrees that it is a useful platform for helping students improve their communication skills and discuss their research. She also says that her experience performing in front of audiences as a musician helped prepare her for the event and advises participants to employ a technique frequently used by musicians: improvisation.
“Though my pitches always sound well-rehearsed, I’ve never written a script for them, which makes it seem more realistic and conversational,” says Lozeau. “I’ve seen that judges and audience members find this much more appealing than something that is clearly memorized.”
Hernandez urges students not to get too wrapped up in technical details, saying, “Tell the judges about the need your research fills, the benefits you bring over your competition, and the cost and market value. Try to make a personal connection with the audience. If your pitch can get them thinking about their families or their own lives, it will make the response much stronger.”
Both Hernandez and Lozeau have also observed that WPI community members who attend the event benefit from learning about the graduate student research at WPI and making connections.
“i3 is a great networking event because it provides an opportunity to hear where students see their research going. A lot of what goes on at WPI can have multiple applications, so hearing the direction students want to take can be a great time to form collaborations that can take projects to the next level,” says Hernandez.
Lozeau adds, “Everyone I’ve ever talked to who has attended the i3 competition has nothing but good things to say about the students who participate and their projects…. It’s a great atmosphere, one that people remember.”