GRIE Finals

Annual Graduate Research Competitions Enable Students to Share Work and Learn from Others This afternoon (April 11), WPI graduate students will showcase their impressive research at the finals of two campus-wide competitions: the Graduate Research Innovation Exchange (GRIE) poster celebration, running from 1 to 3 p.m., and the i3: Investing in Ideas with Impact pitch presentations, running from 3 to 5 p.m. The events will take place in the Rubin Campus Center Odeum, and all WPI community members are invited to attend.
April 11, 2016

The finals mark the conclusion of months of preparation for dozens of master’s and PhD students. While participants will vie for recognition and cash prizes, many are quick to point out that the events are about much more than winning competitions.

Take Ermal Toto, a PhD candidate in Computer Science. Toto is one of 62 students who will present a poster at the GRIE finals after being selected from an initial group of 190 competitors in early February.

Toto is an experienced GRIE participant and winner, as he received a first place award in 2010. He’ll be back for the first time since then to present his new research on predicting human mobility at subway stations, a technology that could help ride services like Uber and Lyft optimize their operations and cut down on emissions.

“Whether it’s your first time or fourth time participating in GRIE, it’s always a good experience.” – PhD candidate Baillie McNally

“At the GRIE you get to shine and show the best of your work,” says Toto. “It’s also a chance to meet fellow students, see what they are doing, and get inspired by them. It is harder to have great ideas if you are not exposed to this kind of environment.”

Baillie McNally, a PhD candidate in Materials Science and Engineering, is participating in the GRIE for the fourth year in a row. She will share research she has been working on since she was an undergrad that aims to develop an all-encompassing model for an additive manufacturing technique called the cold spray process, which is currently being used to replace critical parts on military vehicles.

McNally says she is excited to present at the GRIE finals to show off her progress and get a peek at research that is happening in other departments.

“Whether it’s your first time or fourth time participating in GRIE, it’s always a good experience,” says McNally. “It’s a great opportunity to practice discussing your work, especially with those who aren’t familiar with your field of study, and you get to witness all of the research being done throughout campus.”


Immediately following the GRIE, 12 students will take the stage for i3, a Shark Tank-style competition in which participants have three minutes to pitch their innovative ideas to a panel of judges made up of local entrepreneurs and business experts. The winner will receive up to $1,750 in prize money.

David Dolivo, a PhD candidate in Biology & Biotechnology, will compete for the first time as he pitches his idea for a new type of scar prevention treatment that could also impact other areas of medicine.

“There is a notable lack of anti-scarring therapies on the market, and further research into scar prevention may have important implications for therapy to treat other pathologies associated with scarring, including heart attacks and cirrhosis of the liver,” says Dolivo.

Like Toto and McNally, he believes that the most valuable element of the competition isn’t the potential prize money but the experience.

“Preparing for the competition put me out of my comfort zone and forced me to seek answers to questions that academics, in particular graduate students, are able to mostly ignore, such as the broader impact of one’s research and how to explain its importance to someone who is not well-versed in the field,” says Dolivo.

He adds, “The i3 fundamentally changes the way that you look at your own research. It encourages broader introspection and a more holistic view of the work that we are doing. This can result in tangible changes to your perspective and improvements in your scientific work.”

Winners for the GRIE and i3, including People’s Choice awards selected by audience members, will be announced at 5 p.m. A reception will follow in the Odeum.