After icy conditions cancelled the February 7 Graduate Research Innovation Exchange (GRIE), this typically two-part event was compressed into one day with more than 200 presenters.
Rory Flinn, director of graduate student professional development, says that at WPI, the work of grad students is often less visible than the undergraduates’ well known IQPs and MQPs.
“This is the opportunity for our graduate students to feel more connected to the community,” he says. “Graduate students often present at conferences, but their research may not be known to peers and faculty members. This lets them be recognized.”
Grad students might be experts in carrying out their research, but GRIE offers them a new set of skills they'll need throughout a professional career. They need to reflect on why their research matters and why they are spending time on this particular topic, he says. “Anytime they have to put a poster and presentation together, they must think of the story they have to tell about the research. They can’t get just into the weeds of the research or they will lose the attention of interested parties.”
As Flinn points out, GRIE is a professional development opportunity as grad students prepare for life after graduation. They will always need to be able to present and communicate their work and then answer questions about it. They can do that only by becoming comfortable with public speaking. And at GRIE, they do that as they are being judged by various faculty members and industry professionals.
“Traditionally, many grad students don’t receive that kind of training,” says Flinn. “There’s lots of preparation, but it’s a great celebration of graduate student training and research and community at WPI. A full slate of professional development programming was organized this past year at WPI for graduate students to address these gaps.”