Graduate Researchers to Test Their Entrepreneurial Pitching Skills in a WPI Competition on April 23

11 Master's and PhD Students, the Finalists from a Campuswide Competition, Will Vie for Cash Awards as they Present to a Panel of Distinguished Judges
April 19, 2012

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A campuswide competition that encourages graduate researchers at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) to think and present like entrepreneurs will culminate in an event from 3 to 5 p.m. on Monday, April 23, 2012, in Alden Memorial in which 11 finalists will make three-minute pitches to a panel of distinguished entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and business executives. Three winners will receive cash awards to apply toward their innovative research.

The competition, known as "i3: Investing in Ideas with Impact," was created to help students think differently about the value of their research projects, according to Richard Sisson Jr., dean of graduate studies at WPI. "This competition is all about translating research into value and real-world impact," Sisson said. "We want our graduate students to consider how the ideas and innovations they are developing through their research could become the foundation for new products, new commercially valuable processes, and even new companies."

The competition began this past winter with elimination rounds organized by WPI's academic departments and programs. The winners from those contests advanced to semifinal presentation competitions run by the deans of Arts and Sciences, Engineering, and the School of Business. On April 23, 11 finalists (listed below) will compete for three cash awards.

At each stage of the competition, students have made three-minutes pitches about their innovations without the aid of PowerPoint presentations, props, or visuals of any kind. "This format helps students understand that when it comes to attracting interest in their work in the marketplace, it is all about the quality and clarity of their ideas and their passion for them," Sisson said. "That is not how scientists and engineers usually communicate, but I truly believe that being required to distill one's work down into concise, persuasive pitch, which clearly conveys its purpose and benefits, will make one a more effective researcher."

Here are the finalists who will make their pitches on April 23: 

Business and Social Science

Jing Bian, MS candidate (Marketing and Technological Innovation), "iBone: Customized Bioengineering Facial Bone Scaffold"

Robert Hatcher, MBA candidate, "VisiD: Visual Display on Smartphones"


Cecilia Borgonovo, PhD candidate (Materials Engineering), "Aluminum Nanocomposites for High-temperature Applications"

Andrew Cavanaugh, PhD candidate (Electrical and Computer Engineering), "Toxic Gas Sensor for Fire Fighters"

Abigail Charest, PhD candidate (Civil and Environmental Engineering), "Indicators of Viral Pathogen Risk in Water Systems"

Jennifer McInnis, PhD candidate (Mechanical Engineering), "Spider-inspired Burst Locomotion for Traversing Irregular Terrain"

Ning Sun, PhD candidate (Materials Engineering), "Friction Stir Processing of Al Cast Components for High-performance Applications"

Kathleen Wang, PhD candidate (Chemical Engineering), "Characterization of Antimicrobial Peptide Activity for the Design of Self-decontaminating Surfaces.


Kara Greenfield, MS candidate (Mathematical Sciences), "Crowdsourcing Gold Standard Quality Linguistic Corpora"

Sarah Runge, PhD candidate (Biology and Biotechnology), "Location, Location, Location: The Regulator of Gene Expression"

Yingmei Qi, MS candidate (Computer Science), "Real-time Decision Support by Efficient Aggregation Over High-speed Data Stream"