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Emerging Graduate Scholars Show Research at First-Ever Conference

An aerial view of the poster research presentations.
An aerial view of the poster research presentations.

The most innovative and interdisciplinary research being carried out by Drexel University’s graduate students was on full display at last week’s Emerging Graduate Scholars Conference — whether it was printed on poster board, arranged in PowerPoint slides or quickly explained on stage in just three minutes during a thesis competition. Besides getting practice and real-world experience designing presentations and speaking publicly about their work, graduate students were also advised by Drexel alums and professionals on how to move forward with their graduate degree and career through a series of panel discussions.

The all-day event, held April 27, was put on through the efforts of the Graduate College, the Graduate Student Association (GSA) and the Office of Research in order to give graduate students a chance to present themselves — and their research, their profession and academic background — to a general audience, just like they’d have to do off-campus at larger conferences and job interviews.

This conference serves a number of important functions,” said James Herbert, PhD, dean of the Graduate College and executive vice provost. “It affords an opportunity for students to gain valuable experience presenting their work; it provides a forum for showcasing the diverse scholarship across the University; and it promotes interdisciplinary networking. I hope this event will mark the beginning of a new tradition at Drexel.”

The turnout was huge for the inaugural conference. About 50 posters were created, with two-dozen students presenting their research through oral presentations and 10 students participating in Drexel’s version of the international 3MT competition, which was founded by the University of Queensland and challenged the students to use just three minutes and one slide to present their research in terms that could be understood by any member of the public.

“The 3MT competition went better than we imagined,” said Katie Van Aken, GSA vice president for academic affairs and a PhD candidate in materials science and engineering in the College of Engineering. “Students presented their 3MT in front of more than 100 people in the auditorium and they all did exceptionally well. The participants noted that it was a difficult exercise, but they were glad they did it because it challenged them to think about their research in terms that the general public could understand — something not typically required of PhD students during their study.”

Van Aken was one of the graduate students who helped put on the event, along with Valerie Tutwiler, GSA vice president for student life and a PhD candidate in biomedical engineering in the School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems, and Jerry John Nutor, president of the GSA and a PhD candidate in nursing in the College of Nursing and Health Professions.

“We the GSA board believe that graduate students play a vital role in expanding the reputation of this University through their groundbreaking research spanning from technology, health and well-being, environmental issues to educational innovation,” said Nutor. “A conference of this nature is an indication of Drexel's support for internal networking among graduate students, faculty and alumni which is crucial in promoting interdisciplinary research.”

Awards were given to students for their oral presentations, poster presentations and performance in the three-minute thesis competition:

  • Nicole Hall, a doctoral student in the School of Education, who won the President's Award for Best 3MT (Hall, an online student, gave her presentation through video conferencing).
  • Emily Lurier, a doctoral student in the School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems, who won the People's Choice for 3MT.
  • Owen Mayer, a doctoral student in the College of Engineering, who won the Provost's Award for Best Oral Presentation.
  • Paul Sesink Clee, a doctoral student in the College of Arts and Sciences, who came in second place for Oral Presentation.
  • Walker Alexander, a master’s student in the School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems, who won the Dean's Award for Best Poster Presentation.
  • Katherine Fiocca, a doctoral student in the College of Arts and Sciences, who came in second place for Poster Presentation.

Kara Spiller, PhD, assistant professor in the School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems, was the conference’s keynote speaker with the talk “Yes, And: Seizing Opportunities to Build Bridges.”

Graduate students were further advised on how to best take advantage of their academic and professional experiences with panels like “Making the Most of Your Graduate Degree,” “Graduate School: Before, During and After” and “Building the Career You Want.”

A networking reception ended the day’s events to give graduate students a chance to use what they just learned about marketing themselves. 

The conference was a resounding success,” said Herbert. “I’m so proud of our graduate students who took the lead in organizing and executing all aspects of the event. The student presentations and posters were exceptionally strong.”

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