Science communication competition showcases cutting-edge research in everyday life

When family and friends questioned Laurence Willemet about her robotics work, she found herself explaining the intricacies of her research in understandable terms. This experience underscored the importance of clear communication and storytelling, which she later recognized as crucial skills.

MIT students like Willemet faced a similar challenge at the 2024 MIT Research Slam competition. The event, held on April 17, pitted four PhD candidates and postdoc finalists against each other to present complex ideas to a lay audience in just 180 seconds.

The Research Slam, inspired by the 3-Minute Thesis competition, offered participants a chance to hone their communication skills and share their research with a broader audience. Bhavish Dinakar, a competitor, appreciated the opportunity to distill years of detailed experiments into a concise narrative that non-experts could grasp.

Before the competition, participants received training on pitch content and delivery from various departments at MIT. The event, co-sponsored and co-produced by multiple organizations, aimed to provide comprehensive support to all competitors.

Eric Grunwald, the emcee for the showcase, commended the presenters for their engaging presentations and the audience for their enthusiasm. The panel of judges, including industry experts like Deborah Blum, emphasized the importance of scientists effectively communicating their work to the public.

At the end of the competition, Bhavish Dinakar emerged as the winner, with Omar Rutledge taking the runner-up position. In the postdoc category, Laurence Willemet claimed the top spot. Willemet expressed gratitude for the opportunity to participate and emphasized the value of effective science communication.

Winners of the Research Slam received cash prizes, with Neha Bokil, a previous winner, set to represent MIT at a regional competition. The event featured a diverse range of finalists across different disciplines, showcasing the breadth of research at MIT.

The PhD and postdoc contestants presented topics ranging from coffee-brewing insights to eye-based human engineering, highlighting the innovative research being conducted at MIT. Organizers behind the Research Slam included key figures from various departments within the university, all dedicated to fostering effective research communication.

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