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WiSys Quick Pitch 2016 trains students to make undergraduate research projects accessible, understandable

In an elevator pitch-style competition Monday, WiSys Technology Foundation challenged University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire students to present their research projects and their impact on society—all in under three minutes.

In partnership with UW-Eau Claire’s Office of Research and Sponsored Programs, the 2nd Annual WiSys Quick Pitch competition welcomed 11 teams of students to kick off the Celebration of Excellence in Research and Creative Activity (CERCA) this week. Students from various departments presented their research on diverse topics, from food waste in the cafeteria to materials used in superconductors around the world.

UW-Eau Claire geography professor Harry Jol said no matter the subject, being able to effectively communicate the ins and outs of a research project is a skill every student needs.

“Wherever you go professionally, this is something you’ll need,” Jol said. “Too often people don’t know how to talk about what they’re working on.”

Members of the WiSys staff led a training prior to the competition to work one-on-one with students to develop their pitches. The goal of the training was to make each project understood across disciplines and convey the “so what” factor in a short amount of time without visual aids.

Students began by giving an initial pitch, during which many got bogged down by details and went far beyond their time limit. Chemistry student Tiffany Huynh said trying to explain her complex Prolyl-tRnA Synthetase research in lay terms was daunting at first.

“I could speak science, but I couldn’t speak people,” Huynh said. “I learned a lot through the training, and I think if I had to present to someone else, I could do it.”

Huynh went on to win first place in the Science and Technology category for her pitch, which she will present at the Wisconsin Science & Technology Symposium (WSTS) this summer alongside Stephanie Darling, Michaela Gunseor, Carly Murray and Mark Priebe, the first-place winners of the Social Sciences and Humanities category. All student presenters at Quick Pitch were awarded scholarships to attend the 9th annual symposium on behalf of the UW System.