News & Media

UW-Stout students recognized for research communication skills

MENOMONIE—Four UW-Stout students were recognized for their research communication skills in the WiSys Quick Pitch @ UW-Stout on May 2.

The student “pitch” competition inspires UW System students to consider the impact of their research and effectively communicate it to the public. Students have three minutes to impress a panel of judges with their pitch.

Areeba Ali, a graduate student, earned first place and a $300 prize for the presentation “Development of Eco-friendly Milk Whey Protein Isolate Biodegradable Packaging.”

The objective of Ali’s study was to optimize biodegradable whey protein isolate (WPI) packaging films as the alternative of plastic packaging for protecting the environment and sustainability of the food processing industry.

The win gives Ali the opportunity to represent UW-Stout in the WiSys Quick Pitch State Finals during the WiSys SPARK Symposium at UW Oshkosh, Aug. 6-8.

Ali’s faculty advisor was UW-Stout Assistant Professor of Food and Nutrition Dr. Pranabendu Mitra.


Seniors Jonah Johnson and Tanner Hornung won second place and a $125 prize for their joint presentation “Cessna Seat Track Project.”

Johnson and Hornung researched malfunctions in old Cessna airplane seats that resulted in crashes and several deaths. The duo worked to create and test a new design to fix the issue where the wear on the old seats would cause the seat and the pilot to slide backwards while taking off, causing the pilot to pull up on the controls and stall the plane.

The students’ faculty advisor was UW-Stout Assistant Professor of Engineering and Technology Dr. Abhishek Verma.


Graduate student Sadhana Thokachichu received the event’s People’s Choice Award for the presentation “Conversion of Breweries’ Byproducts into Value-added Extruded Foods.” The award is voted on by the event’s attendees.

The objective of Thokachichu’s research was to find a sustainable solution for the brewing industry by converting brewing grain waste into value-added foods. The brewing industry is expected to generate more than 38 million tons of waste grain per year globally, Thokachichu noted. Most of the waste is used as animal feed or sent to landfills, but it has great potential in the food sector because of its nutritional composition, Thokachichu said.

Dr. Mitra also served as Thokachichu’s faculty advisor.

Overall, 12 students participated in this year’s WiSys Quick Pitch @ UW-Stout. Other “pitchers” included:

  • Anna Brooks, "Saving Golden Lion Tamarins One Nucleotide at a Time" 
  • Mehdi Ben Hariz, "Exploring NoSQL Databases." 
  • Elizabeth Her, "Food Industry By-product Cranberry Pomace Fortified Gluten Free Value-added Nutritionally Rich Cupcakes." 
  • Blais Hurst, "Vine Shoots as an Alternative to Oak Ageing." 
  • Daniel Oyinloye, "Developing Diabetes Remedial Cookies.”
  • Resha Tandukar, "Value-added Plant-based Vegan Yogurts as an Alternative of Dairy Yogurts." 
  • Rajesh Dangal, "Food Industry By-products Brewer’s Spent grain and Cranberry Pomace-fortified Soy Protein Rich Extruded Snacks/Cereals." 
  • An Vu, "Stoutdy - Stout Students Study Buddy."

In order to participate in WiSys Quick Pitch, students must complete a training and mentorship session with WiSys and campus leaders. These sessions help students craft their presentation and instill confidence. 

All participating students receive the WiSys Research Communication badge to denote their newly developed skill. The digital credential may be added to the students’ resumes and LinkedIn profiles.

The judges for the competition were:

  • Dr. Katherine P. Frank, Chancellor, UW-Stout
  • Tamara Brantmeier, Associate Vice Chancellor of Partner and Student Engagement, UW-Stout
  • Anne Hoeltke, Director, Office of Research and Sponsored Programs, UW-Stout
  • Ray French, Regional Economic Development Director, Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation


As a nonprofit organization supporting research, innovation and entrepreneurship at Wisconsin’s regional public universities, WiSys set out to develop a program to incentivize and train student researchers to share their work to a lay audience including the public, mentors and policymakers.

WiSys first piloted the program at UW-Eau Claire in 2015. Since then, the program has been expanded to 10 other UW System institutions. The winners from the institutional competitions compete at the statewide finals held at WiSys’ annual summer symposium. Through the program, more than 80 students receive research communication training and experience each year. Nearly 500 UW System student researchers have participated since 2015.

The program’s objectives include:

  • Encouraging student researchers to recognize the value of their work.
  • Providing students tools for effectively communicating their research to the public without jargon.
  • Highlighting the depth and breadth of student research taking place at public universities.
  • Promoting information sharing to create new opportunities or collaborations.
  • Celebrating student work and accomplishments.

For more information about the WiSys Quick Pitch Program, visit

WiSys is a nonprofit organization that works with faculty, staff, students and alumni of the UW System to facilitate cutting-edge research programs, develop and commercialize discoveries and foster a spirit of innovative and entrepreneurial thinking across the state.