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UW-Superior students Zoe Tietz and Zina Deriche recognized for research communication skills

UW-Superior students Zoe Tietz, left, and Zina Deriche, right, participate in the WiSys Quick Pitch @ UW-Superior on April 5. The event was held via Zoom.

SUPERIOR—UW-Superior students Zoe Tietz and Zina Deriche were recognized for their research communication skills in the WiSys Quick Pitch @ UW-Superior on April 5.

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.

Tietz, a senior, took first place and a $300 prize for the presentation “Period Poverty in the Twin Ports.”

The research project studied the inequality caused by a lack of access to menstruation supplies and facilities within the Midwest, specifically assessing areas such as Duluth and Superior. A survey found that menstruation inequality was experienced by groups above and below the poverty line.

Tietz’s faculty advisor is UW-Superior Professor of Social Inquiry Dr. Khalil (Haji) Dokhanchi.

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


Deriche, also a senior, won second place and a $125 prize in the competition for the presentation “Cocoa Oil Extraction and Energy Content Measurements.”

The research project focused on using cocoa oil as a possible more sustainable alternative to palm oil. According to Deriche, cocoa oil is more environmentally-ethical and healthier for people. Deriche researched different ways to extract the oil from Colombian cocoa beans.

Deriche’s faculty advisor is UW-Superior TRIO McNair Scholars Program Director Monte Stewart.

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

  • Lucas Palomino, “Planting Trees from Lab Computers.”
  • Mateus Silvestre, “Object Detector for People with Low Vision.”

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:

  • Jim Paine, Mayor of Superior.
  • Dr. Maria Stalzer Wyant Cuzzo, Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, UW-Superior.


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.