News & Media

WiSys recognizes students for expert research communication at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research

WiSys Quick Pitch winners from the National Conference on Undergraduate Research, in the front row holding certificates from left to right, Emily Godin, Northern Arizona University; Madison Gremillion, University of Northern Colorado; Michelle Tin, University of Utah; Alyssa Kemp, Drexel University; and Alison Lawrence, Augustana College; are congratulated by, in the back row from left to right, Arjun Sanga, WiSys; Kyle Weatherly, UW System Board of Regents; James C. Schmidt, UW-Eau Claire; Cris Peterson, UW System Board of Regents; Aaron Hagar, Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation; David Brukardt, WiSys Board of Trustees; Jeanine Burmania, Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation; and Elaine Coughlin, Pablo Group. (Photo Courtesy of UW-Eau Claire)

EAU CLAIRE, WIS.—WiSys, a nonprofit organization supporting research, innovation and entrepreneurship in Wisconsin, announced the winners of its WiSys Quick Pitch competition at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR) held in April at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. 

The WiSys Quick Pitch competition encourages student researchers to recognize the value of their research and, through pre-event training, provides them with tools for effectively communicating their work to the public. Participating students have three minutes to “pitch” their research in front of a panel of judges and compete for cash prizes.

“Research communication is critically important. If research is not shared and absorbed by the public, it does not make an impact. The WiSys Quick Pitch Program has proven to be a valuable tool to help student researchers learn critical communication skills, bettering their education and future careers,” said WiSys President Arjun Sanga. “We congratulate the winners of this year's competition and thank all participants for showcasing their excellent work.”

More than 500 students from across the country applied to participate in the competition, while 70 students ultimately pitched their research in-person. Five first and second place winners were awarded cash prizes totaling $4,000 in various categories.


In the Social Sciences and Humanities Category, Alison Lawrence from Augustana College (Rock Island, Ill.) won first place and was awarded $1,000 for the pitch on “Flipped Medicine: A Guide to Deconstructing the Normative Patient Model.” 

Second place in the category and a cash prize of $500 went to Alyssa Kemp from Drexel University (Philadelphia, Pa.) for the pitch on “A Community-Focused Analysis of the Heat Mitigation Techniques in Hunting Park, Philadelphia.”


In the Science and Technology Category, Michelle Tin from the University of Utah (Salt Lake City, Utah) won first place and was awarded $1,000 for the pitch on “Resistance to Opioid Induced Respiratory Depression in Xenopus Laevis.” 

Madison Gremillion from the University of Northern Colorado (Greeley, Colo.) won second place in the category and a cash prize of $500 for her pitch on “End-of-Life Patient Communication: Exploring Comfort, Communication and Education of Healthcare Professionals for End-of-Life Care.”


Another special category highlighted sustainability research projects. Emily Godin from Northern Arizona University (Flagstaff, Ariz.) won first place and a cash prize of $1,000 in the category for the pitch on “A Case Study Analyzing Climate Change Curriculum Implementation in Flagstaff Middle Schools.”

The first place winners had the opportunity to deliver their winning pitches in front of the NCUR audience, opening for keynote speakers.

NCUR is an annual event that promotes undergraduate research, scholarship, and creative activity. The conference provides students from all disciplines and institutions of higher education with the opportunity to present their research on a national stage, attend professional development workshops, and engage with peers and faculty from across the country. Each year, NCUR is hosted by a different institution and attracts thousands of attendees.

“The WiSys Quick Pitch competition added an extra touch to NCUR 2023 where student researchers could hone their presentation skills in front of a variety of non-discipline specific judges. CUR was excited to see this friendly competition, which helped spread the value and impact of undergraduate research, give students the opportunity to develop essential communication skills to prepare them for future endeavors. Congratulations to all those accepted into this competition and a special congratulations to the finalists,” said Heather Wakefield, Senior Director of Program Strategy, Development & Design at the Council of Undergraduate Research.

This was the first time the competition was held at a national level, made possible by the strong collaborative relationship between WiSys and UW-Eau Claire, the host university.

“UW-Eau Claire is proud that our students, faculty and staff have worked closely with WiSys for many years to create innovative undergraduate research opportunities. To see WiSys make its debut on the national research stage during NCUR 2023 at UW-Eau Claire was really a special moment,” said UW-Eau Claire Chancellor Dr. James C. Schmidt.

WiSys first piloted the program at the local level at UW-Eau Claire in 2015. Since then, the program has been expanded to 10 other University of Wisconsin System institutions. 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.


Judges, with a broad range of expertise from across the state of Wisconsin, volunteered during the competition.

A semifinal round was judged by:

  • Dr. Jim Boulter, Professor of Chemistry and Biology, UW-Eau Claire.
  • Kirsten Dieckman, Clinical Assistant Professor, UW-Eau Claire.
  • Dr. Stephen Druker, Professor of Chemistry and Biology, UW-Eau Claire. 
  • Dr. Tyler Doyon, Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry, UW-Eau Claire.
  • Dr. Brady Foust, Professor Emeritus of Geography, UW-Eau Claire.
  • Dr. Kris Knutson, Associate Professor of Communication and Journalism, UW-Eau Claire. 
  • Kerry Kincaid, Board member, UW-Eau Claire Foundation.
  • Mark Kallenbach, Attorney.
  • Michelle Kallenbach, Attorney.
  • Jerry Kuehl, Senior Vice President, Sales and Marketing, Northwestern Bank.
  • Dr. Josephine Kipgen, Assistant Professor of Women's Gender and Sexuality Studies, UW-Eau Claire.
  • Dr. Lisa Quinn-Lee, Professor of Social Work, UW-Eau Claire..
  • Eric Rygg, President, Silver Spring Foods, Inc.
  • Scott Hoffman, CEO, WIN Technology.
  • Dr. Jean Pratt, Associate Dean, College of Business, UW-Eau Claire.

The final round was judged by:

  • Elaine Coughlin, Director of Investments and Entrepreneurship, Pablo Group.
  • David Brukardt, Board member, WiSys.
  • Jeanine Burmania, Senior Director, Intellectual Property and Licensing, Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation.
  • Aaron Hagar, Vice President, Entrepreneurship and Innovation and Sector Strategy. Development, Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation.

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.