Ngozi Amuneke, a graduate student in the Texas Center for Superconductivity at the University of Houston (TcSUH), is poised as she addresses a room of professors, peers and staff members.
“The first question I’m sure everyone is wondering is ‘what exactly are you studying?’ My research deals with the interplay of chemical pressure and spin degrees of freedom for a specific compound.”
For the next 15 minutes, she will explain her original research through narrative and images, followed by a few minutes of question-and-answer.
Amuneke is participating in the TcSUH Semiannual Student Symposium designed to help up-and-coming scientists become better speakers and writers.
“We set up a symposium because you have to be able to communicate the purpose and findings of your research,” said Allan Jacobson, professor and director of the center. “They all have an opportunity to talk for 15 minutes and also to answer questions on their work. We give them prizes for the best presentation. It’s an adjudicated competition.”
This is the 20th year of the symposium. Groups of about 10 students participate in the event twice a year. Three will win prizes, including the opportunity to travel to a conference of their choice.
“What we look for essentially are presentation skills. We look for the quality of the work, the slides and the graphics that they use,” Jacobson said. “But, equally important, we look for originality in the research project, and then we evaluate them on how well they can answer questions.”
Presenters expertly negotiate the PowerPoint slides, explaining complex research. Some discover they still have much to say even though the allotted time has expired. Others take gentle direction from professors in the audience in explaining precisely and in layman’s terms how the research works.
Sladjana Maric was eager for direction as she explained the effect of electromagnetic properties on the rotation of FO portion of ATP-synthase.
“They help me to get that confidence to talk not only in layman’s terms, but to explain my science to my friends.”
In addition to the symposium, student may enroll in a course to assist them in writing about their research.
“It is often a fairly new experience. It’s a continuing process,” Jacobson said.
The Texas Center for Superconductivity is part of what’s happening at the University of Houston. I’m Marisa Ramirez.
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