Students vie for prizes in the Nutshell Games on March 19
Thirty students will present their research at the Center for Communicating Science event
March 11, 2022
On March 19, Virginia Tech graduate students will take the stage at the Moss Arts Center to share their work. The 30 participants of the 2022 Center for Communicating Science Nutshell Games will have 90 seconds, roughly the time it takes to air three Super Bowl commercials, to wow the audience and a panel of judges using everyday language and a single prop to tell the story of their work and their passion for it.
Center Director Patty Raun, Associate Director Carrie Kroehler, and their team developed the games in 2017 to help students develop the ability to share their work with almost anyone and to do so in a concise way, “research in a nutshell.” The games are designed to offer a platform for practice in a fun, competitive way, and the time limit, about 30 seconds longer than the average elevator speech, provides added incentive to focus on the essence of the research and hold the audience’s attention. Five winners each receive $500, and all contestants receive a video of their presentation.
Because the aim is to reach people from a range of backgrounds and experience, the seven judges include academics and members of the larger Blacksburg community, including a seventh-grader. Graduate School Dean Aimée Surprenant is a member of the panel.
“Translating academic work into language that is accessible and understandable to everyone has always been important, especially for universities, to share the results of our research and scholarly efforts with society,” Suprenant said. “It is our responsibility as researchers to communicate clearly and accurately, which is particularly relevant today, in a world filled with distortion and misinformation.”
The games go to the heart of the center’s mission. Raun, a professor of performance and voice in the School of Performing Arts, has said that researchers and scholars in the physical and social sciences need to be able to communicate their work clearly and effectively with people outside their disciplines and with the general public to build trust and relationships. She has noted the increasing need to address thorny problems in an interdisciplinary manner and with people outside the academy, and strong communications skills are key to success in such ventures.
“This year the event is being held as part of the celebration of the fifth anniversary of the center,” Kroehler said. “We launched the center in 2017 with the Nutshell Games, and we’re really looking forward to hearing this year’s talks — and to being back in person.”
The games begin at 4 p.m. at the Moss Arts Center and admission is free.
The judges are:
- Carol Davis, Town of Blacksburg sustainability manager;
- Sylvester Johnson, director of the Virginia Tech Center for Humanities;
- Elin Kelsey, spokesperson, scholar, educator, and author, University of Victoria School of Environmental Studies;
- Karen Roberto, executive director of the Virginia Tech Institute for Society, Culture and Environment and University Distinguished Professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Science;
- Daniel Sui, senior vice president for research and innovation, Virginia Tech;
- Aimée Surprenant, dean of Virginia Tech’s Graduate School; and
- Asaiah Townes, a seventh-grader from Dalton Intermediate School in Radford.
The following students will present their work at the Nutshell Games. The list includes their program of study and the title of their presentation.
- Prashasti Agarwal, a Ph.D. student in the crop and soil environmental science program, “Rooting for the Little Guys.”
- Sadia Ahmed, a Ph.D. student in the biomedical and veterinary sciences program, “Bugs and Brains: A Premature Story.”
- Jennifer Appiah-Kubi, a Ph.D. student in the electrical engineering program, “Spider-Man Hunts the Cyber-Man.”
- Saeed Behzadinasab, a Ph.D. student in the chemical engineering program, “Antimicrobial Coatings Save Lives!”
- Thomas Bustamante, a master’s degree student in the fish and wildlife conservation program, “Stream Real Estate: How a Small Fish Builds Its Home in a Fluid Environment.”
- Diana Devine, a Ph.D. student in the human development and family science program with a concentration in child and adolescent development, “Media and Cognition: This Is Your Brain on Smartphones.”
- Esha Dwibedi, a Ph.D. student in the economics program, “Who Plays Nice? A Surprising Meta-Meta Analysis.”
- Sara Jamal Eddin, a Ph.D. student in the architecture and design research program, “Light, Technology, and Health: Investigating the Use of XR Technologies as Architectural Tools to Design Healthy Indoor Lighting Environments.”
- Lauren Fritsch, a Ph.D. student in translational biology, medicine, and health, “AdjuSTING the Brain's Immune System to Treat Brain Injuries.”
- Josefa K. Garcia, a Ph.D. student in biomedical and veterinary sciences, “Artificial Intelligence in the Diagnosis of Brain Tumors.”
- Nihar J. Gonsalves, a Ph.D. student in the environmental design and planning program, “Understanding the Underlying Risks and Socio-Technical Challenges of Human Wearable Robot Interaction in the Construction Industry.”
- Madison Gonzalez, a Ph.D. student in the animal and poultry sciences program with a concentration in equine nutrition and exercise, “Horse on a Treadmill: Beyond the Jumbotron.”
- Shivangi Gupta, a Ph.D. student in the human development and familyscience program, “Women at the Margins: Wives of Incarcerated Men in India.”
- Amy Hagen, a Ph.D. student in the geosciences program studying sedimentary geochemistry, “P in the Sea: Understanding the End-Triassic Mass Extinction Using Phosphorus.”
- Kristen Howard, a Ph.D. student in the translational biology, medicine, and health program, “How Does Exercise Change the Calories We Burn?”
- Khan Mohammad Imran, a Ph.D. student in the translational biology, medicine, and health program, “Let's Make Some Noise: Using Ultrasound to Silence Cancer.”
- Xiaoying Li, a Ph.D. student in the crop and soil environmental science program, “What Are Biological Seed Treatments, and Do They Work?”
- Jatia Mills, a Ph.D. student in the biomedical and veterinary sciences program, “The Role of Microglia in Traumatic Brain Injury.”
- Holly Morrison a Ph.D. student in the biomedical and veterinary sciences program, “You’ve Got a Friend in Me: NIK Protein Protects Against Cancer.”
- Charlotte Nyblade, a DVM/Ph.D. student in the biomedical and veterinary sciences program, “Piglet Models of Clostridioides difficile Infection.”
- Laljeet Sangha, a Ph.D. student in the biological systems engineering program, “Water Security from Field to State Through Science and Water Policy.”
- Daniel Smith, a Ph.D. student in the biological systems engineering program, “Plant Hugs or Plant Snot: Which Would Soil Prefer?”
- Mari Tarantino, a master’s degree and Ph.D. student in the human development and family science program, “What’s Love Got to Do with It? Exploring Polyamorous Relationships.”
- Kaitlyn Theberge, a master’s degree student in the fish and wildlife conservation program, “Lobster ROLLing Out of Hot Water.”
- Juselyn Tupik, a Ph.D. student in the biomedical and veterinary sciences program, “Battling Bacteria: How Does Our Immune System Beat Lyme Disease?”
- Viverjita Umashankar, a master’s degree student in the forest products program, “Slowing the Flow of Fast-Furniture Through Internet-Enabled Local Reuse.”
- Prescott Vayda, a Ph.D. student in the geosciences program, “What Can Virginia’s Oldest Fossil Tell Us About the Evolution of Shells?”
- Ruixuan Wang, a Ph.D. student in electrical engineering specializing in optics/optic science, “Smart Fibers: Miniature Sensors with the Size of Hair.”
- Wei, Amanda, a Amanda Wei, a Ph.D. student in the mechanical engineering program, "Metal 3D Printing With Binder Jetting."
- Yezi Yang, a Ph.D. student in the geosciences program, “Just Ask the 500-Million-Year Weatherman.”
Written by Cathy Grimes