Researchers practice presenting research in a unique format: speed dating

Minnah Zaheer

UT researchers went on speed dates on Wednesday, but instead of pitching themselves, they pitched their research.

The UT Science Communication Interest Group hosted the event at the Perry-Castaneda Library, during which students, staff, faculty and alumni all gave and received advice on how to improve the way they talk about their research to their “dates.” The event aimed to prepare students for future situations regarding their research, such as applying for grants and funding.

“I think (UT-Austin) prepares our students well to connect with peers and scholars in their disciplines,” Roxanne Bogucka, an organizer of the event, said. “And I hope this event helps with the effort to prepare researchers to talk to the general public.”

Participants were divided into two groups: STEM researchers and non-STEM researchers. During the quick sessions, one person would spend three minutes describing their research followed by two minutes of feedback, and then the roles would switch. The “dating” section of the event was followed by a networking reception.

Bogucka, a member of the Teaching and Learning Services team on campus, said she hopes participants will learn more about other kinds of research outside their own fields.

Julia York, a student in the Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior graduate program, says she learned from the quick format of the event, and switched the order of her research presentation in between speed rounds.

“(I learned) to start with the problem and the specific study system that I’m looking at, then go to the bigger context of what I’m interested in,” York said. “And that’s sort of flipped from the way I presented it the first round.”

York said the exercise also helped her shorten her research summary, which will help her in future conversations.

“I think most of the opportunities to talk about research are very short,” York said. “Most of the time, you wanna be able to explain it in less than three minutes.”

Thomas Czerniawski, a civil engineering graduate student, also participated in the event and said he learned that presenting well requires a lot of focused effort.

“I loved the rapid-fire format,” Czerniawski said. “If you did poorly, you had a second chance and a third chance, and you also got to hear a lot of examples of other people presenting and pick out what other people are doing that goes above general conversation and applies to research.”