Nov. 16, 2020

Competition highlights postdoctoral research on campus

Second annual Research Slam dives into research on residential schools, dairy farming and skeletons in space

UCalgary’s second annual Postdoc Research Slam wrapped up on Nov. 6, with a group of 15 postdoctoral scholars competing for prizes and glory. The challenge was for each participant to present their research in an engaging and comprehensive way — but in three minutes with one PowerPoint slide. Easier said than done.

“As researchers, we need to be able to translate our research to a myriad of audiences” says Dr. Tiffany Prete, PhD, winner of this year’s postdoc slam. Prete’s research on residential schools in the Kainaiwa Nation focuses on how the Canadian government has whitewashed the history of Canada. Prete, a member of the Kainawa Nation, illustrated the concept of whitewashing through her slide, which depicted a residential school photo that looked as if it had been covered by a thin sheen of white paint.

“The challenge was how I could show that my research is of value to Canadians in order for reconciliation to truly take place,” she says.

This year’s slam went digital to accommodate distancing measures, creating the opportunity for contestants to share their work with a broader audience. The videos were posted to a YouTube playlist where peers were encouraged to “like” the competitors videos to determine the winner of the $250 People’s Choice award.

“The digital nature of the competition allowed me to share my research with friends and family across the country,” says Dr. Leigh Gabel, PhD, second-place winner. “This was a great opportunity to make my research more accessible and get out of my comfort zone.”

Inspired by the MyGradSkills 3 Minute Thesis competition, the Postdoc Research Slam is an exercise in knowledge translation, informing viewers about the impact of postdoctoral research in everyday life. The judges evaluated contestants’ communication style, comprehension, and engagement within the three-minute time limit.

“In preparation for the competition, we were invited to attend a coaching session with campus experts via Zoom,” says Dr. Anne-Marieke Smid, PhD, who placed third. “I received great feedback on my talk and slide, which helped me finalize my presentation.”

The top three winners received prizes of $700, $500 and $250 respectively, along with merchandise from the UCalgary Bookstore and Innovate Calgary. Additionally, the first-place winner received two personalized career coaching sessions from UCalgary Career Services.

“Our postdocs come from all around the world and bring their research skills and perspectives to our campus,” says Dr. Penny Pexman, PhD, postdoctoral program director. “The digital research slam was an excellent way to get a sense for the remarkable range and impact of their research.”

This year’s winners are:

First place: Tiffany Prete, Werklund School of Education — Whitewashed

Second place: Leigh Gabel, Cumming School of Medicine — Skeletons on a Mission: Understanding Bone Loss on Long-Duration Spaceflight

Third place: Anne-Marieke Smid, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine — Modern Dairy Farming: To Graze or Not to Graze?

People’s Choice: Bruna Araujo David, Cumming School of Medicine — Your Blood is More Powerful Than You Think!