MIT Research Slam Archives

Take a walk down memory lane with recaps, lists of judges and finalists, and videos from past winners.

Science communication competition brings research into the real world

“We need more scientists who can explain their work clearly, explain science to the public, and help us build a science-literate world.”

Panel of Judges

PhD Student (3MT) Category: 

  • Winner & Audience ChoiceBhavish Dinakar, Department of Chemical Engineering, “A boost from batteries: making chemical reactions faster”
  • Runner-up: Omar Rutledge, Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, “Investigating the effects of cannabidiol (CBD) on social anxiety disorder”

Postdoctoral Scholar Research Slam Category:

  • Winner & Audience ChoiceLaurence Willemet, Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, “Remote touch for teleoperation”
  • Runner-up: Most Kaniz Moriam, Department of Mechanical Engineering, “Improving recyclability of cellulose-based textile wastes”

Many thanks to all who participated in this event! Below is the list of the Research Slam finalists:

Ph.D. candidates (in the alphabetical order):

  • Pradeep Natarajan, Department of Chemical Engineering, “What can coffee-brewing teach us about brain disease?”
  • Omar Rutledge, Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, “Investigating the effects of cannabidiol (CBD) on social anxiety disorder”
  • Bhavish Dinakar, Department of Chemical Engineering, “A boost from batteries: making chemical reactions faster”
  • Sydney Dolan, Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, “Creating traffic signals for space”

Postdoctoral scholars (in the alphabetical order):

  • Augusto Gandia, Department of Architecture and Planning, “Cyber modeling — computational morphogenesis via ‘smart’ models”
  • Laurence Willemet, Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, “Remote touch for teleoperation”
  • Most Kaniz Moriam, Department of Mechanical Engineering, “Improving recyclability of cellulose-based textile wastes”
  • Mohammed Aatif Shahab, Department of Chemical Engineering, “Eye-based human engineering for enhanced industrial safety” 

Coming soon!

Third annual MIT Research Slam showcase highlights PhD and postdoc communication skills

The 2023 competition featured three-minute talks on cutting-edge research from across MIT in an engaging, live competition.

Panel of Judges

PhD Student (3MT) Category: 

  • Winner: Eric Wang, Institute for Medical Engineering and Science, “A vaccine that works against any COVID variant”
  • Runner-up & Audience ChoiceNeha Bokil, Department of Biology, “Why Our Sex Chromosomes Matter”

Postdoctoral Scholar Research Slam Category:

  • Winner: Dirk Lauinger, Sloan School of Management, “Vehicle-to-Grid: Mobile energy storage from electric vehicles”
  • Runner-up & Audience ChoiceAlaa Algargoosh, Media Lab, “Aural Affect: The impact of acoustic environments on emotions, experience and well-being”

Many thanks to all who participated in this event! Below is the list of the Research Slam finalists:

Ph.D. candidates (in the alphabetical order):

  • Neha Bokil, Department of Biology, “Why Our Sex Chromosomes Matter”
  • Bradley Turner, Management: Economic Sociology, “The Storytelling Entrepreneur Has No Clothes: Risks and Rewards of Narrative Pitching”
  • Eric Wang, Institute for Medical Engineering and Science, “A vaccine that works against any COVID variant”
  • Sadie Zacharek, Brain and Cognitive Sciences, “Neuromarkers of Social Anxiety Disorder”

Postdoctoral scholars (in the alphabetical order):

  • Alaa Algargoosh, Media Lab, “Aural Affect: The impact of acoustic environments on emotions, experience and well-being”
  • Hanna de Jong, Department of Biology, “Reading the sugar alphabet”
  • Dirk Lauinger, Sloan School of Management, “Vehicle-to-Grid: Mobile energy storage from electric vehicles”
  • Chris Rabe, Environmental Solutions Initiative, “Understanding Environmental Justice Exclusion in Higher Education”
  • Sharmelee Selvaraji, Bioelectronics Group, Research Laboratory of Electronics (RLE) “”Gut feelings” of Parkinson’s disease”

Find videos from our winners, runner-ups, and audience choices in the PhD student and postdoc categories below.

Winner: Eric Wang, Institute for Medical Engineering and Science, “A vaccine that works against any COVID variant”

Eric Wang, Institute for Medical Engineering and Science, “A vaccine that works against any COVID variant”

Runner-up & Audience ChoiceNeha Bokil, Department of Biology, “Why Our Sex Chromosomes Matter”

Neha Bokil, Department of Biology, “Why Our Sex Chromosomes Matter”

Winner: Dirk Lauinger, Sloan School of Management, “Vehicle-to-Grid: Mobile energy storage from electric vehicles”

Dirk Lauinger, Sloan School of Management, “Vehicle-to-Grid: Mobile energy storage from electric vehicles”

Runner-up & Audience ChoiceAlaa Algargoosh, Media Lab, “Aural Affect: The impact of acoustic environments on emotions, experience and well-being”

Alaa Algargoosh, Media Lab, “Aural Affect: The impact of acoustic environments on emotions, experience and well-being”

MIT Research Slam showcases postdoc and PhD communication skills

The 2nd Annual Research Slam featured three-minute talks on cutting-edge research from across MIT in an engaging public showcase and competition.

Panel of Judges

  • Alisa Machalek, Team Lead, Science Communication & Outreach at the National Institute of Arthritis, Musculoskeletal & Skin Disease (NIH-NIAMS)
  • Jermey Matthews, Senior Acquisitions Editor at MIT Press. 
  • Babak Movassaghi, CEO of Vitruvia Holding, Inc.

PhD Student (3MT) Category: 

  • Winner & Audience Choice: Leonard Boussioux, Operations Research Center, “Multi-Modality: One Methodology to Rule Them All”
  • Runner-up: Reuven “Beny” Falkovich, Chemistry and Biological Engineering, “Figuring Out Who’s Who in the Synaptic Molecular Network”

Postdoctoral Scholar Research Slam Category:

  • Winner & Audience Choice: Jamie Karthein, Department of Physics, Center for Theoretical Physics, “What Happens When You Melt a Proton?”
  • Runner-up: Scott Odell, Environmental Solutions Initiative, “Hydrosocial Displacements: Climate Change and Community Relations in Chile’s Mining Regions”

Many thanks to all who participated in this event! Below is the list of the Research Slam finalists:

Ph.D. candidates (in the alphabetical order):

  • Leonard Boussioux, Operations Research Center, “Multi-Modality: One Methodology to Rule Them All”
  • Juana De La O, Biology, “Molecular Map Making: The Development of Birth Defects”
  • Beny Falkovich, Chemistry and Biological Engineering, “Figuring Out Who’s Who in the Synaptic Molecular Network”
  • Olivia Kim, MIT Sloan Finance, “Credit and the Family”
  • Vrindaa Somjit, Materials Science and Engineering, “From Sandwich Wrappers to Superconducting Qubits: Identifying the Structure of the Aluminum Oxide-Aluminum Interface”

Postdoctoral scholars (in the alphabetical order):

  • Maria Kanelli, Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, “On-patient Medical Record Keeping”
  • Jamie Karthein, Department of Physics, Center for Theoretical Physics, “What Happens When You Melt a Proton?”
  • Constantinos Katsimpouras, Chemical Engineering, “Converting Acid Whey into Food & Feed Ingredients”
  • Scott Odell, Environmental Solutions Initiative, “Hydrosocial Displacements: Climate Change and Community Relations in Chile’s Mining Regions”

Find videos from our winners, runner-ups, and audience choices in the PhD student and postdoc categories below.

Winner & Audience Choice: Leonard Boussioux, Operations Research Center, “Multi-Modality: One Methodology to Rule Them All”

Leonard Boussioux, Operations Research Center, “Multi-Modality: One Methodology to Rule Them All”

Runner-up: Beny Falkovich, Chemistry and Biological Engineering, “Figuring Out Who’s Who in the Synaptic Molecular Network”

Beny Falkovich, Chemistry and Biological Engineering, “Figuring Out Who’s Who in the Synaptic Molecular Network”

Winner & Audience Choice: Jamie Karthein, Department of Physics, “What Happens When You Melt a Proton?”

Jamie Karthein, Department of Physics, “What Happens When You Melt a Proton?”

Runner-up: Scott Odell, Environmental Solutions Initiative, “Hydrosocial Displacements: Climate Change and Community Relations in Chile’s Mining Regions”

Scott Odell, Environmental Solutions Initiative, “Hydrosocial Displacements: Climate Change and Community Relations in Chile’s Mining Regions”

First Institute-Wide Research Slam Spotlights Research Communication at MIT 

A public celebration of cutting-edge MIT research, all packaged in three-minute presentations.

by Viraat Yogi Goel | Research Slam Team

With discussions of virus and vaccine science permeating public discourse over the past year, the pandemic has drawn fresh attention to the critical role scientists play in effective science communication. To celebrate science communicators at MIT and showcase cutting-edge research to the public, the Institute hosted its inaugural Institute-Wide Research Slam this spring. Attended virtually by over 250 people from 21 countries, the Slam featured 5 PhD candidates and 4 postdoctoral scholars as they shared their research with the audience.

At its core, a Research Slam tasks participants with explaining their work clearly and concisely so that broader public audiences may understand it. Speakers prepare presentations that skillfully distill the essence of their research, weave a scientific story, and convey the impact of their work – all in three minutes or less. With the power of their voice and the aid of a single slide, the Slam’s finalists competed for prizes from both a panel of expert judges and the audience.

As one of the audience members remarked, “I was pleasantly surprised by how fun it was and really loved this concept! There’s so much cool research going on, but technical jargon and academic literature are difficult to understand; as an undergrad without much knowledge in many of these topics, I enjoyed learning about these exciting areas of research told in an easily palatable and impactful story format. Through the presentations and the judges’ feedback, I also gained new insights on how I could effectively communicate my own work in the future.

The MIT Research Slam competition was organized by representatives from the MIT Graduate Student Council (GSC) External Affairs Board (EAB)Communicating Science at MIT (ComMIT)MIT Communication LabCareer Advising & Professional Development (CAPD) office, and Writing and Communication Center (WCC) . Organizers convened to plan a public-facing science communication event in the mold of the internationally acclaimed 3-Minute Thesis (3MT) competition. The Research Slam format was devised with parallel categories for PhD candidates and postdocs. 

As Dr. Simona Rosu from CAPD noted, “Communicating their research to a broad audience is a key skill for the career development of PhD students and postdocs. It can help them engage in interdisciplinary initiatives, expand their professional network and recognition, excel in job interviews and job talks, and convey the significance and implications of their research to the public, funding agencies, and policy makers.” 

As part of the lead-up to the Research Slam competition, the organizers hosted two workshops in February on crafting and delivering compelling 3-minute talks. These sessions were designed to help those interested to ideate, plan, practice, and refine their presentations. Contestants submitted their pre-recorded video entries by early March, and the presentations were evaluated by the organizers to select the finalists for the public Research Slam Showcase.

The culmination of months of preparation, the MIT Research Slam Showcase took place on March 29 and celebrated the science communication skills honed by the presenters. The showcase was hosted by Dr. Diana Chien, Director of the MIT Communication Lab. Following live viewing of video presentations in each category, the audience interacted with the presenters via a live Q&A while judges deliberated scores and selected winners as per the 3MT rubric. In addition, judges offered remarks on the presentations. Judges included Liz Neeley, a science communicator and the former Executive Director at The Story Collider; Dr. Ashley Smart, the Associate Director of the Knight Science Journalism Program at MIT & Senior Editor at Undark; and Dr. Kate Stoll, Senior Policy Advisor at the MIT Washington Office. The audience also voted for audience choice awards, with $600 judges’ winner, $300 judges’ runner-up, and $300 audience choice prizes available in each of the two categories. 

The winners were announced at the end of the Slam. In the graduate student category, Lindsey Backman took home both the judges’ winner and audience choice awards and Cadence Payne earned the judges’ runner-up award. In the postdoc category, Dr. Máté Bezdek won the judges vote with Dr. Hari Vijayamohanan taking the runner-up prize, and Dr. Kelsey Miller took home the Audience Choice award.

Though the Showcase has ended, participants are continuing to use the communication lessons they learned as they formulated their talks for a public audience. As postdoc winner Dr. Máté Bezdek put it, “As scientists, we excel at speaking about our science using terminology that only researchers in our own sub-disciplines understand. Taking a step back and communicating the impact of our work in general terms can be very challenging. The process of summarizing my research in broad strokes was extremely valuable, as was the opportunity to engage with the broader MIT community.”

With a successful first year and a resounding vote of approval from both participants and attendees, the MIT Research Slam team is looking to make the Slam an annual fixture of the MIT research communication landscape. Moreover, as other schools host similar competitions, the organizing team is looking to cultivate partnerships and bring MIT science and researchers to an even wider audience. Organizers can be reached at research-slam@mit.edu in case you are interested in contributing to next year’s event or have any suggestions.

Acknowledgements:  Research Slam organizers included Diana Chien – Director of MIT School of Engineering Communication Lab, Simona Rosu – Senior Assistant Director of Postdoctoral Career and Professional Development at MIT Career Advising and Professional Development, Elena Kallestinova – Director of MIT Writing and Communication Center, Viraat Goel – Ph.D. Student in Biological Engineering at MIT and Public Outreach Co-chair of the Graduate Student Council External Affairs Board and Pradeep Natarajan – Ph.D. Student in Chemical Engineering at MIT and President of Communicating Science at MIT.  Jessie Dunietz and Caitlin Stier of the MIT Communication Lab contributed to workshop content and presentation. Former MIT members Lindsay Brownell and Sue Acton contributed to planning discussions. Prizes were sponsored by MIT Career Advising and Professional Development.

Panel of Judges

PhD Student (3MT) Category: 

  • Winner & Audience Choice: Lindsey Backman, Chemistry, “Why does poop smell bad? Investigating skatole production by mammalian gut bacteria”
  • Runner-up: Cadence Payne, Aeronautics & Astronautics, “Probing the oceans with bread loaf sized spacecraft”

Postdoctoral Scholar Research Slam Category:

  • Winner: Dr. Máté Bezdek, Chemistry, “Designing a methane sensor”
  • Runner-up: Dr. Hari Vijayamohanan, Chemistry, “Launching bacteria droplet tug-of-wars”
  • Audience Choice: Dr. Kelsey Miller, Biology, “Avenging our immune system”

Many thanks to all who participated in this event! Below is the list of the Research Slam finalists:

Ph.D. candidates (in the alphabetical order):

  • Lindsey Backman, Chemistry, “Why does poop smell bad? Investigating skatole production by mammalian gut bacteria”
  • Maria Zagorulya, Biology, “Finding immune balance”
  • Heng Yang, Mechanical Engineering, “Certifiable Perception: towards safe and trustworthy autonomy”
  • Cadence Payne, Aeronautics & Astronautics, “Probing the oceans with bread loaf sized spacecraft”
  • Joy Zeng, Chemical Engineering, Using electrons and catalysts to sustainably perform difficult chemical reactions

Postdoctoral scholars (in the alphabetical order):

  • Dr. Julia Fröse, The Koch Institute, “Improving CAR T cell therapy for pancreatic cancer”
  • Dr. Máté Bezdek, Chemistry, “Designing a methane sensor”
  • Dr. Kelsey Miller, Biology, “Avenging our immune system”
  • Dr. Hari Vijayamohanan, Chemistry, “Launching bacteria droplet tug-of-wars”

Find videos from our winners, runner-ups, and audience choices in the PhD student and postdoc categories below.

Winner & Audience Choice: Lindsey Backman, Chemistry, “Why does poop smell bad? Investigating skatole production by mammalian gut bacteria”

Lindsey Backman, Chemistry, “Why does poop smell bad? Investigating skatole production by mammalian gut bacteria”

Runner-up: Cadence Payne, Aeronautics & Astronautics, “Probing the oceans with bread loaf sized spacecraft”

Cadence Payne, Aeronautics & Astronautics, “Probing the oceans with bread loaf sized spacecraft”

Winner: Dr. Máté Bezdek, Chemistry, “Designing a methane sensor”

Dr. Máté Bezdek, Chemistry, “Designing a methane sensor”

Runner-up: Dr. Hari Vijayamohanan, Chemistry, “Launching bacteria droplet tug-of-wars”

Dr. Hari Vijayamohanan, Chemistry, “Launching bacteria droplet tug-of-wars”