A&S Post-Docs Take Prizes in Pitch Contest

By Jacqueline J. Greene

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Aug. 18, 2020) — The University of Kentucky Society of Postdoctoral Scholars (SOPS) hosted their first Research Pitch Competition where 19 postdocs and fellows showcased their research with one-minute elevator pitches. Among the winners are Ajoy Aloysius and Kathryn Everson in Biology in the College of Arts & Sciences. 

The competition was a partnership between SOPS and the Office of Technology Commercialization (OTC) with support from the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs (OPA), and sponsored by the UK International Center (UKIC) and the Office of the Vice President for Research (VPR).

“It was an honor to contribute to this fun and exciting event because I believe that pitching your research (or anything really) in one minute is a skill that is central to effective networking, self-advocacy, and building confidence, all of which are fundamental to finding and securing a fulfilling career,” said Joseph Lutz, director of Postdoctoral Affairs. “It was wonderful to see so many offices band together to support our postdocs and in return it was great to see how engaged postdocs were with the whole adventure, including the pre-event webinar and practice session.”

Ninety attendees joined the Zoom competition to watch the postdocs from the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment; College of Arts and Sciences; College of Medicine; and the College of Pharmacy pitch. The competition was judged by Linda Dwoskin, associate vice president for research for special projects and professor in the College of Pharmacy; Sarah Lyon, associate dean of graduate studies and professor in the College of Arts and Sciences; and Rodney Andrews, associate vice president for research development and director of the Center for Applied Energy Research.

“I was very excited to be asked to judge the Society of Postdoctoral Scholars first pitch competition. Each presentation exposed the true passion that these trainees have for their research and the contributions they hope to make through their hard work,” Dwoskin said. “It was very difficult to choose the top presentations as many were really outstanding. Hearty congratulations to the winners.”

The winners are as follows:

  • Judges’ Best Pitch
    • 1st Place - $500 prize: Ketan Shrestah, Obstetrics and Gynecology-Endocrinology, College of Medicine.
    • 2nd Place - $250 prize: Jessica Macedo, Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry, College of Medicine.
    • 3rd Place - $100 prize: Ajoy Aloysius, Biology, College of Arts & Sciences.
  • People’s Choice Best Pitch
    • 1st Place - $300 prize: Steven McBride, Plant and Soil Sciences, College of Agriculture, Food and Environment . 
    • 2nd Place - $200 prize: Kathryn Everson, Biology, College of Arts & Sciences.
    • 3rd Place - $100 prize: Jaqueline Rivas, Microbiology, Immunology and Molecular Genetics, College of Medicine.
  • People’s Choice Awards
    • Best Visuals - $100 prize: Steven McBride, Plant and Soil Sciences, College of Agriculture, Food and Environment  . 
    • Most Likely to Impact Society - $100 prize: Velmurugan Gopal Viswanathan, Pharmacology and Nutritional Sciences, College of Medicine.
    • Who Would You Most Likely Fund - $100 prize: Jessica Macedo, Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry, College of Medicine.

“At first I was hesitant, afraid and nervous to present my research but after attending the webinar and practice session and most importantly the valuable suggestions from all the well-wishers (peers, friends and lab-team) helped a lot to shape my presentation to be the winner,” said Ketan Shrestha, first-place winner for Judge's Best Pitch.

“I love how much my and other postdocs improved their pitches over the past two weeks! I feel like the feedback sessions were super helpful for me, and I am just blown away by the awesome research being done here,” said Steven McBride, first-place winner for People’s Choice Best Pitch and People’s Choice Award Best Visuals.

OTC hosted an online pitch-skill development seminar, which was open to all postdocs, on how to pitch research and a workshop to assist the 19 finalists in preparing for the pitch competition. The seminar was presented by Laura Halligan, new ventures manager, and Raja Krishnan, commercialization manager.

“OTC saw this partnership as an opportunity to help postdocs to effectively communicate their science, and have a little fun while doing it,” said Taunya Phillips, senior associate director for OTC’s New Ventures and Alliances. “Because clear, effective communication can make the difference in a project moving forward with funding, it is important that our postdocs learn how to do this. Laura and Raja are expert pitch coaches and work with researchers and startup companies to pitch to a variety of audiences. The OTC is thrilled to be partnering with SOPS, OPA, UKIC and VPR to provide resources and support to postdocs.”

UK postdoctoral scholars embody research extending across borders feeding into the global research community.

"The UK International Center applauds the Society of Postdoctoral Scholars for their vision and hard work in pulling together this first-ever pitch competition," said Sue Roberts, associate provost for internationalization. "Telling a very compelling story of the significance of your research in a very short time frame is a crucial skill. Research is a global enterprise, and communicating in clear and concise ways the value of particular projects, helps everyone better understand the importance of what we do here at a globally engaged research university."

SOPS assists current, past or incoming postdocs with career advice, professional development, and networking opportunities including events like this competition.

“Even though COVID-19 has made interactions almost exclusively virtual, SOPS remains committed to ensuring that postdocs at UK have opportunities for professional development," said the SOPS Executive Committee in a joint statement. "We do this partly by creating events like the research pitch competition that allows postdocs to share their research with others. The event was the result of a collaboration between SOPS, UKIC, the OTC, the VPR, and OPA. We want to take this opportunity to thank all our collaborators for their financial support and role in helping plan the event. We also want to thank the postdocs who presented their research pitches, as well as others who supported them by attending the event.”

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion three years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" two years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for four straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.

 

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