Past Participants of the Grad Forum Discuss Experiences

As this year’s Graduate Research Forum and Three Minute Thesis Competition approaches on May 12th, 2017, a few of last year’s winners shared their experiences from the event with the Graduate School and offered some advice to this year's participants.

Brianna Mintz, a Counseling Psychology PhD student, was part of a winning panel presentation team that focused on social determinants of neurobiology and stress. For Mintz, participating in the Grad Forum provided valuable practice presenting her research to an interdisciplinary audience.

“The Grad Forum was an excellent way for me to gain experience presenting my research,” she said. “I feel much more confident about my ability to present at national conferences because of my success at Grad Forum.”

Chelsea Oden, a Music Theory PhD student, was a 5 Minute Blitz winner at last year’s Grad Forum and said she found the experience very useful in preparing her for other presentations. After last year’s event, Oden’s research project was accepted for presentation at the Music and Visual Cultures International Conference, which was held in Ireland. Oden said her experience at Grad Forum helped her to prepare a successful presentation for the conference.

“It was an absolutely amazing experience and Grad Forum was an invigorating way to practice communicating about a very complex subject matter concisely,” Oden said.

Matt Pittman, a PhD candidate in the School of Journalism and Communication, was part of another winning panel presentation, which focused on emerging trends in technology and policymaking. Pittman studies the relationship between technology and well-being, and is particularly interested in how the use of smartphones can make people feel lonelier or more socially connected. In preparing for the Grad Forum, Pittman says he tried to think about his research from an outsider’s point of view.

“Because the Grad Forum is less specialized than most conferences, I figured the audience wouldn't be familiar with most of my theoretical framework—but they also wouldn't care,” Pittman recalls. “I asked myself, ‘If I knew nothing about this topic, what could some researcher show me that would be interesting, and could they convince me that this matters?”

Oden said she found great value in the interdisciplinary nature of the Grad Forum and encouraged other graduate students to participate.

“My advice is have fun, and take advantage of the opportunity to learn a little bit more about the world around you and to bounce your ideas off brilliant minds that just might shed light on your research,” she said.

Pittman said the award money was helpful in pursuing new avenues of research.

“The award money is great,” he said. “In addition to being a nice line on your CV, in my case it funded a future study on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk platform to further test and refine my ideas.”

Pittman also had some advice for this year’s applicants on keeping their presentations accessible to an eclectic audience.

“Remember that your work will be viewed by an interdisciplinary audience, so don’t make it too esoteric,” he advised.

However, he also encouraged participants to be bold in their presentations.

“Take chances,” he said. “One study I presented had more failed hypotheses than supported ones, but I think the audience found the overall journey compelling. If you are deciding whether to be weird with your work, go for it. Weird is interesting.”

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