September 14, 2017
On Sept. 7, 2017, 12 postdoc finalists of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's 2017 Research Slam! talked for three minutes each about their work before a distinguished panel of judges. The postdocs were competing for monetary prizes of two, three and four thousand dollars for third, second and first place winners, but perhaps the biggest prize was the chance to present their science to Laboratory Director Bill Goldstein and Deputy Director for Science and Technology Pat Falcone, as well as Livermore Senior Advisor Tammy Jernigan, Chief of Staff Al Ramponi and Arthur Ellis, vice president of Research and Graduate Studies of the University of California Office of the President.
Twelve postdoc finalists of the recent Research Slam talked for three minutes each about their work before a distinguished panel of judges.
These judges had a difficult task -- choosing a few top winners from among the finalists, who had made it through preliminary rounds of competition. The first round, held over several days, selected thirteen finalists from the original group of 49 entrants. The University Relations and Science Education Program, which organized the Slam, offered workshops to participants to help them sharpen their presentation and communications skills. Former Associate Director of Computation Dona Crawford served as the final competition emcee, expertly introducing each contestant, and chatting with them after each presentation while the judges filled out their scoring sheets.
Intended to improve the communications skills of early career scientists, the Slam was open to all Livermore postdocs during the 2017 calendar year. Each presentation was allowed a maximum of three slides, and points were deducted from the score of any presentation that went over three minutes. The competition encouraged its participants to explain their science in simple, clear language that is easy for non-specialists to understand - an essential skill for all scientists whose work is supported by public funding, or who might find themselves presenting to venture capitalists someday. All finalists received coaching from Christine Hartmann, director of the Program Development Support Office, on how to improve their slides and delivery.
The presentations hailed from across Livermore's wide-ranging areas of research neutrino science, carbon sequestration, climate modeling, the microbiome, materials science, sensors and stockpile stewardship-related science were all represented. Ashley Campbell won first prize for her presentation "What Microbial Dinner Parties Can Tell Us About Carbon, Climate and Change." Second Prize went to Jason Brodsky for "Discovering the Neutrinos that Saved the Universe." The judges were unable to choose between a pair of presenters for third prize, so they gave out two. One went to Tony Nelson for "Going Critical: Bridging the Energy Gap in Nuclear Data," and the other to Allison Yorita for "Engineering Better Biosensors to Track the Chemistry of Addiction."
Postdoctoral fellows at Livermore conduct world-class research in an exciting, diverse and interdisciplinary environment in both basic and applied sciences. The postdoc program serves as a hiring pipeline as well, allowing the Laboratory to bring promising young scientists on board at the start of their careers. The second annual Research Slam was organized by Annie Kersting, director of the Laboratory's University Relations and Science Education Programs, Kris Kulp, director of the Institutional Postdoc Program Board, Christine Zachow and Mildred Obermiller.