In November 2017, the National Science Foundation will hold the 25th National EPSCoR Conference in Missoula, Montana. This annual meeting highlights unique aspects of the NSF EPSCoR program through engaging speaker presentations and interactive sessions.

One of the programs scheduled for this year’s event is the PechaKucha Challenge. PechaKucha is a Japanese presentation style in which 20 slides are shown for 20 seconds each (6 minutes and 40 seconds in total). The format is specifically designed to keep presentations concise and fast-paced. The hosts for this year’s program, Montana NSF EPSCoR, have invited graduate students from all 28 EPSCoR jurisdictions to compete in the PechaKucha Challenge.

Last week, graduate student participants in Kentucky NSF EPSCoR’s Chemical Biology for Advanced Materials Research Pillar competed against each other in their own PechaKucha Challenge. The students were judged by their mentoring faculty members, with the winning presenter earning the right to compete at this year’s national conference.

“If we’re able to relay what we do in simple terms and get people inspired, then hopefully we can carry on what we’re doing and inspire the next generation to keep doing what we’re doing.”

Ultimately, the PechaKucha Challenge was won by Joseph Stevens, a graduate student studying at the University of Kentucky. Stevens is currently working in Dr. Jian Shi’s lab at UK’s College of Agriculture, Food and Environment. Dr. Shi himself is one of 12 new-hire faculty recruited to the state through EPSCoR funding since 2014.

Although still very early in his career, Stevens recognizes the importance of effectively communicating science, “I think it’s important because what we do is really important. Not to be too dramatic, but essentially, we’re trying to save the world. If we’re able to relay what we do in simple terms and get people inspired, then hopefully we can carry on what we’re doing and inspire the next generation to keep doing what we’re doing.”

Having conquered the PechaKucha Challenge among his EPSCoR peers in Kentucky, Stevens will travel to Montana in November to compete with EPSCoR-supported students across the country at the National EPSCoR Conference.

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