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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Aggies present postdoctoral research at System-wide competition

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Photo by via vpr.tamu.edu

the fifth annual Postdoctoral Research Symposium was held on Friday, Sept. 22 and featured a panel of over 100 research students across multiple colleges in the Texas A&M University System. 

Held on Sept. 22, the fifth annual Postdoctoral Research Symposium featured competitors from over a dozen schools and colleges throughout the Texas A&M System locations. With winners coming from the College of Geosciences to the College of Pharmacy, awards were presented in two events: three-minute “flash talk” presentations and poster presentations.

Alongside the flash talk and poster presentations, the symposium featured keynote speaker Melanie Sinche, interim assistant dean for Academic Affairs and the University of Saint Joseph, as well as resources for career development for those involved in postdoctoral studies. The first half of the day was devoted to flash talk presenters and the second half to poster presentation groups and keynote speakers.

Tied for second place in the poster presentation event, Jaclyn Iannucci, research associate from the College of Medicine, spoke of her neuroscience research with a small group of her fellow researchers. From the Department of Neuroscience and Experimental Therapeutics, Iannucci’s presentation was based on traumatic brain injury and correlated pathology.

“This project was done to investigate the role of an immune-related pathway in the development of behavioral impairments after brain injury,” Iannucci said. “With a focus on depression-related behaviors in the mouse model.”

Though poster presentations are a culmination of presenters’ research over roughly half a decade, preparation is generally allocated no more than a few months. Iannucci and her team submitted their abstract for the July conference. Then, they had time to prepare their poster and five minute presentation. At the end, ten minutes were allotted for any questions from the audience. 

“[We] had from July until September to prepare our poster and presentation,” Iannucci said. 

Iannucci recommended being prepared with hypothetical scenarios so unexpected topics do not catch the presenter off guard. Future candidates should know their research well and come up with responses for the kinds of inquiries that may be made about their presentation.

“It is helpful to try and think of the questions judges or observers may ask, so that you can be prepared with well-thought-out answers,” Iannucci said.

The symposium was conducted virtually last year due to COVID-19, simultaneously allowing students from campuses overseas to participate without traveling. First place outstanding flash talk presentation speaker and biomedical sciences graduate student Lauren Stranahan is working toward a Ph.D. in biomedical sciences, through the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. Stranahan received her degree for veterinary studies from North Carolina State University. 

Having oral and poster presentation events is relatively standard for research symposiums. Describing the event she received first place in, Stranahan explained that instead of a 10-12 minute research talk, it was a short, quick pitch about her field of research. Flash talks are limited to three minutes and focus on hooking the audience into your work.

“It’s almost like a pitch,” Stranahan said. “There’s not enough time for you to give the full story of your project with all the data and all the analysis.”

Stranahan’s flash talk was focused on her research into vaccine development for brucella, an infectious disease caused by bacteria. Brucellosis is another bacterial disease caused by brucella. Though primarily found in animals, it can be transmitted to humans as well. Being someone who enjoys presenting, she condensed her research over four years into a short speech within mere hours.

“I have no fear of public speaking,” Stranahan said. “I only practiced maybe the day before.”

The symposium did not limit presenters to a general theme. It was open to research from a variety of fields. Awarded first place for poster presentations, postdoctoral research associate Cameron Manche from the College of Geosciences spoke to the judging panel about his work on dolomite and how it can be employed to detect local environmental chances.

“My recently published findings demonstrate that dolomite stoichiometry reflects local changes in paleoenvironmental conditions,” Manche said. 

Manche describes paleoenvironmental conditions as fluid, salinity and temperature. Dolomite crystal lattices are a reflection of the fluid from which they are born. Specifically, his research aids other scientists in recording geological changes in localities.

Technical terminology is fairly commonplace among researchers in any field; however, it may not be familiar to researchers in different fields. To avoid confusion, Manche said he strongly recommends avoiding jargon. A presentation that can reach a general audience of the presenter’s peers. 

“Try to develop a presentation for a general audience,” Manche said. 

Moreover, an explanation of the importance of one’s research in today’s world emphasizes the relevance of one’s work. Manche recommends future competitors begin their presentation by pinpointing the impact their project will have on a well-documented societal need.

“Start by addressing the societal problem [your] research is trying to address and how [your] work is going to solve this problem,” Manche said.
To learn more about research opportunities available at A&M, visit research.tamu.edu.

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