Feb. 16, 2023

Live from UCalgary, it’s the Postdoc Research Slam!

Fourth annual competition boasts diversity and impact of postdoctoral research
Finalists of the 2023 Postdoc Research Slam
Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

Just before 5 p.m. on Feb. 7, the Rozsa Centre was buzzing with suspense as postdoctoral competitors and guests waited to hear the results of the fourth annual Postdoc Research Slam. This year’s event was the first held in person since 2019, and the occasion marked the end of many weeks of preparation for each of the 12 finalists selected to compete in this royal rumble of researchers.

The challenge? Participants had only three minutes and one PowerPoint slide to present their research in an engaging yet informative way — to a panel of judges and a live audience of around 100.

  • Photo above: Finalists of the 2023 Postdoc Research Slam. Back row, from left: Sedigheh Mahdavi, Connor McDougall, Meaghan Perdue, Patrick Sipila, Penny Pexman, William Ghali, vice-president (research), Kenzie Friesen, Kaue Duarte Tartarotti Nepomuceno and Youssef Allami. Front row, from left: Daniel Comadurán Márquez, Maryam Ghahremani, Mohammad Rehan, Xiao Yang Fang (Yangyang) and Michelle Hawks.

Walking away with a cash prize and a golden trophy of campus mascot Rex, Dr. Michelle Hawks, PhD, won first place in the competition with her entry, Are Past Math Classes Haunting Us? Using History to Explore Ideas of Intelligence in Math.

Michelle Hawks

Michelle Hawks, first-place winner, with William Ghali and Penny Pexman.

Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

“My participation in the Postdoc Research Slam was definitely an eye-opening experience,” says Hawks. “The entire process of condensing a large research project to a three-minute presentation was one element of the experience. Another was developing the language to present complex ideas and some of the nuances of our research to people outside our areas of expertise.”

Hawks is a postdoctoral scholar in the Werklund School of Education, and her entry explored using history to understand the practice of sorting learners in math education in Alberta.

“The goal [of my research] is to learn from the past as a way to inform our current education policies and curriculum in an effort to address some of the negative impacts that happen as a result of sorting learners in this way,” explains Hawks.

The Postdoc Research Slam is inspired by the long-running MyGradSkills 3 Minute Thesis competition. It is an exercise in knowledge translation, informing viewers about the impact of postdoctoral research in everyday life. The judges evaluated contestants’ communication style, comprehension, and engagement within the three-minute time limit.

“The Postdoc Research Slam is always a much-anticipated event as it showcases the extensive scope and influence of postdoctoral research,” says Dr. Penny Pexman, postdoctoral program director and associate vice-president (research). “The return to in-person competition this year was nothing short of exceptional, and it truly underscored the world-class quality of postdoctoral research at UCalgary."

Following the slam, Hawks reflects on her experience in the competition and the supports along the way.

“At the end of the day, it was time well spent and the support provided by the communication groups on campus through coaching and draft reading was extremely helpful,” she says.

This year’s Postdoc Slam winners are:

1st place: Dr. Michelle Hawks, PhD, Werklund School of EducationAre Past Math Classes Haunting Us? Using History to Explore Ideas of Intelligence in Math

2nd place: Dr. Daniel Comadurán Márquez, PhD, Cumming School of Medicine, Brain-Controlled Devices for Playing Sport

3rd place: Dr. Meaghan Perdue, PhD, Cumming School of Medicine, Reading Isn't as Easy as A-B-C: Looking into the Brain to Understand Reading Disability

Daniel Comadurán Márquez

Daniel Comadurán Márquez, second-place winner, with William Ghali and Penny Pexman.

Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

Meaghan Perdue

Meaghan Perdue, 3rd place winner, with William Ghali and Penny Pexman.

Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

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