Nahom Beyene Wins Grand Prize in PhD Comics Two Minute Thesis Competition-Quality of Life Technology Center - Carnegie Mellon University

Friday, October 5, 2012

Nahom Beyene Wins Grand Prize in PhD Comics Two Minute Thesis Competition

Jorge Cham Animates NaviSection, Highlights Enhanced Reporting for Driver Rehabilitation Programs

Two Minute Thesis Grand Prize Winner Nahom Beyene
Two Minute Thesis Grand Prize Winner Nahom Beyene

QoLT's Nahom Beyene (Ph.D. candidate, University of Pittsburgh) is the Grand Prize Winner in PhD Comics' 2 Minute Thesis Competition.  The 2 Minute Thesis Contest challenged graduate students everywhere to describe their thesis in two minutes or less.

The contest afforded students a unique opportunity to hone their communication and outreach skills while exploring creative methods for communicating scientific research to public audiences.  Beyene initially saw the contest as an opportunity to extend his profile and publications while he prepares to enter the job market.

"I’m thankful for the contest to help 'excite' my credentials using the best source of animation available towards dissemination of my research," said Beyene. "Finding the perfect balance of humor and information was quite a challenge."

Beyene's research falls under QoLT's Safe Driving testbed system and focuses on what defines driver capabilities and how to link those capabilities to safety.

Navisection presents a novel methodology to enhance reporting in driver rehabilitation programs. This project explores how advances in Intelligent Transportation Systems can inform the assessment of driver capability while translating the expertise of Certified Driver Rehabilitation Specialists (CDRSs) into driver screening data patterns.  With Navisection, Beyene enables an innovative intelligent driver screening process that leverages smart referral systems and new decision support tools for driver licensing.

Acclaimed illustrator Jorge Cham animated Beyene's Navisection project as part of the Grand Prize winnings. Cham chose to highlight Beyene's vision and motivation for Navisection in the animated project video, "The Synthesis of NAVIsection:"

Beyene is pleased the animation helps everyone "ask...questions that I ask myself all the time with respect to the privilege of driving."  PhD TV reports that Beyene's video has been viewed nearly 35,000 times.  Beyene was also featured in an article about the 2 Minute Thesis Contest in the Times Higher Education (THE).

"One of my favorite parts is where [Cham] sketches my driver’s license and includes my disposition towards research as an impairment," jokes Beyene.  Cham was actually very quick to adopt people-first language at Beyene's request - a direct illustration of the exciting personal interaction and educational impact made possible by the contest.

How did he win? Beyene applied smart networking and an aggressive social media-based communications strategy.  He appealed to his 2,921 Facebook friends for support, using clever and funny photo collages to motivate them to vote for his project.  Additional posts were made via LinkedIn, Twitter and Beyene's professional networks to maintain interest and enthusiasm in his entry.

He commented:  "I can actually say that everybody knows what I’ve been doing for all these years now. There is no reason for me to fear that I’m doing work in a topic where nobody will understand what I’m talking about. This experience has quickly strengthened my communication skills to get the point across on an educated yet accessible level for the consumption of general audiences."

But Beyene isn't done practicing science communication just yet.  As QoLT's SLC Industry Liaison for 2012-2013, he'll organize the effort for all other QoLT students to pitch their work in a qualifying round of the National NSF-ERC-Sponsored Perfect Pitch Student Elevator Pitch Competition.  The event will be held during the QoLT Summit on October 25 at 3 p.m. and all students are invited to participate.  Visit the Summit Event Site for more details! 


Read the Times Higher Education Article | Learn More About NaviSection | See Other Two Minute Thesis Winners