Carnegie Mellon University
March 30, 2018

Over Pizza, Students Share Their Research in a Nutshell

By Ben Panko

On a cold Wednesday evening earlier this month, graduate students gathered in a large classroom in the Mellon Institute to present what they do in just five minutes. Refreshments were provided to the crowd of a few dozen at the "Science Jam," even though some of the topics covered were a little less than appetizing.

"Hi, my name is Emily and today I'm going to tell you a little about Ebola virus," said Emily Simon, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Biological Sciences, in beginning her presentation. She then went on to describe the mechanism of Ebola virus and her research that studies what it is about the structure of one of the virus’ proteins that makes it so deadly. 

In total, 13 MCS graduate and post-doctoral researchers condensed their complex work into brief presentations with PowerPoints. The topics covered ranged from using machine learning to measure the mass of distant galaxy clusters, to using chemistry to more accurately detect synapses inside the brain, to calculating the mathematics of how exactly objects such as pea pods bend to open.

The diversity of topics presented was exactly why Professor and Head of the Department of Physics Scott Dodelson organized the Science Jam. The event was sponsored by MCS’s new theory center.

"There are lots of ideas that flow across science," Dodelson said, and he hopes that the researchers could see how interdisciplinary their work could be. "The goal is to get people together."

For Sayan Mandal, a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Physics, the Science Jam was a fun excuse to communicate his research to people outside his field and a good way to see what else is going on in the world of science.

"It helps me get the big picture," Mandal said.