SOPS, OTC Announce Winners of Postdoctoral Pitch Competition Sponsored by UKIC, VPR

photo of Zoom Research Pitch Competition
The UK Society of Postdoctoral Scholars hosted their first Research Pitch Competition where 19 postdocs and fellows showcased their research with one-minute elevator pitches.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Aug. 18, 2020) — The University of Kentucky Society of Postdoctoral Scholars (SOPS) hosted their first Research Pitch Competition where 19 postdocs and fellows showcased their research with one-minute elevator pitches.

The competition was a partnership between SOPS and the Office of Technology Commercialization (OTC) with support from the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs (OPA), and sponsored by the UK International Center (UKIC) and the Office of the Vice President for Research (VPR).

“It was an honor to contribute to this fun and exciting event because I believe that pitching your research (or anything really) in one minute is a skill that is central to effective networking, self-advocacy, and building confidence, all of which are fundamental to finding and securing a fulfilling career,” said Joseph Lutz, director of Postdoctoral Affairs. “It was wonderful to see so many offices band together to support our postdocs and in return it was great to see how engaged postdocs were with the whole adventure, including the pre-event webinar and practice session.”

Ninety attendees joined the Zoom competition to watch the postdocs from the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment; College of Arts and Sciences; College of Medicine; and the College of Pharmacy pitch. The competition was judged by Linda Dwoskin, associate vice president for research for special projects and professor in the College of Pharmacy; Sarah Lyon, associate dean of graduate studies and professor in the College of Arts and Sciences; and Rodney Andrews, associate vice president for research development and director of the Center for Applied Energy Research.

“I was very excited to be asked to judge the Society of Postdoctoral Scholars first pitch competition. Each presentation exposed the true passion that these trainees have for their research and the contributions they hope to make through their hard work,” Dwoskin said. “It was very difficult to choose the top presentations as many were really outstanding. Hearty congratulations to the winners.”

The winners are as follows:

  • Judges’ Best Pitch
    • 1st Place - $500 prize: Ketan Shrestah, Obstetrics and Gynecology-Endocrinology, College of Medicine
    • 2nd Place - $250 prize: Jessica Macedo, Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry, College of Medicine
    • 3rd Place - $100 prize: Ajoy Aloysius, Biology, College of Arts and Sciences
  • People’s Choice Best Pitch
    • 1st Place - $300 prize: Steven McBride, Plant and Soil Sciences, College of Agriculture, Food and Environment  
    • 2nd Place - $200 prize: Kathryn Everson, Biology, College of Arts and Sciences
    • 3rd Place - $100 prize: Jaqueline Rivas, Microbiology, Immunology and Molecular Genetics, College of Medicine
  • People’s Choice Awards
    • Best Visuals - $100 prize: Steven McBride, Plant and Soil Sciences, College of Agriculture, Food and Environment   
    • Most Likely to Impact Society - $100 prize: Velmurugan Gopal Viswanathan, Pharmacology and Nutritional Sciences, College of Medicine
    • Who Would You Most Likely Fund - $100 prize: Jessica Macedo, Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry, College of Medicine  

“At first I was hesitant, afraid and nervous to present my research but after attending the webinar and practice session and most importantly the valuable suggestions from all the well-wishers (peers, friends and lab-team) helped a lot to shape my presentation to be the winner,” said Ketan Shrestha, first-place winner for Judge's Best Pitch.

“I love how much my and other postdocs improved their pitches over the past two weeks! I feel like the feedback sessions were super helpful for me, and I am just blown away by the awesome research being done here,” said Steven McBride, first-place winner for People’s Choice Best Pitch and People’s Choice Award Best Visuals.

OTC hosted an online pitch-skill development seminar, which was open to all postdocs, on how to pitch research and a workshop to assist the 19 finalists in preparing for the pitch competition. The seminar was presented by Laura Halligan, new ventures manager, and Raja Krishnan, commercialization manager.

“OTC saw this partnership as an opportunity to help postdocs to effectively communicate their science, and have a little fun while doing it,” said Taunya Phillips, senior associate director for OTC’s New Ventures and Alliances. “Because clear, effective communication can make the difference in a project moving forward with funding, it is important that our postdocs learn how to do this. Laura and Raja are expert pitch coaches and work with researchers and startup companies to pitch to a variety of audiences. The OTC is thrilled to be partnering with SOPS, OPA, UKIC and VPR to provide resources and support to postdocs.”

UK postdoctoral scholars embody research extending across borders feeding into the global research community.

"The UK International Center applauds the Society of Postdoctoral Scholars for their vision and hard work in pulling together this first-ever pitch competition," said Sue Roberts, associate provost for internationalization. "Telling a very compelling story of the significance of your research in a very short time frame is a crucial skill. Research is a global enterprise, and communicating in clear and concise ways the value of particular projects, helps everyone better understand the importance of what we do here at a globally engaged research university."

SOPS assists current, past or incoming postdocs with career advice, professional development, and networking opportunities including events like this competition.

“Even though COVID-19 has made interactions almost exclusively virtual, SOPS remains committed to ensuring that postdocs at UK have opportunities for professional development," said the SOPS Executive Committee in a joint statement. "We do this partly by creating events like the research pitch competition that allows postdocs to share their research with others. The event was the result of a collaboration between SOPS, UKIC, the OTC, the VPR, and OPA. We want to take this opportunity to thank all our collaborators for their financial support and role in helping plan the event. We also want to thank the postdocs who presented their research pitches, as well as others who supported them by attending the event.”

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.