graduate student presenting research

“The workshop about how to pitch and present your research project should be required of every single engineering student and every practicing engineer, because we’ve developed a lot of bad habits and practices when we present our work,” said Joshua Fishler, a Ph.D. candidate in the school of nuclear science and engineering at Oregon State. “Systematically removing, discrediting or otherwise addressing those bad habits is incredibly valuable, especially if you want to continue in engineering. The principles can be applied by Ph.D. students or undergraduates, and I think having them instilled early on is very useful.”

graduate student and research poster

The workshop he’s referring to, Three Secrets to Effectively Pitching Your Research Project, was one of several professional development programs at the 2017 Graduate Research Showcase at Oregon State. Fishler and his peers presented their own work during an afternoon poster session. Current and prospective students, faculty, alumni, industry partners, potential employers, and the public filled the meeting hall at the CH2M HILL Alumni Center to check out nearly 150 posters highlighting the graduate student’s cutting-edge research.

University President Ed Ray observed that the showcase was a dynamic venue for students to bridge their academic work with the professional engineering domain.

“The challenge of taking complex research and explaining its real-world applications to professional engineers presented our students with wonderful learning opportunities,” he said. “I was impressed with their knowledge and enthusiasm to share their work.”

Other workshops offered at the showcase included Communicating Science: Writing for Public Audiences, and a panel discussion about careers in engineering.

“The showcase is an important event because it gives us a chance to put our work in front of an audience representing other fields and industry,” said Vishvas Chalishazar, a Ph.D. student in the school of electrical engineering and computer science. “It helps us improve our presenting skills and to develop new contacts, and it gives us an opportunity to know what other research is going on at Oregon State. That could lead to opportunities for collaboration with other researchers.”

Chalishazar, who also attended the workshop on how to effectively pitch science and engineering research, clearly was paying attention: He took the first place award for best overall poster presentation. His work addressed what it would take to maintain power to hospitals when an earthquake hits. “I learned in the workshop that when presenting your research in front of an audience that may or may not be from your own field, you really want to pitch the idea in a way that penetrates everybody and uses examples, analogies and anecdotes to maintain their interest.”

student presenting research

James Elliot Fowler, a Ph.D. candidate whose poster won first place in the school of chemical biological, and environmental engineering, said he welcomed the opportunity to speak about his research to a varied audience in an unstructured setting. “I think it makes us more well-rounded. We often get bogged down in months and months obsessing over solving very specific problems,” he said. “Being able to effectively explain why I’m devoting all this time to my research and why it matters to other people is both psychologically reassuring and self-motivating.”

Fowler attended the workshops on science communication and effectively pitching research, both of which helped him frame his poster presentation later on. “The most important ideas I took from those sessions was to distill my own research to its purest form: What do I do? Why should you care?”

Samantha Whatley, a graduate student in the school of civil and construction engineering, reinforced those sentiments. “Exposure to other projects is so important,” she said. “We get lost in our world and soon everything revolves around our work. Walking around and talking with the other students about their work was a great experience. It’s so important to see what’s out there. It was a great reminder that there is so much beyond my own research in cement chemistry. As I spoke with a nuclear engineering graduate student, I understood the corrosion problem they were working on. What a great reminder that so much science is transferable!”

student presenting research Kofi Oware Sarfo, a Ph.D. candidate in the school of chemical, biological and environmental engineering, took away valuable information from the science communication workshop. “It was very useful. I used the material we worked on during the writing exercise when I presented my poster today, so it’s already been helpful,” she said. “It’s important that we’re able to communicate the importance of our work to people who are not in our field. Some of those people might be funding our work.”

Scott Ashford, dean of the College of Engineering, expressed his admiration for the students. “I’m humbled by the level of work that our graduate students are doing and the direction in which they’re taking the College of Engineering, he said “The work that is on display here will have a critical impact not just in the local community, but out in the world. It’s something that all of them should be very proud of.”

— Steve Frandzel

Congratulations to all the award recipients of the 2017 Graduate Research Showcase.


School of Chemical, Biological and Environmental Engineering

1st – James Fowler 

2nd – Rebecca Paustian

3rd – Kofi Oware Sarfo


School of Civil and Construction Engineering

1st – Marisol Tsui

2nd – Alexandra Simpson

3rd – Nisha Puri


School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

1st – Vishvas Chalishazar

2nd – Kamesh Mullapudi

3rd – Sharmin Kibria


School of Mechanical, Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering

1st – Aaron Fillo

2nd – Osman Dogan Yirmibesoglu

3rd – Molly Martin


School of Nuclear Science and Engineering

1st – Ramon Yoshiura

2nd – Aaron Tamashiro

3rd – Mitch Mannino


Thank you to all the faculty judges for participating in the evaluation process. 

School of Chemical, Biological, and Environmental Engineering

Greg Rorrer

Joe Baio

Dorthe Wildenschilde

Tala Navab-Dandeshmand


School of Civil and Construction Engineering

Dave Hurwitz

Judy Liu

Shane Brown

John Gambatese


School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

Thinh Nguyen

Prasad Tadepalli

Raffaele De Amicis

Xiaoli Fern

Alan Fern


School of Mechanical, Industrial, and Manufacturing Engineering

Javier Calvo-Amodio

Julie Tucker

Josh Gess

Donghua Xu

Ean Ng

Xinhui Zhu


School of Nuclear Science and Engineering

Kathy Higley

Published Date: 
Thursday, March 9, 2017