|Image courtesy of the U of A|
Just this past week some of the U of A’s great young thinkers were a part of this incredible event called the Falling Walls Lab and I was one of the mind blown attendees. I love science and listening about the latest and greatest research coming from the U of A but still much of what I heard about last week completely blew me away. There is some pretty incredible stuff going on here.
What is Falling Walls Lab you ask?
It reminded me of Ted Talks but on speed. Falling Walls was initiated in Germany (no surprise from the name) in 2011 as a way to break the walls on current issues that plague our world. The U of A was one of 20 international host campuses invited this year to showcase the brilliant research and ideas being cultivated by our young minds. There were 20 applicants selected to pitch their research or idea to a panel of judges consisting of academics, business professionals, and government. Sounds intimidating right? Just wait it gets even more intense. The set up was comparable to Dragon’s Den. Each participant had 3 minutes and 3 slides in which to convince the panel that their idea was the most relevant and would have the greatest impact for improving our world. Imagine having only three minutes to make a super diverse audience understand your idea in detail, while also trying to show the relevance of the issue you are targeting. No easy feat.
So what was the prize?
Why torture yourself with this intense competition? Well instead of vying for investments into a company like in Dragon’s Den, participants were competing for one of three trips to Berlin to compete in the Falling Walls finals coming up this November where the winners would have the chance to have their ideas showcased for an international audience. Pretty cool stuff.
What was the competition like?
Close. Very close. I didn’t envy the panel’s difficult task of choosing only 3 of the 20 presentations. There wasn’t a single presentation that didn’t WOW. Be it breaking the walls of cyberbullying or improving med school education there was an overwhelmingly positive reaction from the audience.
The top three winning presentations:
3. Breaking the Wall of Plastic Accumulation by Diana Martinez Tobon
Diana wowed us with a presentation that demonstrated how our plastic needs greatly outweigh even biodegradable plastic’s ability to combat plastic accumulation (i.e. we produce so much plastic, that even if we switched to only using the biodegradable stuff, we would still have more of it sitting in a landfill trying to break down than we would have room for) . Her graduate research focuses on using protein engineering to improve the enzymatic breakdown of plastics. The implications for her research are huge especially when you consider that even biodegradable plastics can take decades to break down naturally!
2. Breaking the Wall of Type 1 Diabetes by Nermeen Youssef
Nermeen knocked us off our feet when she described her graduate research which involves developing a revolutionary method for controlling insulin levels in type 1 diabetes patients. Her work is focusing on engineering fat cells from the diabetes patient’s own body to secrete insulin when stimulated by pulses of blue light. An app that could monitor the patient’s blood glucose levels would control the blue light pulses so that the patient’s blood glucose levels could be tightly monitored. No more NEEDLES! Think of all the stress relief for those suffering from Type 1 Diabetes!
1. Breaking the Wall of Food Safety by Zack Storm
First place went to Zack who has a well-developed and easily administrable plan to improve our food safety. Something everyone could easily get on board with! He has spent his post-doc at the U of A developing a patch of smart material which, when put on food packaging, changes colour in the presence of certain biomolecules. This can speed up the week long process of identifying and recalling contaminated food products down to a few hours! It’s beautiful in its simplicity and the impact of this research is incredible! His product and idea are well on their way and deserve the international recognition that he will get at Falling Walls this coming November.
Congratulations to all of the U of A’s great thinkers who participated. I’m sure they all learned a great deal on how to market themselves and their ideas in an extremely short period of time! Myself, I have been even more amazed by the work being done on our campus and I encourage all of you to get out and discover the potential the U of A has to offer!
Here are a three presentation tips that resonated with me from all the presentations.
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2. AUDIENCE. Know your audience and be aware that many times you are presenting to an audience with varying level of expertise.
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3. End with a BOOM. Finish strong and make them remember you.
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----About the Author
Hi, my name is Shannon and I’m here to provide you with a YouAlberta graduate student perspective. I am currently in the last year of my degree and have (quite) a few years of experience on the U of A campus as both an undergrad and graduate student.
I am excited to show off our student experience both here at the U of A and in the broader Edmonton community. We have a dynamic campus culture full of events, groups, and just day to day awesomeness. My passions include science and getting others involved in science related activities, volleyball, hiking, and camping. I’m also full of tips on how to have fun on a student budget. Over the next year I hope I can show you how to make the most of your U of A experience because there’s so much more to school than classes and expensive textbooks!