• chemical and test tube graphic image

    Graduate Student Research Symposium

    You are here

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

June 16, 2017 date for the Graduate Student Research Symposium

The 16th annual Chemistry Graduate Student Symposium will be conducted, Tuesday, June 6, 2017, at Hanson Hall (Herbert M. Hanson Jr.), 1925 4th St S. (West Bank across the street from the Carlson School of Management). Registration begins at 8:30 a.m., and the symposium begins at 9:10 a.m. with opening remarks by Department Chair William Tolman. Presentations begin at 9:30 a.m. There is no fee to attend the symposium.

The symposium primarily consists of research presentations by third-year graduate students in the chemistry doctorate program. Presentations will take place in four concurrent sessions and be 20 minutes in length with an additional 5 minutes reserved for discussion. All presentations will be formally assessed by a committee of faculty members and distinguished alumni. Through a generous donation to the department, travel awards will be presented to those individuals judged to have given the best seminar in each of the four sessions. Written feedback will also be provided to all presenters.


Thirty-seven graduate students are participating in this year's symposium, including Matthew Eastwood, Courtney E. Elwell, Grant Fahnhorst, Christian Graefe, Robin Harkins, Zachary Helming, Subhasree Kal, Hyunho Kang, Aakriti Kharel, Courtney M. Olson, Kelsey Parker, Curtis Payne, Adam Pearce, Anatolii Purchel, Bianca L. Ramirez, Xin Yi, Shabnam Sharifzadeh, Christopher Smith, Samuel Stoneburner, Kiall Francis Suazo, Zhe Tan, Jeanette Voelz, Matthew Vollmer, Shengyang Wang, Yan Wang, Shu Xu, Shuangning Xu, Peter Ycas and Bo Zhi. 

Abstract Submission

For consistency in the abstract book, follow the format described below and use this Microsoft Word template; however, abstracts are submitted in PDF format. 

Abstract Format:

  • use the supplied template, double click in each location and enter your information;
  • do not change the formatting on the template;
  • do not write your abstract title in all caps, use upper and lower case; e.g., In Pursuit of Catalysis: Metal-Metal Bonds in Multi-Electron Redox Chemistry or In pursuit of catalysis: metal-metal bonds . . .;
  • single-space between sentences, do not double or triple space;
  • keep the text rag right, not justified;
  • ensure that all Greek letters, subscripts and superscripts are in the final document; and
  • print your Microsoft Word document as a PDF, and submit the PDF.

Please do not include information in abstract text that is sensitive intellectual property or has direct implications for university patents. When in doubt, consult with your adviser on the content of your abstract prior to submission (read below for more information)

As you prepare your abstracts and presentations for the graduate student research symposium, please consider if your research and specifically the results you will present is a new discovery or invention that may have commercial value.

Examples of new discoveries, inventions and intellectual property include:

  • a new compound or material such as a polymer or drug;
  • method of making a material;
  • a new device or instrument; and 
  • software and algorithms.

Indicators of potential commercial value include:

  • a well-developed innovation;
  • a strong, defined market problem that is solved by the innovation; and
  • a company has expressed interest in your research or licensing an innovation

If you believe you will be presenting information on an innovation that may have commercial value, please contact Leza Besemann in the Office for Technology Commercialization (OTC) to discuss at besem007@umn.edu or 612-625-8615.

Why is Intellectual Property (IP) and Technology Commercialization important?
University-developed Intellectual Property (IP) is important to both the University and industry. Commercializing University innovations:

  • rewards inventors for their innovation;
  • provides the University and departments with additional research funding;
  • benefits society by introducing new products and companies to improve quality of life, and to potentially create new jobs; and
  • provides job opportunities for students.

IP protection is a key step in the commercialization process. In most situations, it is best to protect an invention before it is made known to the public (those outside the University) through publication, posters, presentations or websites. If you will be presenting or publishing a paper on an innovation that you believe may have commercial value, please contact OTC to discuss.

Presentation Advice

No two presentations are exactly alike, and what works well in one instance may be unsuitable in another. Nevertheless, some general points can be made with respect to what constitutes a good seminar. Consider the audience feedback and judges' criteria in preparing your presentation. Additional suggestions include:

  1. The most common mistake made by a speaker is to assume that the audience has as detailed an understanding of the subject as does the speaker. This is only rarely the case. It is best to devote at least 5 minutes to fairly general background, explaining in particular what general factors motivate the more specific research to be discussed thereafter. What is the big picture? Why should anyone care? What specific questions are to be addressed by the speaker's research?
  2. The second most common mistake is to assume that it is better to give a cursory overview of many results rather than a cogent presentation of a subset of all that the speaker has accomplished. The motivation tends to be that speakers want to look as though they've accomplished a great deal, but the net result tends to be that no one in the audience has a clue what actually got done because insufficient time is devoted to any particular topic so as to make it comprehensible. Clarity is always preferred over quantity. 
  3. To assist in fostering clarity, the density of information on a single slide should be such that it takes about 2 minutes to discuss it. This is obviously a rough guideline, since there are occasionally good reasons to violate this rule in either direction. However, if you need more than 2 minutes for a slide, chances are it is too dense in information, and the audience will be confused trying to follow your discussion. Consider breaking it into two or more slides or into a slide that "grows" (e.g., in a PowerPoint presentation, new portions could be flown in after a stripped-down version is initially discussed; in an overhead presentation, additional transparencies can be laid over the first accomplishing the same thing). Note that for a 20 minute talk, this suggests 12 to 13 slides/foils/images is about the right number.
  4. In choosing topics for slides, consider doing your conclusions first. Now, evaluate each possible slide based on whether it provides evidence that permits you to arrive at your conclusions. If no, discard it (even if it took you 6 months of work). Short talks need maximum focus.
  5. Text in a font size smaller than 16 is illegible to most of the audience. Look at every one of your slides from the back of a lecture hall and then decide whether you think they are acceptable.
  6. Garish graphics detract from a talk rather than enhancing it. Avoid the impulse to animate, colorize, provide wild backgrounds, unless it clearly enhances the point that you are trying to make. Color can be very effective in highlighting small portions of an otherwise large graphic where the discussion will be focused. Animation can be useful in making 3-dimensional structures more comprehensible. Just remember that the science is the message.
  7. Practice your talk in front of an audience at least once or twice, and do that only after having practiced alone to the point where you know what you want to say as each individual slide comes up. Practice speaking slowly if you have a tendency to rush.
  8. Point at things as you discuss them. Speakers often assume that the audience must be looking at exactly the same part of the slide as they are, but the audience has not had the benefit of several prior runs.
  9. Project confidence! Chances are, you know more about the subject you are presenting than anyone else in the audience. Open the audience's eyes. It's OK to be nervous, but focus on a measured pace and a clear voice to overcome any deleterious effects of nerves.

Judging Criteria

One of the major goals of the Graduate Student Research Symposium is to give students experience presenting their research. Presentation skills will be invaluable throughout your career. It doesn’t matter how great your research accomplishments are if you cannot communicate them in a clear and effective manner. To help improve your presentation skills you will receive written feedback regarding your presentation from a panel of Minnesota faculty and alumni. An evaluation form has been prepared to help the judges assess your presentation. Audience members also will provide feedback. Please consider the criteria listed in the forms when preparing your presentation. The panel of judges will also choose one presenter out of each session that they consider deserving of a travel award. The “best” presentation will be chosen considering both the scientific content and communication effectiveness of the student.

Conflict of Interest 
In the past, there has been no formal policy on faculty judging student advisees. However, there is a minor conflict of interest because of the travel award presented to the winner of each session. Understandably, faculty judges also want to see their students’ presentations.

As a remedy, the following has been put in place:

  • assign no more than one judge per session in this conflict of interest situation; and 
  • a judge in a conflict of interest position should participate in the initial evaluation; however, after the four top candidates are identified, that judge will leave the room and allow the other two judges to select the final winner.

Each winner will receive a certificate and travel award to be used to present the student’s research at a scientific meeting. One award will be presented in each of the four sessions. Only third-year doctorate-candidate students are eligible for these awards.

Alumni Judges

Barbara Edgar, Ph.D.
Barbara Edgar, Ph.D.

Barbara Edgar, Ph.D.
Director of General Chemistry, University of Minnesota (retired)

Barbara Edgar received a bachelor's degree in chemistry from the University of Minnesota, Duluth, where she conducted research on the stability of lanthanide complexes in aqueous solution with Professor Larry C. Thompson. She received her doctorate in inorganic chemistry at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, where she carried out nuclear magnetic resonance studies of stereochemically nonrigid complexes of divalent Fe and Ru under the direction of Professor Lou Pignolet.

Barbara Edgar spent her entire career in academic settings, teaching chemistry at what was then North Hennepin Community College, Macalester College, and the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. She retired from the position of director of General Chemistry at the University of Minnesota in 2007.

Professor Paul J. Fischer
Paul J. Fischer, Ph.D.

Paul J. Fischer, Ph.D.
Professor of Chemistry
Macalester College, Saint Paul, MN

Paul J. Fischer received his bachelor's degree in chemistry from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, in 1993. He subsequently earned his doctorate in inorganic chemistry, under the direction of Professor John E. Ellis at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, in 1998. Fischer’s dissertation explored the reaction chemistry of hexacarbonyltitanate(2-), the synthesis of which is still his all-time favorite.

After three years as a visiting assistant professor at St. Olaf College, Fischer began a tenure-track appointment at Macalester College in 2001, and was promoted to professor in 2011. His research in low valent group VI metal chemistry has resulted in nine publications with 12 undergraduate co-authors since 2005, and continuous funding from the National Science Foundation since 2010. Fischer has engaged academic-year sabbaticals at the University of California-Berkeley with Professor John Arnold, and University of California-San Diego with Professor Joshua Figueroa. Fischer is co-author of Inorganic Chemistry, 5th edition, with Gary L. Miessler and Donald A. Tarr).

Ken Hafften
Ken Hafften

Ken Hafften
Medtronic PLC (retired)

Ken Hafften earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of Minnesota Institute of Technology in 1971. He worked in industry throughout his professional years in the areas of process development, manufacturing engineering, and quality engineering, including the management of these professional functions. Fields of employment were in the electronic and medical device industries. Hafften recently concluded his professional career at Medtronic PLC as a Principal Supply Chain Quality Engineer.

Joseph Porwoll, Ph.D
Joseph Porwoll, Ph.D.

Joseph Porwoll, Ph.D.
Sigma-Aldrich (retired)
Joe Porwoll Consulting

Joseph Porwoll, Ph.D. received his Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry from Minnesota State University-Moorhead and went on to obtain a doctorate in bio-organic chemistry from the University of Minnesota under the tutelage of Professor Ed Leete.

Porwoll spent the bulk of his career with Sigma-Aldrich. He retired in 2013 after many years and positions within the company, including president of the Aldrich Corporation and vice-president of the Global Supply Chain. He provided corporate guidance to senior leaders and set strategies for improvements to supply chain execution. He also developed, managed, and manufactured stable isotope production systems.

He has started his own company, Joe Porwoll Consulting. He is also an active member of the Board of Directors for the Isowater Corporation—a clean technology company and leading global supplier of deuterium oxide and related products for the life sciences, high technology, and environmental sciences sectors.

Past Winners

2016 - 15th symposium
Junwei Bao
Zachary Gilbert
Cecilia Hall
Steven Kirberger

2015 – 14th symposium
Debanjan Dhar
Chad Hoyer
Jinbo Hu
Megan Weisenberger

2014 – 13th symposium
Rebecca Mackenzie
Jennifer Strehlau
Sarah Wegwerth
Xiaojie Wu

2013 – 12th symposium
Katie Hurley
Mayank Puri
Amanda Steming
Ellis Warner

2012 – 11th symposium
Maria Miranda
Brian Woods
Sijie Luo
Stephen Rudisill

2011 – 10th symposium
Joshua Speros
Bess Vlaisavljevich
Christopher Zal

2010 – 9th symposium
M. Zahid Ertem
Giang Hoang
David Josephson
Melissa Maurer-Jones
Eric Olsen

2009 – 8th symposium
Melissa Fierke
Aalo Gupta
Kyle Schwartz

2008 – 7th symposium
Erick Leggans
Anne Mohns
Alexi Young

2007 – 6th symposium
Fan Li
Rongxiao Sa
Scott Thorgaard
Dong Wang

2006 – 5th symposium
Renee Mosing
Betsy Edhlund
Aaron May

2005 – 4th symposium
Ce Wang
Nathaniel Lynd
Aleksey Kurdyumov
Eric Klinker

2004 - 3rd symposium
Dwight Stoll
Amanda Nienow
Angela DeGreeff

2003 - 2nd symposium
Jessica Allen
Joseph Fritsch
Curtiss Hella

2002 - 1st symposium
Daron Janzen
Anne Reynolds
Xigin Yan

Hanson Hall (Herbert M. Hanson Jr.)
1925 4th St S.
(West Bank across the street from the Carlson School of Management)
Campus Map