Five Prizes Awarded at Fifth Nutshell Games November 7

Head and shoulders of young woman with dark hair holding an orange tube or vial in one hands.
Sara Richards explained virus transmission events in her winning Nutshell Games presentation.

Five prizes were awarded at the fifth annual Nutshell Games, four to the top four presenters selected by a panel of seven judges and a fifth for a new-this-year People’s Choice Award.

The four top presenters were Amber Wendler, Sara Richards, Abby Lewis, and Bennett Grooms. The inaugural People’s Choice Award went to Muchin Bazan, whose video garnered 1,121 views and 346 “likes” between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. November 7, the day of the event.

A young white woman seated in a boat and wearing an orange life preserver. In the background is lake and wooded mountains.
Abby Lewis described her efforts to build models that predict water quality in her winning Nutshell Games talk.

Hosted by Virginia Tech’s Center for Communicating Science and held in conjunction with the Virginia Tech Science Festival, the Nutshell Games is a graduate student presentation competition in which researchers have 90 seconds to explain their work—research in a nutshell—to a public audience.

This year’s winning presentations were

Amber Wendler:  “Some Birds Need Babysitters Too!” (Biological Sciences)

Sara Richards:  “Five Fateful Seconds” (Biological Sciences)

Abby Lewis:  “Freshwater Forecasting: A Crystal Ball for Crystal Clear Water” (Biological Sciences)

Bennett Grooms:  “A New Age of Conservation: Helping Wildlife by Understanding People” (Fish and Wildlife Conservation)

A young African American woman with a wide smile is standing with a backdrop of green and yellow leaved autumn trees.
The evolution of bird parenting behavior was the topic of Amber Wendler’s winning Nutshell Games presentation.

The People’s Choice Award went to

Muchin Bazan:  “Women In STEM: The Role of Role Models” (Economics)

In response to the pandemic, event organizers moved the 2020 Nutshell Games to an online format. Instead of presenting live, researchers submitted video recordings of their presentations.  All videos were presented to the public on November 7 on the center’s YouTube channel and will remain available for viewing there.

Although we missed the wonderful experience of being together in the Moss Arts Center, holding the Nutshell Games online allowed presenters to invite friends, family, and collaborators from around the world to watch videos. And watch they did! A tally less than a week out from the event showed that all presentations already had more than 100 views, half had more than 200 views, 6 had more than 300 views, and a couple had well over a thousand views. That’s a lot of people learning about a lot of exciting research!

A young man in a blue and black flannel shirt holds a large stuffed tiger toy. His backdrop is a bookshelf loaded with books and artwork.
Bennett Grooms explained the importance for wildlife protection of studying human behavior in his winning Nutshell Games talk.

With an emphasis on communicating to non-scientists, the Nutshell Games is judged by a panel of people from both on and off campus. Contestants are provided with a list of judging criteria, which include connection with the audience, communicating the importance of the research, making the research accessible to a broad audience, and more. Contestants also had the opportunity to participate in a preparatory workshop October 1.

The Nutshell Games competition is open to all Virginia Tech graduate students. Registration opened in late September, and videos were submitted October 31.

This year’s judges included

Karen DePauw, Vice President and Dean for Graduate Education, Virginia Tech

Anna Drangowska-Way, PhD candidate, Jefferson Fellow, O’Rourke Laboratory, University of Virginia

Patricia Gaudreau, Administrator of Science Curriculum, Montgomery County Public Schools

Xavier Gitre, Blacksburg Middle School seventh grader

Adam Rotche, high school science teacher, Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School, Richmond

Nicholas St. Fleur, New York Times science writer and children’s STEM author

Michael Sutphin, Vice Mayor of Blacksburg and Virginia Tech communication alum 

A young woman holds a baby doll in front of a classroom chalkboard.
Muchin Bazan’s presentation video on gender stereotypes in STEM fields won the Nutshell Games People’s Choice Award.

This year’s contestants included

Kayla Alward:  “Too Much Sunlight, More Than Just a Sunburn for Cows” (Dairy Science)

Mohammad Mahdi Banasaz:  “Probabilistic Reduction Application for Volatility Modeling” (Econometrics and Quantitative Economics)

Muchin Bazan:  Women In STEM: The Role of Role Models (Economics)

Nicole Bracci:  “Viruses Do Not Work Alone” (Biomedical and Veterinary Sciences)

Nicholas Britten: “Is My Car Driving Itself? Understanding Drivers’ Use of Modern Vehicle Technology” (Industrial and Systems Engineering)

Katlyn Catron: “Soldier Beetles: Better Than TV?” (Entomology)

Udaya Sree Datla:  “The Pursuit of Happiness During the Pandemic: End to the Horror Story of Our Body’s Hyperactivated Immune System” (Translational Biology, Medicine, and Health)

Keren Duerksen:  “Soybeans Reminiscing About the Good Ol’ Days” (Crop and Soil Science)

Hussein El Hajj: “Robust and Equitable Public Health Screening Strategies with Application to Genetic Diseases and Infectious Diseases” (Industrial and Systems Engineering)

Brianna Friedman:  “Drones: The Latest Disaster Preventers” (Mechanical Engineering)

Lauren Fritsch:  “The ‘STING’ of Traumatic Brain Injury: When Our Immune System Gets It Wrong” (Translational Biology, Medicine, and Health)

Max Garvue:  “Feeling Stressed? The Earth Is Too: Understanding Earthquakes and the Evolution of Geologic Faults” (Geosciences)

Wendell Grinton:  “Improving Human Behavior Through Optimizing Energy Feedback Messages” (Civil and Environmental Engineering)

Bennett Grooms:  “A New Age of Conservation: Helping Wildlife by Understanding People” (Fish and Wildlife Conservation)

Bailey Howell:  “Survival in the City” (Biological Sciences)

Alexis Hruby:  “Makin’ Moves to Lower Nitrogen Emissions” (Dairy Science)

Joseph James:  “What Are Your Current Utility Bills Not Telling You?” (Civil and Environmental Engineering)

Zerin Mahzabin Khan:  “A Fatal Attraction: Developing a Hydrogel Platform to Capture and Kill Glioblastoma Brain Cancer Cells” (Biomedical Engineering)

Emily Kieffer:  “Sex-Specific Differences in Concussion Tolerance” (Biomedical Engineering)

Abby Lewis:  “Freshwater Forecasting: A Crystal Ball for Crystal Clear Water” (Biological Sciences)

David Millican:  “The Woodpecker Hotel” (Biological Sciences)

Tanya Mitropoulos:  “What a Day. I Just Want to Go Home and Crash.” (Psychology)

Mika Pagani:  Fungus Among Us: A Worm’s Worst Enemy (Entomology)

Jessica Resor:  “Family Group Chats as Dinner Time Conversation” (Human Development and Family Science)

Sara Richards:  “Five Fateful Seconds” (Biological Sciences)

Kavan Shah:  “Multifunctional Composites – Intelligent Materials for Next-Generation Vehicle Structures” (Mechanical Engineering)

Maymoonah Toubeh:  “Robots in the Wild” (Computer Engineering)

Amber Wendler:  “Some Birds Need Babysitters Too!” (Biological Sciences)

Paige West:  “Spotlighting Learning Analytics in Online Engineering Education” (Civil Engineering)

Congratulations to all our participants! Thanks for sharing your research with the world. All the videos can be watched on the Center’s YouTube channel 2020 Nutshell Games playlist.


This entry was posted in News. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply