Simplifying the Complicated

The annual MBP Research Symposium gives students an opportunity to hone their presentation skills while networking with industry leaders.

Students in Northwestern Engineering's Master of Biotechnology Program (MBP) seized the opportunity to practice the art of delivering effective presentations on complicated topics.  

Every year, MBP students present findings from their research at the MBP Research Symposium to members of the program’s Industrial Advisory Board (IAB). The IAB is composed of industry leaders who help ensure what MBP teaches remains aligned with employers’ needs. 

The symposium is divided into two parts – each student delivers oral and poster presentations. Esther Nehmad and Irene Jacob finished in the top three of the oral presentation portion.  

Both said they found the event incredibly beneficial.  

“Presenting research to the IAB was an excellent way to learn how to share scientific work in a concise and logical manner,” Jacob said. “The experience taught me the importance of formulating a story out of research and how complicated concepts can be made comprehensible while maintaining the essence of the subject.”  

Jacob’s research delved into glioblastoma, a type of cancer that develops in the brain or spinal cord. She did her work in the lab of Jason Miska from the Department of Neurological Surgery at Northwestern's Feinberg School of Medicine.  

In addition to using the experience to hone her presentation skills, she took advantage of the networking opportunities before, during, and after her talk. Feedback she received on her presentation from the members of the IAB will help her better guide her career, she said.  

Nehmad echoed Jacob’s belief that the symposium offered a valuable opportunity to present complicated work using easy-to-follow language and concepts. The fact that English is not her native language made the experience even more important.  

"My first time presenting in English, I did not feel confident,” Nehmad said. “This presentation helped me build my confidence and reassured me that I am capable of conveying a message.”  

Nehmad benefited from spending time with IAB members at the symposium and praised MBP leaders for making it part of the program.  

“It’s a good event where we can make connections with people in industry,” she said. “I appreciate the time that the MBP faculty takes to organize it.” 

Nehmad's research involves a technique that extracts nutrients from wastewater for reuse. She said the rarity of her topic helped her focus on laying the foundation for IAB members with background information before delving into the more complicated parts of the technique.  

Her success in describing the problem clearly through that background information was a key factor in her successful performance at the symposium.  

“I believe that made the audience interested in the steps that we are taking to solve the problem,” she said. “I think I did a good job explaining what could be a complicated topic simply, while also showing the more complicated details once the basics were established.” 

Both Nehmad and Jacob said the recognition was appreciated, but the process of preparing and delivering their presentations was valuable in and of itself. 

“It was a great experience,” Jacob said. “It taught me valuable lessons that I can take forward in my future endeavors.”  

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