Showing Research Impact

MBP students explained what made their poster presentations stand out at the program's annual Spring Research Symposium.

Matthew Williams presenting his poster

Kishan Batcheldor (MBP '24) is an intern at LanzaTech, a carbon recycling company that uses bacteria to convert pollution into fuels and other valuable chemicals. He shared results from his research at Northwestern Engineering's Master of Biotechnology Program (MBP) annual Spring Research Symposium, but as he prepared for the event's poster session, he kept thinking about one question.


"I wanted to tell a story with my poster that showed not only the technical details, such as the methods and results of the experiment, but incorporated the ‘why?’ behind the research," he said. "The whole mission at LanzaTech revolves around a higher-level goal of creating a more sustainable future, and I thought it would be important to discuss the story of why and how gas fermenting bacteria play a role in that goal."

He was right.

Batcheldor was honored along with Leila Iravani (MBP ‘24) and Matthew Williams (MBP '24) as top presenters at the event's poster session. The goal of the presentations was to find clear, creative, engaging ways to tell a story from the results of ongoing research.

Students articulated complex topics and details to an audience not as familiar with the research.

“With my poster presentation, I hoped to share the methods that I used for my research in a digestible way for people unfamiliar with the computational methods,” said Williams, whose research focused on using those methods to help break through bottlenecks that slow biological processes to create a desired molecule.  “My other goal was to spark discussion, and I think the discussions sparked by the poster helped my presentation stand out.”

The presentations were judged by members of the MBP Industrial Advisory Board, a group of professionals whose mission is to ensure the program’s courses remain aligned with industry needs.  

The winners were inspired by the prestigious judging panel.

"It was important to have the experience of presenting to the MBP Industrial Advisory Board because it gave me experience presenting in a more professional context," Williams said. "I think that they gave valuable feedback on our work. I also value the opportunity to meet and have conversations with experienced professionals in the industry." 

Batcheldor agreed. 

"Most of what you do in your professional life is presenting work to others to get them to understand the value of your work,”  Batcheldor said. “Whether it’s to a direct manager or to investors or to executives, it is extremely important to learn presentation skills, which becomes harder when the technical barrier to entry for a lot of the concepts is so steep.” 

While he guessed many IAB members were experts in synthetic biology, he did not want to assume everyone was or that they had the necessary knowledge to understand technical details about bacteria. He opted for a high-level overview of his work — and he believed that's what helped make his presentation memorable. 

“What made my poster stand out was the approachability of the content and the enthusiasm behind it,” Batcheldor said. “I’m working on a project in a field that I’m passionate about, and people are more likely to be engaged in a poster if you are really invested in the work."

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