Simplifying the Science

The oral presentation winners at MBP’s Spring Research Symposium focused on making sure their work was easy to understand for those not in the biotechnology industry.

Weronika Ptaszek presenting

Communicating the intricacies and importance of biotechnological advancements to someone not in the field is as vital as it is difficult.

Vital, because – among other things – investors without a medical background are needed to fund the often-expensive research. Difficult, because the language underpinning the science is anything but commonplace.

Addressing this challenge is the point of the Spring Research Symposium, put on by Northwestern Engineering's Master of Biotechnology Program (MBP). It was a point well taken by the three winners in the oral-presentation category.

Xiaoyang Chen (MBP ‘24), Yisong Lin (MBP ‘24), and Weronika Ptaszek (MBP ‘24) were selected as top presenters at this year’s event by members of the MBP’s Industrial Advisory Board (IAB), who serve as judges. Students gave a 10-minute talk about their research followed by a five-minute question-and-answer session with the judges.

“Presenting to industry professionals not only enhanced my presentation and communication skills, but also allowed me to receive valuable feedback and exposed me to industry standards and expectations,” Chen said. “More than that, the day provided us with a precious opportunity to connect with industry professionals.”

Chen’s research demonstrated the need to translate the importance of her work to a more common language. Her presentation was “Lipid Nanoparticle Library for Glioblastoma Targeted Delivery of RNA Therapeutics,” a potential head-scratcher for many people without a biotechnology education.  

But when she explains her research is about using fats as a delivery vehicle for cancer-fighting treatments, the concept is easier to grasp.

The same was true for Ptaszek, whose project also involved investigating new ways to target treatments for human ailments. She said presenting to the IAB and being expected to translate her findings for people outside of her specialty was incredibly valuable.

“It becomes crucial to know how to step away from our silos and effectively communicate complex information across disciplines,” Ptaszek said. “Presenting my research to the MBP Industrial Advisory Board was that first step in getting a feel for what communicating to professionals outside of my silo feels like.”

That experience is something all three winners will take with them after they graduate. Another lesson they learned is that as important as the content is, how it is delivered can ultimately make or break a presentation.

Both Chen and Ptaszek felt their enthusiasm for their topic helped them stand out among their classmates.

“I sought to convey the importance of my research in simple terms with clarity and enthusiasm, engaging the audience while emphasizing the innovation and relevance of my research,” Ptaszek said. “The symposium experience was intellectually invigorating.” 

Chen agreed.

"I aimed to capture my audience’s interest," she said, "and leave a lasting impression on them.”

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