Undergraduates learn the art of posters and pitches

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This article first appeared in the Autumn 2012 issue of Energy Futures, the magazine of the MIT Energy Initiative. Subscribe today.

The Poster Scholars Program, now in its third year, equips undergraduates with the basic knowledge and experience needed to successfully present their research. This joint effort of the MIT Energy Club and the MIT Energy Initiative pairs interested undergraduates working in energy with graduate student mentors, who act as guides in the poster-making and pitch-development process. Over three weeks, students hone their posters and their communication skills via practice pitching sessions and mentor guidance on how to create effective visual aids. The program culminates in a poster session during Family Weekend, when visitors get an inside look at a range of energy projects while students practice presenting their work in a low-stress environment.

Linh Bui ’13 of chemical engineering has been taking part in research to develop new zeolite catalysts. One promising catalyst could lead to a process for converting biomass compounds such as hemicellulose into sustainable liquids useful as high-performance additives to petroleum.

Sam Shames ’14 of materials science and engineering has been working on various applications for solar thermal fuels. His poster presents his assessment of the possibility of using solar fuels for de-icing applications.

At left, Kyumin Lee ’13 of chemical engineering explains his research on sorghum as a source of starch for conversion to ethanol. Sorghum is attractive because of its drought resistance and relatively low value as a food source. At center, Jean Sack ’13 of mechanical engineering takes a question about her work in the MIT Device Research Laboratory on optimizing heat transfer using condensation.

Lisa Liu ’14 of electrical engineering and computer science is participating in research on “singlet exciton fission,” a phenomenon in which molecules that absorb solar energy share their excited states. Her poster explores potential applications using organic materials, including the creation of highly efficient organic solar cells.

Photos: Dominick Reuter