Written by Nicole Woon, WE Local Advisory Board Member, as told by Mujan Seif, Collegiate Finalist
The WE Local Collegiate Competition gives undergraduate and graduate students the opportunity to present their research to a broad technical audience in four styles: short form abstract submission, visual poster presentation, lightning talk and face-to-face discussion. This allows students to learn and gain insight on their research, and to receive live feedback and encouragement from others within the STEM field.
Mujan Seif is a doctoral student in materials engineering at the University of Kentucky. As a finalist in the 2018 WE Local Graduate Collegiate Competition, Seif shared her research on “Stochastic Modeling of the Effects of Structural Randomness on the Mechanical Behavior of Nanoporous Materials: Revealing the Role of Network Coordination State.” We asked Seif to share her experiences and what was most valuable takeaway. Scroll to learn more!
SWE: What was your favorite part of participating in the Collegiate Competition and attending WE Local?
Seif: That’s easy. The lightning talk.
SWE: How did the competition help you with your career/education?
Seif: This competition gave me the opportunity for my first technical talk! I had a talk at a materials conference about two months after, and, although it was a different topic, the fact that I’d already given a technical talk in front of a group of engineers put me at ease during my second talk. Also, as with any talk, it forced me to analyze my results and organize them in a coherent, thoughtful matter.
SWE: How did you benefit from the in-person judging?
Seif: This was highly helpful. Everyone at the conference was STEM-oriented, but not specifically materials-focused, so I had to practice discussing this information with people who are knowledgeable, but not experts. I also had to practice creating a narrative for my research, which is great to have and practice. People asked some pretty great questions and gave me some new ideas to try.
SWE: How about the poster portion?
Seif: Poster presentations were common throughout my undergraduate degree, so the collegiate competition didn’t present a unique opportunity in that regard. As mentioned before, the competition ‘forced’ me to organize my results, and the poster forced me to decide what was the most relevant information and how to most concisely present said information — always a good practice!
SWE: As a finalist, how did this impact your network during and post-conference?
Seif: It helped a lot! During the poster-judging portion, I had to stand in the hallway next to my poster for a decent amount of time, so I saw a lot of people walking by. I recognized and caught up with a few people I’d met at previous conferences. I also just had random people stop to ask me a few things about my work, which introduced me to more people.
SWE: Would you recommend a fellow SWE Collegiate to participate in the competition?
Seif: Absolutely! I’ve actually told a few of my favorite undergrads to submit abstracts, as well as sharing the information with my university’s SWE section. I think it’s a fantastic idea! I’m also trying to implement it for GradSWE in a webinar format.
You can learn more about Seif’s education and SWE paths in this 2018 Grad SWE spotlight.
WE Local is now accepting online abstract submissions for the 2019 WE Local Collegiate Competition season. Note: All Collegiate Competitions take place in North America only. If you are interested in competing, learn more about the program here and submit your abstract by Friday, October 26, 2018.