Spark! is not your typical research symposium - it is an action verb. Spark! symposiums ignite new conversations, ideas, and collaborations among diverse researchers and professionals through short-form, engaging presentations and audience participation. At Spark!, we break disciplinary boundaries and propel UD research into the public sphere.
Spark! symposia are hosted biannually by the Graduate College to support UD graduate students and postdocs in developing cross-disciplinary communication skills. With help from our expert coaches, Spark! presenters gain confidence in public speaking while learning strategies for communicating their research to diverse audiences.
See below to learn more about how you can participate in Spark!
Spring 2024 Theme:
Advancing Financial Health: Technologies, Literacy, Access, Policies, and Implementation
At Spark!, we want to showcase how your research tackles some of the biggest societal challenges and complex problems faced by industries and individuals alike. The Spring 2024 Spark! Symposium is a close collaboration between the Graduate College and the FinTech Innovation Hub and will have a slightly different format than our typical Spark! Symposium. We are seeking graduate student and postdoc presenters for the Spark! Symposium. The theme is Advancing Financial Health: Technologies, Literacy, Access, Policies, and Implementation.
As financial health and physical health are intricately linked, Spark! invites diverse approaches and ideas that aim to move the needle on these societal challenges. From engineers researching digital technologies, educators enhancing financial literacy, policymakers addressing barriers to safe and equitable access to the financial system, public health experts deploying technology solutions to improve population health and strategies to promote equity and inclusion, we know Blue Hen graduate students and postdocs are conducting innovative studies aimed to enrich health and wellbeing.
Whatever your angle, we want to hear more about your work and how the theme Advancing Financial Health: Technologies, Literacy, Access, Policies, and Implementation resonates with your research.
Selected presenters will receive individual and small-group coaching to help them hone their presentations and research communication skills.
The symposium will be held on April 18 at the FinTech Innovation Hub, located at STAR Campus, from 4-7 p.m. Deadline for proposal submission is Feb. 4 at 11:59 p.m.
Additionally, UD’s graduate students and postdocs are invited to join the intellectual exchange at the inaugural Fintech and Financial Institutions Research Conference on April 19 from 8 a.m.–5 p.m. The conference aims to foster and facilitate meaningful academic discussions among leading researchers and policymakers in this rapidly evolving field. These conversations will shape the understanding of how business decisions, policy choices, and societal events influence economic outcomes correlated with fintech growth. The single-track research conference will feature approximately eight paper presentations with insightful comments from invited discussants, as well as audience participation. Registration link to follow.
The FinTech Innovation Hub at the University of Delaware STAR Campus is committed to building a diverse, equitable, and inclusive innovation community that prioritizes financial health across the nation. The collaborative activities of the FinTech Innovation Hub will improve society through its research, education, and workforce training leading to employment, community engagement, and economic impact.
We are looking for graduate students and postdoctoral trainees who show potential for engaging and communicating their research effectively to the general public. This does not mean you have to already be excellent at communicating your research; we will help you get there. Supporting students and postdocs in building effective communication skills is the reason we created Spark!. We assess each candidate's potential when we review their talk proposal. So, submitting a compelling proposal is key. Here are characteristics we look for:
Minimal jargon. If jargon or technical terms are used, they are explained in a way that is understandable to those outside of your field.
Well-structured and well-written. We look for a clearly defined research question and how the findings have impacts beyond academia. These questions may help you get started:
Concise. The optimal length of the proposal is between 250 - 400 words. Focus on telling a compelling story, not cramming all the data and details of your work into a single presentation.
The proposal clearly draws connections between the topic of your talk and the theme of the symposium. The theme changes for each symposium. How does your talk align with the theme?
Congratulations! Give yourself a pat on the back for passing a rigorous selection criteria to be a Spark! Presenter. Our typical acceptance rate is about 20%.
Spark! presenters receive individual and small group coaching during the weeks leading up to the symposium. In these sessions, we will review, revise, and refine your presentation so that it is engaging and accessible to the general public. Please make sure to set aside time for the coaching sessions (we will poll availability) and to work on your presentation.
Most successful presenters are committed to learning and improving, open to making changes, and willing to step out of their comfort zones (presenting on stage for a large audience can be intimidating!).
At the end of each symposium, judges from diverse backgrounds and disciplines vote to award one speaker with the Ignite award. Feedback from the judges is provided in individualized follow up coaching sessions to foster further improvement. The audience also votes for the “people’s choice” Glow award.
“The Spark! Symposium was an excellent opportunity to not only try something outside of my comfort zone in terms of public speaking, but also to educate people across the university about the importance of my research. It was incredibly rewarding to show myself that I could represent my college and gain support and interest from community members. I would recommend that everyone apply - you may surprise yourself!”
Fall 2022 Spark! Presenter
College of Agriculture and Natural Resources
“Participating in the Spark! Symposium provided me the opportunity to learn about and practice the art of presenting research to the general public. I am grateful to those who provided the training and preparation that culminated in the wonderful experience of sharing my research with a broad audience.”
Fall 2022 Spark! Presenter
College of Education and Human Development
Fall 2023 Topic:
MOBILITY: FROM ATOMS TO IDEAS
- Fall 2023 Ignite Winner: Abigail Bower, Interdisciplinary Neuroscience, Graduate College
- Fall 2023 Glow Winner: Thabu Mugala, Entomology and Wildlife Ecology, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources
- Brigette Romero Carpio, Medical Sciences, College of Health Sciences
- Cara Kelly, Human Development and Family Sciences, College of Education and Human Development
- Rene Hoover, Microbiology, Graduate College
Spring 2023 Topic:
HEALTHY SELF, SOCIETY, AND PLANET
Spring 2023 Ignite Winner: Melinda Kleczynski, College of Arts and Sciences, Mathematical Sciences: Topological data analysis of plant-pollinator interactions
Spring 2023 Glow Winner: Ingrid Havron, College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment, Marine Studies: Understanding Beluga Behavior in an Altering Arctic
Temitope Idowu, College of Engineering, Civil and Environmental Engineering: Engineering Solutions for Protecting US Shorelines from the Consequences of Past Human Activities
Rebecca Lo Presti, College of Arts and Sciences, Winterthur Program in American Material Culture: From Smallpox to COVID: Understanding Health of the Self in Pandemics of the Past and Present
Abass Muhammed, College of Arts and Sciences, Criminology: Understanding Collective Efficacy and Community Safety in The Streets
LIVING TOGETHER; BEING TOGETHER
- Fall 2022 Ignite and Glow Award Winner: Amanda Crandall, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Wildlife Ecology: Weather Radar: A tool for conserving migratory birds in a changing world
- Muhammad Ishfaq, College of Engineering, Civil Engineering: Bridge Strengthening for a Better America
- Idowu Kunlere, Joseph R. Biden, Jr. School of Public Policy and Administration, Energy and Environmental Policy: Energy Justice: How the Transition to Clean Energy Could Lead to Repeating the Mistakes of the Oil Industry
- Annette Pic, College of Education and Human Development, Human Development and Family Sciences: Learning from families experiencing homelessness: Early care and education engagement
- Brittany Powers, College of Health Sciences, Health Behavior Science and Promotion: If everybody else can do it, so can I: The College Experience of Students with Intellectual Disability
- Rachel Zobel, College of Engineering, Water Science and Policy: Green Stormwater Infrastructure: A Solution for Runoff and Pollution?
Spring 2022 Topic:
BEYOND THE TIPPING POINT: CHALLENGES AT THE INTERFACE OF THE ENVIRONMENT AND HUMANITY
- Ashley Paintsil, College of Arts and Sciences, Communication,
Increasing Black Women's Suncare Efficacy
- Sarah Wells, College of Health Sciences, Epidemiology,
Domestic Violence and Covid-19: How did Social Distancing Impact Victim Services?
- Conner McCrone, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Plant and Soil Sciences,
When Sea Level Rises: The Lost City of Delaware
- Bradie S. Crandall, College of Engineering, Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering,
Electrifying Our Way Out of Climate Change: The Technology, Economics, and Policy
- Anner Paldor, Ph.D., College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment, Geological Sciences,
Coastal Impact of Storm Surges Expected to Exacerbate due to Climate Change