Spark! Symposium

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!  

Call for proposals is now open for Spark! Symposium:

Spring 2023 Theme: Healthy Self, Society, and Planet

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. This semester, we’ll focus on research that foregrounds concepts of a “Healthy Self, Society, and Planet.” 

Maybe you are a biomedical scientist discovering ways to improve the quality of life for individuals suffering from chronic health conditions. Maybe you are a humanist studying the history of environmental toxins as represented in literature and how that affects our understanding of healthy spaces today.  From engineers building bridges for safer infrastructure to social scientists thinking about equity and inclusion, we know Blue Hen graduate students and postdocs are conducting innovative studies aimed to enrich health and wellbeing at individual and global scales (and everything in between!). 

Whatever your angle, we want to hear more about your work and how the theme “Healthy Self, Society, and Planet” resonates with your research. 

We are seeking 4-5 presenters for a 10-minute talk each. 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 Thursday, April 27, 2023 at the Audion (located at STAR Campus) from 4 - 7 p.m. Deadline for proposal submission is February 10, 2023 at 11:59 p.m. Eastern. 


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 - 500 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!”

Amanda Crandall

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.”

Annette Pic

Fall 2022 Spark! Presenter

College of Education and Human Development


You can view previous Spark! Symposium introduction and talks here. Past Spark! presenters information can be found below.

Fall 2022 Topic:


Presentations Included:

  • 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?
Spark! Symposium Group Photo
Idowu Kunlere, Amanda Crandall, Annette Pic, Brittany Powers, Muhammad Ishfaq, Rachel Zobel, Dean Lou Rossi

Spring 2022 Topic:


Presentations Included:

  • 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
Ashley Paintsil, Sarah Wells, Conner McCrone, Bradie S. Crandall, Anner Paldor, Ph.D.