At the inaugural SPARK Talks event Thursday, Vikram Gadagkar discusses the clues given by songbirds in the environment. (Rula Saeed / Sun Staff Photographer)

At the inaugural SPARK Talks event Thursday, Vikram Gadagkar discusses the clues given by songbirds in the environment. (Rula Saeed / Sun Staff Photographer)

October 23, 2015

Students Share Research at SPARK Talks

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Cornell graduate students and postdoctoral fellows delivered five-minute speeches about their research during the University’s inaugural SPARK — or “students presenting about research and knowledge” — Talks in Olin Library Thursday.

At the inaugural SPARK Talks event Thursday, Vikram Gadagkar discusses the clues given by songbirds in the environment. (Rula Saeed / Sun Staff Photographer)

At the inaugural SPARK Talks event Thursday, Vikram Gadagkar discusses the clues given by songbirds in the environment. (Rula Saeed / Sun Staff Photographer)

The talks featured eight presenters, who spoke on topics that ranged from food security to climate change, according to Kelly LaVoice, a business research librarian for the School of Hotel Administration.

The SPARK Talks were inspired by a University of Washington event series called Scholars’ Studio, in which graduate students spoke in the library about their research, according to LaVoice. At the University of Washington, the talks had a different theme each time they occurred. For Cornell’s inaugural event, the theme was “intersections,” according to LaVoice.

“They’re broad themes to hopefully attract people in humanities and sciences, who are doing really different types of research, but can come together to find commonalities,” LaVoice said.

The SPARK Talks are also a way for graduate students to participate in a conference without the travel and expenses normally associated with academic conferences, said Marsha Taichman, a visual resources librarian.

To participate in the talks, interested presenters wrote 150-word proposals laying out the thesis of their research and what they aimed to talk about in their five minutes.

In determining the presenters, a committee of six Cornell librarians looked for people who did not use overly complicated language and who would be able to summarize their research in a short amount of time. In addition, the committee also aimed to put together a diverse range of speakers.

“We wanted a topically-diverse program,” LaVoice said.

Following the end of the presentations, students and audience members had the opportunity to network with each other.

“Hopefully all of these different topics will inspire people to talk about them,” LaVoice said. “Since they’re jargon-free, you don’t need to be in that department to understand and ask questions.”

Following the completion of Thursday’s talks, LaVoice said the committee would like to host a SPARK Talks event each semester in a different library.

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