Graduate research symposium draws high-profile keynote speakers

Edmonton—Graduate students in the Faculty of Engineering will have the opportunity to get the inside track on communicating with non-technical audiences and tech commercialization during the Faculty of Engineering Graduate Research Symposium.

Keynote speakers Joe Schwarcz and Peter Hackett will share their experiences and expertise with symposium attendees and volunteers.

Schwarcz is director of McGill University’s Office for Science and Society and is a highly regarded science communicator, hosting his own radio program and appearing in countless news and science-related television programs.

A chemist with 200 publications and 11 patents, Hackett is a leader in scientific discovery and technology transfer. He has been executive professor in the U of A School of Business and is a Fellow of the National Institute for Nanotechnology (NINT).

The two are the symposium’s opening and closing speakers. Schwarcz’s opening keynote address is open to all attendees. Hackett’s closing keynote is limited to presenters (oral and posters) and symposium volunteers.

Audience members will benefit from both speakers’ messages, organizing committee chair Orest Shardt says.

Engineers are often called upon to explain technical projects to non-technical audiences, from members of a community that will be affected by an engineering project to policy makers to investors whose decisions can make or break a project. Communicating clearly, Shardt notes, is an essential skill.

“The idea is that his talk could motivate students to improve their communication skills and to go out and communicate their work to the public,” he said. “As engineers we need to engage society and help people understand the impact of our work.”

Having Hackett on hand to talk about the path to tech commercialization is a plus for graduate students, Shardt said, adding that Hackett is eminently qualified to deliver the message.

“He is a well-respected individual who knows about Alberta’s knowledge economy and commercialization and technology transfer,” said Shardt.

“This is going to help students as they think about their next steps, about what they do after they finish their studies here. It also ties back to the initial idea of expanding students’ horizons and how to describe your technology to people who want to play a role in it but don’t have the technical knowledge.”

Running June 19 and 20, the Graduate Research Symposium  gives graduate students the opportunity to meet with industry representatives, showcase their research, and learn about leading-edge projects other engineering research teams are investigating.

The symposium features a professional development day June 19, and focuses on research June 20. Registration is not yet open but is free

Keynote Speakers:

Joe Schwarcz, McGill University

Peter Hackett, University of Alberta