Vizzies Award Ceremony recognizes research, diverse community

January 30, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – There was an air of celebration and comradery in the E-Knowledge Commons on January 26, as the graduate students, staff, and faculty of Penn State’s Department of Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering (MNE) gathered to celebrate the second annual Vizzies Award Ceremony.

Inspired by a similar competition held by the National Science Foundation (NSF), graduate students were challenged to submit visually engaging representations of their research.

Mary Frecker, associate head for graduate programs, said of the event, “This is a great opportunity to recognize our students’ unique research accomplishments.”

“Getting people to think about their technical work as art is a great exercise in scientific communication,” Katie Kirsch, a post-doctoral researcher who won first place in the competition, said. “Putting an artistic spin on your work is a great way to potentially attract a wide audience and pique their interest in the research question you're trying to answer.”

Coupled with an International Food Festival, graduate students from Mexico, China, and India, among others, gathered for a lunch featuring cuisine from all over the world.

Frecker added, “Our goal for the event was also to celebrate the diverse, welcoming community we have in the department and reflect their different cultures.”

Shikha Ebrahim, a doctoral student, who won second place for her submission,

The second-place winner was Shikha Ebrahim, a doctoral student, for her submission, “Wetting and Spreading Dynamics”. Jesse Gerber, a masters student, took third place with a picture titled, “Anoxal damage in the white matter region of the brain”.

The event also featured a People’s Choice Award, where the larger Penn State community was invited to vote for their favorite visual on Facebook. With more than 400 likes, Carlos Ulises Gonzalez-Valle, a doctoral student, won with “Heat Sinks: Redefining the Art of Heat Dissipation”.

The winning submissions will be displayed in the MNE graduate office, along with last year’s winners.

All of the student entries can also be viewed on Facebook.


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The Department of Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering at Penn State is one of the nation’s largest and most successful engineering departments. We serve more than 1,000 undergraduate students and more than 330 graduate students

We offer B.S. degrees in mechanical engineering and nuclear engineering as well as resident (M.S., Ph.D.) and online (M.S., M.Eng.) graduate degrees in nuclear engineering and mechanical engineering. MNE's strength is in offering hands-on experience in highly relevant research areas, such as energy, homeland security, biomedical devices, and transportation systems.

Department of Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering

137 Reber Building

The Pennsylvania State University

University Park, PA 16802-4400

Phone: 814-865-2519