Madeline Mundt

Madeline Mundt, a research librarian at the Research Commons, is the main planner of Scholar's Studio, an event for graduate students to give five-minute TED-like talks about their research.

Graduate and professional students serve as mentors, teacher’s assistants, and researchers on campus, but the greater community may not always see the fruits of their work. 

Since 2012, the UW Libraries Research Commons and the Graduate School Core Programs has been highlighting graduate and professional student research at the UW through Scholars’ Studio, a quarterly event where students present their research related to an interdisciplinary theme. 

The themes for the past two quarters were “translate” and “transgress,” and this quarter will culminate with “transform.”

“The graduate students will talk about the broader impact of their work and how the work has been transformative in their own growth,” said Madeline Mundt, current research commons librarian. “But more so, what their work has the potential to transform.”

Molly FitzMorris, a second year Ph.D. student in linguistics, has participated twice in the past, most recently for the “translate” theme during fall quarter. She enjoyed the opportunity to talk about Ladino, a form of medieval Spanish that developed when Jews were exiled from Spain in 1492 and fled to the Ottoman Empire. Now, the youngest speakers in the United States are in their 80s, and a few of them live in Seattle.

“When you’re working with an endangered language, the top priority is dissemination of knowledge about it,” FitzMorris said. “It’s been an important process because one of my top priorities is making sure that my work is accessible and I can explain it to people that aren’t linguists. If I can’t, I don’t know why I’m doing it.”

This quarter’s presentations interpret the “transform” theme across disciplines from bioengineering to education, with topics ranging from the transformation of gender and sexuality norms to vascular grafts that become live blood vessels in the body.

Interested graduate students submitted a 150-word pitch about their topic and how it fit into the theme, which were evaluated based on the accessibility of information, connection to the theme, and ability to engage the audience while retaining a sense of creativity.

“We look for people that can present on specialized research, but do it in a way that doesn’t make as many assumptions about where the audience is coming from,” Mundt said. “People who are conscious of their discipline’s biases and assumptions and are able to explain those things to an audience that might not be familiar.”

Of the 23 submissions, 10 presenters will be sharing research for this event using a lightning talk model, which includes a five-minute structured presentation that captures the essence of their project and how it’s relevant to the general public.

“Because the presentations are so quick, it allows for more questions and conversation during the reception. It’s not a typical professional or academic conference where you use a lot of jargon,” said Jaye Sablan, program coordinator for Core Programs, an entity of the UW Graduate School. “It’s an opportunity for graduate and professional students to engage with public scholarship.”

Graduate and professional students will share research from their corner of the university and gain professional development skills through public speaking and pitching their ideas in a collaborative, low-stakes environment.

Katie Querna, a Ph.D. student in the UW School of Social Work, has been exploring how traditional masculinity impacts health outcomes, and preparing for this event has proved helpful in her work.

“Eventually, I’m going to have to write a dissertation, and it’s going to have to end,” Querna said. “You can’t fit everything, so this is a good opportunity to bind some of my ideas in a particularly concise way.”

The event takes place in the Research Commons in Allen Library South, a physical space for researchers to share ideas. Ultimately, this event is a chance to make research a little bit less intimidating and more personal. 

Gary Liu, a Ph.D. student in bioengineering, will focus on how his experience as a patient with chronic kidney disease informs his current research to create a more curative therapy.

“Looking back at it now, it has given so much insight and experience into that disease that I am committed to try to change how it’s being treated,” Liu said about growing up with kidney disease. “It was also a self-realization moment because it’s translating a largely negative experience and being able to share that with the community, and being able to inspire and empower others with a similar situation.”

Mundt and other planning members hope Scholars’ Studio will start new conversations across disciplines.

“The best outcome is two people on the panel or a panelist and audience member connect and realize that they could work together on a project,” Mundt said. “At the most basic level, it’s getting people to interact with the world outside their department.”

This event is open for graduate and professional students in any major, and both Mundt and Sablan hope to bring in more undergraduate attendees.

“Let’s make this event a celebration of what graduates are doing on campus, and a way for students to meet,” Mundt said.

The spring quarter Scholars’ Studio will occur May 19 at 4 p.m. in the Research Commons.


Reach Wellness Editor Aleenah Ansari at Twitter: @aleenah_ansari

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