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SBU Postdoc Spotlight 2022

SBU Postdoc Spotlight
is a celebration of the research performed by Stony Brook's postdoctoral scholars.
Paola Cepeda presents at Spotlight 2019

Cutting-edge research at SBU presented for a general audience. Spotlight talks are five minutes long and are designed like a Three Minute Thesis talk to be accessible to specialists and non-specialists alike. The Postdoc Spotlight is a great opportunity to see some of the latest discoveries and exciting research taking place at Stony Brook.

Location: Wang Center Lecture Hall 2

Date:  Thursday, November 17, 2022

Spotlight Talks: 4:00 pm—5:30 pm 

Reception & Award Presentation: 5:30 pm—6:30 pm 

This event is free and open to the public.


Congratulations to all our speakers for their hard work, and especially, our best talk winners from the 2022 SBU  Postdoc Spotlight!  Special thanks to OVPR for sponsoring the prizes again this year. 

Postdoc Spotlight winners, together


1st Place 2nd Place 3rd Place
Tianqi Xie,
Geosciences (center)
Julie Burrill,
Alda Center for Communicating Science (right)
Raphael Lengacher,
Chemistry (left)


Spotlight Agenda: 

4:00pm-4:15pm Welcome & Overview
Lecture Hall 2

Celia Marshik, Interim Dean, Graduate School, and Interim Vice Provost, Graduate and Professional Education

Carl Lejuez, Provost and Executive Vice 
President for Academic Affairs 

Kathleen Flint Ehm, Assistant Dean, Graduate and Postdoctoral Initiatives, and Director, Office of Postdoctoral Affairs

4:15pm-5:15pm (approx) Spotlight Presentations (in alphabetical order)
Lecture Hall 2
Gina Mathew, Postdoc, Public Health 
Photo of Aswathy Aswathy Nair, Neurobiology & Behavior The Rhythm of the Brain and Movement 
Photo Athmanathan Senthilnathan, Ecology & Evolution What Can Plant-Soil Interactions Tell Us About Forests? 
Photo Hassane Hamdaoui, Physics & Astronomy  Light Under the Spotlight 
Photo Indhu Varatharajan, Geosciences Recreating the Surface of Planet Mercury on Earth 
Photo Julie Burrill, Alda Center for Communicating Science Where is the DNA in forensic "Touch DNA?"
Photo of Aswathy Kaushik Mitra, Geosciences Early Mars: Red & Dead or Green & Clean 
Photo Raphael Lengacher, Chemistry The Search for Cancer – From a Needle in a Haystack to a Bright Flare 
Photo Tianqi Xie, Geosciences The Impact of the Impact: What Does the Rock Say? 
Photo Wenliang (Bill) Li, Physics & Astronomy  Seeing the Proton from Behind 
Photo Zennur Sekendiz, Dept of Medicine, World Trade Center Health Program Understanding the Change in the Minds of  911 First Responders
after COVID 19
5:30pm  Winners Announced & Award Presentation
Theater Lobby

Postdoc speakers receive specialized coaching in providing a broad and engaging talk for non-specialists. Speakers work with the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science. The internationally recognized center works to enhance understanding of science by helping to train the next generation of scientists to communicate more effectively with the public, the media and others outside their own specialty. Selection as a speaker is a unique professional development opportunity that helps prepare our postdocs to become the innovators and leaders of tomorrow. 

Prizes given for the best talk. A panel of judges evaluate the talks for how well they achieve the Spotlight's goals of sharing the excitement of our postdocs' discoveries in a way that is accessible to a non-specialist.

Spotlight 2019 SpeakersSpotlight 2019 Speakers 


Speaker Information

Speaker Sign Up Deadline: Monday, October 17, 2022 Selected speakers will be notified shortly thereafter)

Speaker Coaching Dates:(All speakers must commit to both Sessions 1 & 2)*

- Coaching Date 1, Plenary: Thursday, October 20, 2:30-5:00pm
- Coaching Date 2, Small-Group Coaching: CHOOSE: Wednesday November 2, 3:00-5:00pm, OR Thursday November 3, 3:00-5:00pm
-Optional Coaching Date 3, Small-Group Coaching: Thursday November 10 14, 3:00-5:00pm -- This is a supplementary opportunity for speakers to get additional feedback the week before the event. You may want to pencil it in.

The first session will provide an overview of best practices for honing one's message for a general audience and representing that message with effective visualizations. In the second session, speakers will receive coaching on their individual talks in small groups. Speakers are required to attend BOTH the first session and one of the small-group, individualized coaching sessions.* See coaching dates and times above.


Presentation Guidelines

Yedu Neelam, GeosciencesOnly SBU Postdocs are eligible to give a Spotlight talk. Talks will be approximately five minutes long. Speakers should craft a talk that distills the heart of their research for a general audience who may not be specialists in the style of a TED talk or the Three Minute Thesis. Speakers will receive individualized coaching on their presentation from experts at the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science.

All speakers must commit to participating in the two required coaching sessions, Coaching 1 on Oct 20* AND one of the dates for Coaching 2 (Nov 2 or 3).

Postdocs must affirm that their postdoctoral supervisor supports presentation of their research during speaker sign up. The talks will be recorded and posted online.


How to Sign Up

Kasturi Banjerjee, Infectious Diseases

- Complete the Sign Up form with your contact info.
- Affirm that your postdoctoral supervisor supports you presenting your work in the Spotlight.
- Agree to participate in the two required coaching sessions (see times above).*
- After submission, you will be contacted shortly after the closing date for sign up about whether you have been selected to speak. At that time, we will request a title from selected speakers.

Sign Up to be a Speaker Here

Speaker Selection

The number of speakers is limited. Therefore, speakers will be selected to provide a broad slate of presentations designed to reach a general audience bearing no specialized knowledge. Selected speakers will be notified shortly after speaker signup closes.



Postdocs listeningThe talks will be evaluated by a panel of judges from a range of backgrounds and disciplines for how well the speaker engages a general audience of non-specialists and can convey the excitement and innovation of their research without jargon or distortion. Presentations are evaluated on Clarity, Content and Engagement according the following criteria

Clarity (1-10 points):

  • Did you find the presentation followed a clear and logical order?
  • Did you feel the language used was appropriate for a non-specialist audience?
  • Did you find the presentation slides clear and easy to follow?

Content (1-10 points):

  • Did you understand the significance of the presenter’s research to their field, to culture, and/or to society?
  • Did you understand the approach or method taken by the presenter to address their research questions?
  • Did you understand the conclusions, results, and/or findings from the presenter’s research?

Engagement (1-10 points):

  • Did you feel the presentation slides enhanced your engagement with the presentation?
  • Did the presenter capture and maintain your attention?
  • Did the presenter effectively use techniques to connect with you and the audience, such as analogies, stories or questions?



The top three talks will be awarded prizes generously sponsored by the Office of the Vice President for Research.

1st Prize: $500
2nd Prize: $300
3rd Prize: $100



Contact Kathleen Flint Ehm, Assistant Dean for Graduate and Postdoctoral Initiatives , at or 631-632-7531.

*Postdoc speakers who have taken relevant Alda Center coursework may be eligible to opt out of the first coaching session. But you'll be missing out on material specifically designed for this competition. Just sayin.