TED-Style Research Talks

Our afternoon speakers’ approachable TED-style talks describing their research will BLOW YOUR MIND! Presenter selection is in progress. This year’s talks will be announced soon!


Check out last year’s presenters:

AlisonGilchristAlison Gilchrist is a graduate student interested in how viruses hijack human cells for their own nefarious purposes. She’s currently in the Sawyer Lab, where she’s studying how dengue virus gets around the immune system in various sneaky ways. In her free time, she acts as co-editor-in-chief for Science Buffs, a STEM blog run by CU graduate students and open to anybody! They write about everything from microbes to space missions, with an emphasis on making all kinds of science accessible to all kinds of people. In the rest of her free time she likes to read and hike. She’s a member of the International Society of Tardigrade Hunters, because hiking is even more fun if you bring back some moss and look at it under a microscope.


Catherine Klauss is a PhD candidate at CU Boulder studying ultracold atomic physics at JILA. She earned her B.S. in physics at the University of Arizona. Her research involves using lasers and large magnetic fields to cool atoms down to minimal temperatures. Once cooled, she and her labmates are able to study the fundamental dynamics of atom interactions, specifically studying the progression from two- to few-body physics. Catherine believes improving science communication is beneficial for interdisciplinary research as well as encouraging minorities in STEM, and is interested in learning how to improve the standards of communication between scientists.


Dr. Pacifica Sommers is a postdoctoral Research Associate in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at CU Boulder in the Alpine Microbial Observatory lab advised by Dr. Steven K. Schmidt. Pacifica has broad interests in understanding the controls on biological diversity and its implications for ecosystems. Pacifica earned her BA in Biology from Scripps College and her Masters and PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the University of Arizona.  For her doctoral research, Pacifica focused on the role of predators interacting with resource competition to cause the effects of a grass invasion near Tucson, Arizona, in a hot desert.  Her current research takes place in a polar desert, where she uses cryoconite holes, which are small mud puddles on Antarctic glaciers, as natural test tubes for experiments on microbial diversity.

In addition to research, Pacifica enjoys getting kids of all ages (even adults) outdoors and doing science. Besides volunteering in classrooms and hiking programs, Pacifica helped to found the UA Science: Sky School program that takes K-12 students to a mountaintop observatory to conduct their own research while exploring the outdoors. She also co-directed the Natural World neighborhood of Science City at Tucson Festival of Books, and served as the inaugural internship mentor for the Bob Tindall Conservation Biology Internship. If you are interested in learning more about Pacifica’s research, sign up for her upcoming workshop at The Gizmo Dojo, take a look at her website, or contact her directly about doing a workshop or presentation at your school or public library.

Erin McDuffieErin McDuffie is currently a 4th year graduate student in the Chemistry Department at CU Boulder, focusing on Analytical, Environmental, and Atmospheric Chemistry. For the last three years, Erin has been conducting her graduate research in the Chemical Sciences Division at the NOAA campus in Boulder. She credits her interest in atmospheric chemistry to her undergraduate research at Carleton College, where she was first introduced to the subject. Her interests in environmental science and conservation began, however, at a much younger age, growing up in Anchorage, AK. This unique experience fostered her appreciation for the complexity of the natural world and desire to pursue a career studying earth’s natural systems. Her current research is focused on the influence of anthropogenic emissions on air pollutants, such as ozone, that are relevant to local and regional air quality.

In a previous life, she was also a four time state champion swimmer!


Jayme Temple is a first-year graduate student in the Behavioral Neuroscience program here at CU Boulder. Her research in the laboratory of Dr. Zoe Donaldson focuses on using a monogamous rodent species, prairie voles, to study the reward system and its role in forming long-term social bonds. After first attending community college, she earned my bachelor’s degree in Psychology at California State University San Marcos (CSUSM). During her time at CSUSM, she was a NIGMS Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement (RISE) Fellow, which is dedicated to diversifying the sciences. She continues to be invested in this endeavor and spent this past summer mentoring other minority students on how to conduct and present scientific research. When she’s not in the lab, she likes to spend time with her puppy, Luna!

RebeccaCoxRebecca Cox is a masters student in the Correll lab researching how low cost sensors in a robotic hand can improve it’s ability to sense and interact with the environment around it. Such intelligent robotic arms can one day become assistive robots that can perform general household chores and help people with disabilities in everyday tasks. Before robotics, Rebecca was researching machine learning from Missouri University of Science and Technology, where she also earned her bachelors in computer engineering. Her first experience was in training a neural network to identify malignant melanoma from images of skin lesions. Although this research was very different from robotics, they both share the ability of being able to improve the lives of people in the future. Although Rebecca will graduate in May of 2017 with a Master’s, she hopes to always continue researching projects that will one day benefit humans.