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2018 grad ben talks 2
Rebecca Umbach, Ph.D. student in Criminology, whose presentation was entitled: “Aggression and Sleep: A Daylight Saving Time Quasi-Experiment.” Photo from Danielle McNinch

Twenty graduate students of the School of Arts and Sciences took the stage in Irvine Auditorium to present their research on Feb. 23 and to compete for $500 cash prizes in Penn’s second annual Grad Ben Talks.

The 2018 Grad Ben Talks, inspired by the style of TED Talks, featured presentations from graduate students in four categories: Humanities, Social Sciences, Natural Sciences, and Professional Master’s Programs/Other.

The topics of the Grad Ben Talks ranged from discussions of body image and the music of French composer Guillaume de Machaut, to more out-of-the-ordinary talks about the social psychology of body odor and Cold War-era investigations of UFOs.

From each of these groups, a panel of judges chose one presentation which they felt best made the material “accessible and engaging” to non-experts, according to Vice Dean for Professional and Liberal Education Nora Lewis, speaking just before the event. 

In addition, the audience was allowed to vote for one presentation in each category to receive a cash prize.

Photo from Danielle McNinch

SAS graduate student Patrick Osei won in the Professional Master's section with his talk about groundwater contamination in Obuasi, Ghana.

For Osei, there was a personal connection to this research topic.  

"Mommy would wake me up at 1 a.m., sometimes 2 a.m., to fetch water," Osei said, adding that this was the only time his family could access clean water. "This is how I have passion for water, and why I wanted to do research for my community."

SAS Executive Director of Communications Loraine Terrell noted at the event that, while the Grad Ben Talks are somewhat new on Penn’s campus, they have already cemented themselves as an important feature of SAS’s social media presence.

The 2017 Talks, according to Terrell, were “the biggest social media event of the year, by far.” This year’s talks, streamed live over social media sites like Facebook, have already been viewed online more than 1,000 times.

Several of the students giving talks chimed in on social media during the event using the hashtag #GradBenTalks. School of Arts and Science graduate student Rachel Apanewicz-Delgado, who spoke about the role of artificial intelligence in financial services, called the event “a great way to learn about the research being performed at the school.”