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Two-minute summaries and other tales from MicroLectures

There are a lot of things you can do it two minutes: heat up a cup of coffee, make a to-do list, skim a Facebook newsfeed. But could you explain months or years of research? UFV faculty took on the challenge last week as they presented their latest research as part of UFV’s annual MicroLectures event.

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By Nadine Moedt (The Cascade) – Email

Print Edition: November 21, 2012

There are a lot of things you can do it two minutes: heat up a cup of coffee, make a to-do list, skim a Facebook newsfeed. But could you explain months or years of research?

UFV faculty took on the challenge last week as they presented their latest research as part of UFV’s annual MicroLectures event.

Seventeen faculty members took up the challenge Wednesday at the Roadrunner Café, condensing their research and engaging a broad range of audience members and displaying a rich tapestry of interests – all in less than two minutes.

A traffic light stayed green for just under two minutes while each presenter stepped up to the stage. Once it turned yellow each presenter had 30 seconds left; red meant the time was up.

The audience heard presentations on a number of topics, from potential “green structures” in Tanzania to the biology of blueberries here in the Fraser Valley.

Lenore Newman, of the Geography department, is the current Canada Research Chair in food security and the environment, opened the MicroLectures with “Poutine Goes National.” She spoke on how food defines our regions as well as our identity as Canadians.

Cherie Enns, of the Geography department, presented “Children’s Rights and Community  Design in Global Context,” a theme related to her work with orphaned children in Kenya. Her focus during her presentation, however, was on what she did wrong while working towards a PhD.

“How do I do research in Kenya, attend school in Germany and try to teach here full-time?” she asked the audience. “My method and approach was really a lifelong journey. I had no research questions; in fact, I had all the answers before I began. As my PhD advisor said, ‘If you really did all you think you did, you should have the Nobel peace prize by now.’ I don’t.”

Eventually, Enns decided to try writing her PhD on why she did not have a PhD.

“In the end,” she told the audience, “my PhD, which was my non PhD, became my actual PhD.”

Jonathan Hughes, Paleoecologist from the UFV Geography department, spoke on something a little closer to home. His research on “Ancient Floods in the Fraser Lowland” delved into what ancient deposits tell us about the frequency of flooding in the Fraser valley. Hughes spoke about “how flood frequency varies with time, [and] how the variation coincides with past climate change in the Fraser basin,” and briefly touched on how “floods have influenced ecosystem functions.”

Several faculty speakers shared their personal stories. Roger Friesen, from the Kinesiology and Physical Education (KPE) department, has been working as a sports psychology consultant to Canadian Olympic athletes for 22 years. His presentation, “The Pursuit of Excellence and Lessons Learned from the London Olympics,” dealt with his experience assisting athletes trying to “compete under the spotlight.”

Some presenters ran out of time before completing their lecture, to the audible disappointment of the audience. Shelley Canning of the nursing department, fell into this category: her presentation on “Children, Frail Elders and Ballet: A Magical Combination,” included a way to “measure magic.” After an explanation of the benefits of ballet to the children involved, such as an increase in empathy and comfort, Canning began talking about the “magic” involved in the project but was unfortunately cut off by the red light.

By the end of the event, the audience had grown to standing room only; students watched from the balcony above and stopped in the hallways to listen.

It might be hard to compact hundreds of hours of research and effort into two minutes, but in the end the MicroLecture format was a success – promoting a sense of community across many disciplines as well as pride in the research pursued at UFV.

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