CEMB Students to Compete in 2021 Reach Out Science Slam Communication Challenge

WashU graduate students named semifinalists in a science communication competition

Graduate students in The Center for Engineering MechanoBiology (CEMB), Kari Miller, Elizabeth Haswell lab, and Ghiska Ramahdita, Guy Genin and Nathaniel Huebsch labs, have been named semifinalists in the 2021 Reach Out Science Slam Communication Challenge jointly sponsored by the National Science Foundation and the Museum of Science, Boston. Kari and Ghiska will be presenting original, three-minute science stories on their respective research in mechanobiology.

The Reach Out Science Slam is a nationwide effort to boost the communication skills of students and early-career researchers affiliated with the National Science Foundation’s 12 flagship Science and Technology Centers (STCs). These Centers tackle the frontiers of science and technology, foster discovery and innovation, and train next-generation scientists and engineers. CEMB is an STC that is a collaboration between Washington University in St. Louis and the University of Pennsylvania.


Competitors of the Reach Out Science Slam are required to make their science stories suitable for family audiences and include a live presentation component. Entrants are encouraged to make presentations engaging by incorporating demonstrations, animation, props, music, and more. 

Kari Miller is a 4th year PhD Student in the Plant and Microbial Biosciences program (DBBS) in the lab of Elizabeth Haswell in the Department of Biology. She studies mechanosensitive (MS) ion channels in plants and how plants use these channels to respond and adapt to physical forces. In particular, she is interested in a pollen-specific MS channel that allows the pollen grain to withstand the process of hydration.


Ghiska Ramahdita is a 2nd year PhD student in Mechanical Engineering in the labs of Nathaniel Huebsch (Biomedical Engineering) and Guy Genin (Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science).  Her research interests lie in mechanobiology in iPSC-engineered heart muscle. She is particularly interested to investigating how the mechanical factors (e.g., stiffness, isotropism) affect physiology of tissue, including in heart muscles with genetic predispositions to arrhythmia. She is a James V & Mary E Wertsch Fellow of the McDonnell International Scholars Academy. She graduated from B.Eng in Universitas Indonesia, and obtained her double master's degree(s) from INSA de Lyon-France and Universitas Indonesia. 

They will be competing on April 6th, 7:00 - 8:00 pm ET (6 CT, 5 MT, 4 PT). Registration for this and the other semi-final sessions can be found HERE with more information on the Reach Out website.

The Slam Semifinals will be held on April 6 and 13 and 20 and the Finals will be held on May 4, 2021. All Reach Out events will be presented live on YouTube at 7:00 p.m. EDT before a national audience and a panel of expert judges. The Judges’ Pick and the Audience Choice Winner of the Science Slam Finals will receive a $1,000 VISA gift card. All finalists will receive professionally packaged videos of their presentations and will also be distributed through Museum of Science and National Science Foundation social media channels.

For more information on the Reach Out Science Slam Communication Challenge, please visit: mos.org/reach-out-challenge.

The Slam events will be judged by a panel of expert science communicators, including:

  • Raven Baxter, also known as Raven the Science Maven, a molecular biologist, expert science communicator, and a Fortune 40 under 40 
  • Emily Calendrelli, aerospace engineer turned science communicator and Emmy-nominated host of the Netflix show “Emily’s Wonder Lab” 
  • Jorge Cham, creator of “PHD Comics” and co-creator of the PBS show “Elinor Wonders Why”
  • Melissa Cristina Márquez, shark scientist, TV host, and author of the upcoming book series “Wild Survival!”