Vizzies Award Ceremony recognizes research, diverse community

January 30, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – There was an air of celebration and comradery in the E-Knowledge Commons on January 26, as the graduate students, staff, and faculty of Penn State’s Department of Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering (MNE) gathered to celebrate the second annual Vizzies Award Ceremony.

Inspired by a similar competition held by the National Science Foundation (NSF), graduate students were challenged to submit visually engaging representations of their research.

Mary Frecker, associate head for graduate programs, said of the event, “This is a great opportunity to recognize our students’ unique research accomplishments.”

“Getting people to think about their technical work as art is a great exercise in scientific communication,” Katie Kirsch, a post-doctoral researcher who won first place in the competition, said. “Putting an artistic spin on your work is a great way to potentially attract a wide audience and pique their interest in the research question you're trying to answer.”

Coupled with an International Food Festival, graduate students from Mexico, China, and India, among others, gathered for a lunch featuring cuisine from all over the world.

Frecker added, “Our goal for the event was also to celebrate the diverse, welcoming community we have in the department and reflect their different cultures.”

Shikha Ebrahim, a doctoral student, who won second place for her submission,

The second-place winner was Shikha Ebrahim, a doctoral student, for her submission, “Wetting and Spreading Dynamics”. Jesse Gerber, a masters student, took third place with a picture titled, “Anoxal damage in the white matter region of the brain”.

The event also featured a People’s Choice Award, where the larger Penn State community was invited to vote for their favorite visual on Facebook. With more than 400 likes, Carlos Ulises Gonzalez-Valle, a doctoral student, won with “Heat Sinks: Redefining the Art of Heat Dissipation”.

The winning submissions will be displayed in the MNE graduate office, along with last year’s winners.

All of the student entries can also be viewed on Facebook.


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College of Engineering Media Relations



With more than 60 faculty members, 330 graduate students, and 1,000 undergraduate students, the Penn State Department of Mechanical Engineering embraces a culture that welcomes individuals with a diversity of backgrounds and expertise. Our faculty and students are innovating today what will impact tomorrow’s solutions to meeting our energy needs, homeland security, biomedical devices, and transportation systems. We offer B.S. degrees in mechanical engineering as well as resident (M.S., Ph.D.) and online (M.S.) graduate degrees in mechanical engineering. See how we’re inspiring change and impacting tomorrow at

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