There was an unusual buzz going on at UGent campus of Bio-Science Engineering late in the evening on March 26th. People were discussing cable bacteria that invisibly surround us and neutrinos that can reveal the secrets of the Universe, combatting parasites with fruit and preventing suicides with computers, improving our home environment with smart coating, and many other fascinating ideas.
Despite the heavy rain the room Oehoe uniquely designed as a glittery dome filled out with those eager to learn about the latest findings in research and dive into the most recent discoveries in the scientific world. This year the PhD contest was hosted by Jonathan De Roo – the winner of the last year, and rated by TEDxGhent’s expert jury with Chris Callewaert – the winner of 2013 – as a chairman.
This time our PhDs shared some pretty amazing projects that gave us a lot of food for thought. After a short introduction the lights faded out and one by one our contestants took the stage.
The first was Pieter Bonte with his research that investigated intrinsic arguments for and against interventions into human body and playing with Mother Nature. Tweets followed immediately:
“#tedxghent Pieter Bonte: a modern times philosopher on the ‘talentocracy’ and double standards on doping”
Excited by such a challenging start the audience was eager to stay amazed. Violet Atieno Oloibiri presented her latest findings in advanced treatment of landfill leachate, and the audience responded:
“#tedxghent Violet Iloibiri: current treatment techniques of waste water are failing. Ozonation to the rescue!”
Then there was Jonas Anseeuw with a new eHealth fall detection technology that could potentially diminish fall incidents among the elderly; and Joliene De Waele with her clear explanations of bio-ethanol origins of every day products:
“Bioethanol is like an Oreo cookie!”
Eliane Deschrijver revealed some mysteries of our brain, and how it functions in social situations, and made the audience believe that we are one step closer to understanding autism. And from Laurine Burford we learned about electric cable bacteria, which a human eye could not see.
Bart Desmet brought into light an issue of suicidal behavior and presented a computer program that is able to detect it in social media and prevent suicide. Christina Resetco warned us about the poor quality of our indoor air, and presented her “smart” coating that can trap dangerous chemicals in our homes.
We learned from Bruno Levecke that papaya was a super hero fruit in combatting parasites, and were taken away by a passionate presentation by Vishvas Pandey, who revealed some secrets of our Universe through nutrinos.
Michaël Van Damme wound up the contest part with Nirvana’s “Smells like teen spirit” and his witty presentation on what scientists should do to have a greater impact, and his idea that the delivery of your message “has more impact than what you say.”
So, let us all be charismatic and witty!
It was a tough choice to select only one out of eleven brilliant presentations. After half an hour of deliberation, the TEDxGhent jury selected the winner – Laurine Burdorf with her research on microbial electricity. Michaël Van Damme and Pieter Bonte shared the second and the third seat. All three will get to have a three-minute slot on the main stage of our TEDxGhent conference in June and present their ideas to the world.
The audience also got to select their favorite presentation, and the majority of votes went to Violet Atieno Oloibiri.
Maybe next year you will be the winner?
You still have the chance to see the winners of our PhD contest at our annual conference, and we look forward to welcoming you at TEDxGhent in June!