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Una Europa PhD Slam - meet our winners!

On 4 November 2021 eight Una Europa PhD students presented their research in a 7-minute slam, competing for prizes of €1,000 for first place and €500 for second and third places. All participants presented research focused on the broad concept of sustainability, and the event aimed to showcase the depth and diversity of sustainability topics covered by PhD students within the alliance. Our three winners were chosen through public vote and a panel of academic and Communications experts.

Participants from Freie Universität Berlin, Alma Mater Studiorum Università di Bologna, Helsingfors universitet, Uniwersytet Jagielloński w Krakowie, KU Leuven and Universidad Complutense de Madrid took part in the public science slam, which was streamed live to YouTube. The Slam was hosted by Dr. André Lampe, a former physicist at Freie Universität Berlin and a poetry slammer and science slammer himself. The event was also part of this year’s Berlin Science Week programme, supported by the Falling Walls Foundation, and happened to take place at the same time as the annual University Alliances in Sustainability conference, also organized by Freie Universität Berlin.

" PhD students are very important for Una Europa because they build a bridge between the two missions that we have, in our educational and research ambitions within Una Europa. "

Verena Blechinger-Talcott, Vice-President for International Affairs at Freie Universität Berlin and former Chair of the Una Europa Board of Directors

A key motivation behind organizing the Una Europa PhD Slam was to connect PhD students working in the same research area from across the alliance, creating a community of like-minded individuals passionate about sustainability.

Interested in joining this community? Una Europa recently launched the Una Europa PhD Network, where PhD students can connect with peers at our eight partner universities. You can join our network now in three easy steps:

  1. Register with our external platform Lounjee.
  2. Login to your Lounjee account.
  3. You will get access to our events and you can start to build your own network.
  • 2nd place: Daniela Arias Molinares

  • 3rd place: Carolina Buendia Sarmiento

  • 1st place: René Reich

3rd place: Carolina Buendia Sarmiento, University of Helsinki

Carolina Buendia Sarmiento is a doctoral candidate at the University of Helsinki in the Political, Societal and Regional Change programme. Her research analyses how women's empowerment is affected by the increasing role of the private sector in funding of Finnish development policy initiatives in Kenya. Her Slam, titled “The private turn in women's empowerment”, aimed to spark interest in the role of the private sector in development cooperation for promoting the empowerment of women within the sphere of sustainability.

By exploring the many ways in which gender equality and sustainability matters intersect, Carolina secured third place by shedding light on issues that are often overlooked but nevertheless important to the construction of a sustainable future for all.

When asked about her experience of participating in the Una Europa PhD Slam, Carolina commented, “it was a huge learning experience throughout all stages of the process. I was able to develop a narrative around my research topic that was engaging and understandable for a diverse audience, I delivered my first presentation for an international audience and was able to spread the good word about an important topic.”

Carolina also noted how the event provided a good opportunity to develop unconventional strategies for science communication, present her research to an international audience and engage with other researchers from across Una Europa.

" The collaboration of several universities makes it possible to expand the audience you can engage with and showcase your work at European level... an incredible opportunity at any stage of your research career, but especially early on to open more doors. "

Carolina on the importance of giving researchers opportunities to connect.

2nd place: Daniela Arias Molinares, Universidad Complutense de Madrid

Daniela Arias Molinares is a PhD student based at Universidad Complutense de Madrid. Her presentation on micromobility in the age of COVID-19 took the form of a story, guiding the audience gently through her research in a way that was easy to follow yet impactful. She titled her Slam, “Micromobility meets COVID-19: fairy or scary tale?” and she utilised common story-telling tropes such as beginning “Once upon a time” and finishing with a “happily ever after” ending for her “Princess City” and “Prince Thesis”.

Her presentation explored the travel patterns of shared vehicles such as motorcycles, bicycles and scooters, which can be rented for a limited period of time, analysing the effects of COVID-19 on these patterns. This analysis can then be used to inform future decisions on where to add parking facilities, wider travel corridors and bicycle lanes in urban areas.

Daniela appreciated the chance to present her research to a “varied and multidisciplinary audience” through the PhD Slam, and described the challenge of effectively communicating the key ideas and motivations behind her research as “the best part of [her] experience”.

" I loved to see the how others found the way to talk about complicated subjects in an “elevator-pitch” format. It is a way of making science accessible for everyone. That’s very important. "

Daniela on the format of the PhD Slam.

And our winner: René Reich, KU Leuven

The winner of the first Una Europa PhD Slam is René Reich, a doctoral researcher in Circular Economy at KU Leuven, Belgium. Originally from Vienna, René has previously studied in Leoben and completed the EIT SUMA Master’s programme at KU Leuven and MU Leoben. His Slam was entitled “The Circularmeter” and presented his current research on Circular Economy.

René was the only participant not to use a visual presentation to accompany his talk, instead utilising physical props including a burger, a bucket and even a handbag made of a MacDonald’s box. His creativity shone throughout his presentation, keeping his audience engaged and entertained in equal measure. The fact that he enjoyed preparing for the Slam really reflected in his delivery, interacting with his audience. This is in contrast to his research style, which is independently led and largely consists of reading and programming.

When asked about his motivations behind participating in the Slam, René observed, “As a researcher, it is important to share your findings. Think about it: If you discovered something and nobody heard it, would you still discover it?”. He also recognised the impact of Una Europa organising the Slam, describing how collaboration between universities gives the chance for multiple perspectives that empower individuals and their institutions, as well as improving the teaching and research of all involved.

On the role of PhD students in realising Una Europa’s goal of creating the University of the Future, he commented “PhD [students] are the backbone of universities. We are students, researchers, teaching assistance, teachers, project managers and university ambassadors at once. I think it is great that Una Europa also reaches to the other university levels and includes the universities’ backbone.”

" As a die-hard European, I advise everybody to take part in this great idea we call “Europe”. Una Europa is a great possibility to broaden your horizon and meet mates from the best European universities. "

Rene on the added value of Una Europa for university partners.

Missed the first Una Europa PhD Slam? You can watch a recording of the full event on our YouTube channel.

The Una Europa PhD Slam was organised as part of the community-building initiatives of the 1Europe project, co-funded under Erasmus+.