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Harvard Horizons Symposium Highlights Work of Ph.D. Candidates

Eight Harvard Ph.D. students presented their research and innovations at a Wednesday afternoon symposium in Sanders Theatre.
Eight Harvard Ph.D. students presented their research and innovations at a Wednesday afternoon symposium in Sanders Theatre. By Kai R. McNamee
By Edward W. Carr and Karina G. Gonzalez-Espinoza, Contributing Writers

Eight Ph.D. candidates presented their dissertation research to the public at the the Harvard Horizons Symposium held Wednesday evening in Sanders Theater.

The program, launched in 2013, provides Horizon Scholars in-depth mentoring and training to better their presentation and communication skills. Eight students are selected each fall, and they spend the spring semester working intensively with staff at the Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning, as well as with faculty and their fellow scholars.

"The purpose of the program is to promote interaction and collaboration across disciplines and to help students build the critical communication skills that enable them to share their work with a broader audience, whether inside the academy or outside,” said Sheila Thomas, the GSAS dean for academic programs and diversity.

Each of the eight Ph.D. students had five minutes to introduce their research topic, present their findings, and discuss the implications of their research.

Argyro Nicolaou, a comparative literature student and one of this year’s scholars, said improving her communication skills formed her main reason for applying.

“I wanted to do Harvard Horizons because I love being able to communicate my work to a wider audience. Often times during the Ph.D. we become quite technical,” Nicolaou said. “I just wanted to get the opportunity to train myself and become more exposed to a more accessible mode of communication.”

Physics Ph.D. candidate Christie Chiu, who is studying quantum mechanics and electron movement, said that, while doing research is important in itself, it is also important to be able to communicate that research to others.

“Communication happens on different levels,” Chiu said. “On one level it’s communicating with professors... but it’s also communicating to the broader community, and Harvard Horizons is the most open to the public.”

The organizers of Harvard Horizons said they have worked each year to improve the program based on student feedback.

“The Harvard Horizons program has evolved over time as we learn from each cohort,” Pamela Pollock, director at the Bok Center and lead mentor for Harvard Horizons, wrote in an email.

Pollock wrote the program has specifically improved the faculty mentoring aspect, working to provide one-on-one mentorship with faculty members within and without a scholar’s discipline.

Chiu called the event “a celebration of all the different subfields.”

“I want to highlight how great all the talks are,” Chiu said. “Not only from the sciences like myself, but also humanities, social science, philosophy, psychology, urban planning.”

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