Future batteries and bionic hearing: next generation of researchers pitch it Clever

The next generation of batteries and bionic hearing are the two winners of a major research communications competition.

Winners of the Universities Australia’s annual Pitch It Clever competition, which challenges early career researchers to communicate their research to non-experts via short video “pitches”, were announced at the peak body’s major conference in Canberra today.

Elise Ajay, a researcher from The University of Melbourne won the Vice-Chancellor’s Award for her presentation on the future of bionic hearing. The Universities Australia Award went to Diego Holanda Pereira de Souza from Curtin University for his pitch on safer, cheaper and longer-lasting batteries.

Ms Ajay said she was “thrilled” to win the Vice-Chancellor’s award which is judged by eight university leaders.

“Being able to share my research is always a joy, and being awarded for talking about it is icing on the cake,” she said.

“Early career researchers often drive change and innovation, and supporting them through opportunities like Pitch It Clever helps them to stay engaged with both the research and wider communities to achieve that.”

Ms Ajay’s research explores how light and electrical impulses can be better used to improve the quality of bionic hearing devices. She has won a $3,000 cash prize and a media internship with The Conversation.

Mr Souza, an international PhD student from Brazil, said he felt “honoured and extremely happy” to win the Universities Australia award, which includes $1,000 in prize money.

“As an international student who came from a non-English speaking country, it makes me remember how hard it was for me to learn the language. I can now say that I am the winner of an award that is judged on communication skills.”

“Opportunities such as Pitch it Clever should be encouraged more to help scientists to improve their communications skills in a non-scientific language.”

Mr Souza’s research examines ways to replace the liquid in batteries with new solid materials that could make batteries smaller, cheaper, lighter and last longer.

Universities Australia Chief Executive Catriona Jackson congratulated all of this year’s competition winners and thanked the judges who helped to select this year’s awardees.

“Elise and Diego represent the next generation of research talent who are brimming with new ideas and expertise to solve problems facing every day Australians.”

“The value of great ideas is unlocked when researchers have the skills to communicate their work to all.”

The 2021 Pitch It Clever competition is generously supported by The Conversation.

You can find the submissions to this year’s competition on the Pitch It Clever website.

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