Learning by doing: it’s never too early!

History was made as Mert Astam, Dr. Danqing Liu’s PhD student, won both the public vote and jury’s prize for best pitch at the 3rd ICMS PhD publication competition. Mert’s win of the public vote was announced first by the jury and was met with modest cheering from his group. Mert’s group suspected this win would mean the jury’s prize would go to another contestant, as no contestant had ever won both prizes before. This made the announcement of Mert’s win of the jury’s prize all the more unexpected. In fact, Danqing had already stopped listening to the results at that point. She suddenly become aware of Mert’s win from the loud, jubilant cheers from the rest of the audience. Danqing became so elated that she could not keep her feet on the ground! She hopped around the audience as she celebrated Mert’s great achievement.

Funnily enough, Danqing had initially advised Mert not to submit his paper to this competition. Mert is a first-year PhD student and he was planning to submit a publication based on his first year’s work. Therefore, Danqing assumed that Mert’s submission would not be able to compete with the submissions from more senior PhD students who typically participate in the ICMS PhD publication competition. Luckily, Danqing changed her mind and thought “what would we lose if we gave it a try?” She advised Mert to try his luck anyway, albeit two hours before the deadline for submission! To their great delight, Mert’s paper was select out of 23 other submissions and made it to the finals! This was an achievement in of itself, as Mert’s paper had competed with publications from 4th year PhD students.

Upon hearing this great news, Mert got to work and began honing his pitching skills. Many hours were spent presenting to mirrors or to colleagues caught walking in the corridor by Mert. Every detail of the accompanying slides for the pitch were painstakingly studied and adjusted, aiming to get the presentation just right. Yet, all this toil paid off as Mert delivered an impactful presentation at the competition. An exceptional performance by Mert was very much needed as he had very strong competitors, the majority of which were senior year PhD students. Mert was the only first-year PhD student among the finalists and is the only first-year PhD student to win the ICMS PhD publication competition!

As a result of this great triumph, Mert will receive a cash prize of 350 euros. More excitingly though, Mert is invited to present in the ICMS symposium to be held in March 2023. Mert says he “seeks to add the same vigor” to this event as he did in the ICMS PhD publication competition. If you wish to see Mert in action, make sure to attend the symposium and witness his work yourself!

Correspondence Mert Astam