ReNUWIt Graduate Student Wins Statewide Contest for Explaining His Engineering Research

Achievement date: 

Doctoral candidate Joe Charbonnet won the statewide University of California Grad Slam competition in which students explain their research to the public. A researcher at the National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded Engineering Research Center (ERC) for Re-inventing the Nation's Urban Water Infrastructure (ReNUWIt), Charbonnet won earlier contests at the Center, in an ERC-wide competition, and the UC Berkeley campus. ReNUWIt is based at Stanford University with NSF funding.


The ability to explain engineering research is increasingly important as funding grows more competitive and science more complex. Charbonnet said he entered the Grad Slam contest to sharpen his skills at answering high-level questions such as “Why are you studying this? Why is this important?” Answering those questions helps contextualize and defend research, ensuring that it remains useful to society and attractive to funding agencies.


Charbonnet’s talk, “A Stormwater Solution,” described how sand coated with manganese oxide can be used to remove contaminants from stormwater. He initially won first place in 2014 in presenting his research at the ReNUWIt Perfect Pitch competition, followed by first prize in the 2014 ERC Program-wide Lynn Preston Perfect Pitch Competition. Next, he won first place and the People’s Choice award at the 2018 Grad Slam contest at the University of California at Berkeley, and then won first place in the UC system-wide competition.