Join Our E-Mail List
Research Events
For the Public
Northwestern University

Request a Speaker
Speaker Biographies

The Graduate Student Speaker Series (GS3) was launched in 2014 with two aims: to provide Northwestern Ph.D. candidates with an avenue for practicing their skills in communicating their research to a non-expert audience, and to help local high school STEM teachers stay up-to-date on the cutting-edge research being conducted at Northwestern. The program organizes visits from graduate students to local schools to talk about their research with small groups of teachers. The research presentations can be adjusted to fit the time available (20-45 minutes presentations) and are followed by questions and a discussion with the teachers about how the research content fits into their curriculum. We are primarily targeting graduate students who were fellows in either Reach for the Stars or Ready Set Go (RSG) to provide an opportunity for them to continue applying the teaching and communication skills that they developed in either of these programs.

If you are a graduate student who would like to practice your communication skills in a local high school, or a Chicagoland-area teacher or administrator who would like to bring GS3 to your school, contact the program coordinator Michelle Paulsen at

GS3 is supported by CIERA, the National Science Foundation, Northwestern University's Office for Research, the Graduate School at Northwestern, OSEP, and The Alumnae of Northwestern.

Graduate student Adam Weingarten shows Muchin College Prep teachers how light can be used to split water into hydrogen and oxygen gases, which can then be used as fuel to power a fan.

Graduate students Jessica Perez (left) and Jennifer Schoborg (right) discuss synthetic biology with a group of teachers at our February 6th GS3 kick-off event.

Upcoming GS3 Events

To schedule a GS3 event at your K12 school or district, please contact Michelle Paulsen (

Past GS3 Events

November 10, 2016 – Arindam Paul (Electrical Engineering and Computer Science) and Rachel Watson (Chemical and Biological Engineering) gave outstanding talks to a room packed with high school math and science teachers, and AP Chemistry students at Cary-Grove High School. Both PhD candidates explained their research, answered questions, and shared resources for introducing computational modeling and engineering design into the high school curriculum.

March 8, 2016 – Chicago Public Schools hosted their second GS3 event this academic year. STEM teachers from across the district were invited to come learn about computational sciences and connections to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Northwestern PhD students from the departments of Chemical & Biological Engineering, Integrated Biological Sciences, and Physics & Astronomy gave presentations on their research and answered questions. Curricular resources aligned with the practices identified in the NGSS, which connect these research topics to high school curriculum, were provided.

April 21, 2016 – The GS3 program visited the western suburbs at an event hosted by Glenbard East High School on April 21st. The event was open to all area science teachers. Zach Hafen (Physics and Astronomy), Jessica Stark and Rachel Watson (Chemical Engineering), Jessica Lenoir (Interdisciplinary Biological Sciences), Matthew Peter and Fernando Castro (Materials Science and Engineering) gave talks about their research and suggested ways to bring it into HS science classrooms.

February 9, 2016 – Our largest ever “Graduate Student Speaker Series” event was held at Vernon Hills High School on February 9th. Over 70 students, teachers, and school administrators attended the event to learn more about the latest in science research and contribute to discussions aimed at bringing hands-on inquiry lessons directly connected to the research into the high school curricula. Graduate student presenters were: Fernando Castro (Materials Science and Engineering), Alicia McGeachy (Chemistry), Jessica Stark (Chemical and Biological Engineering), Nancy Auyeung (Interdisciplinary Biological Sciences), Victoria Weidner (Chemistry), and CIERA’s own Zachary Hafen (Physics and Astronomy). Click here to view or download slides and handouts from the evening.

September 29, 2015 – Chicago Public Schools hosted a GS3 event for STEM teachers from across the district. CIERA graduate student Peter Ashton gave a presentation titled "Studying the Role of Magnetism in Star Formation with BLASTPol”. In this talk, Peter introduced interstellar magnetic fields, which can have a significant effect on the number and size of stars formed in our Galaxy. Researchers study the relationships between matter and magnetic fields in stellar nurseries in unprecedented detail using data from the Balloon-borne Large Aperture Submillimeter Telescope for Polarimetry (BLASTPol) and its upcoming successor, BLAST - The Next Generation (BLAST-TNG). In addition, Peter introduced teachers to a a lesson he designed for students to employ image analysis methods to orient themselves in a familiar physical space (Chicago), analogously to the way astronomers determine distances and sizes of astronomical objects.

Jennifer Schoborg and Albert Xue (Biological and Chemical Engineering) presented "Synthetic Biology: Reimagining the Living World” and "Classifying good and bad chocolate chip cookies with machine learning”. Matthew Peters (Materials Science and Engineering) introduced the field of Materials Science as well as the engineering practices identified in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) in his talk, "Materials Science and Engineering: From Nobel Prizes to Chocolate”.

After the talks, teachers were surveyed and 100% reported that attending the event increased their content understanding of science, and 100% reported that they would attend a future event or recommend it to a colleague. 84% reported that it helped them build a larger network of science teachers. In addition, the following comments were made by teachers:

“I liked the star formation information. I’ll incorporate it into my astronomy unit.”

“I have more ideas about making connections to synthetic biology in my curriculum and resources for teaching it.”

April 15, 2015 - Glenbrook South High School opened their doors to STEM teachers from 15 different high schools for an evening of professional development. The teachers were enthusiastic to learn about the research being conducted by graduate students from chemical and biological engineering, applied mathematics, and physics & astronomy. Thanks to Bola Adeniran, Jessica Perez, Ashty Karim, Paul Park, Nick Thornburg, and Meagan Morscher for their presentations and to Jennifer Schoborg for organizing the event.

March 5, 2015 - Matthew Peters (Materials Science and Engineering) visited Jones College Prep to provide an overview of his research and suggest ways to bring Materials Science and Engineering into the classrooms. The talk was attended by science, mathematics, and engineering teachers from around Chicago, as well as representatives from Chicago Public School’s central administration.
Event Flyer - "Materials Science and Engineering… from Nobel Prizes to Chocolate"

March 3, 2015 - CIERA’s own Megan Morscher was joined by Justin Finkle (chemical and biological engineering) and Alireza Talebpour (civil engineering) at Deerfield High School. They each gave presentations on their research, helping the teachers to make connections to their current curriculum and showcasing existing lessons from the Reach for the Stars and CT-STEM programs. Afterwards, one teacher wrote “The presentation was very engaging and knowledgable, nicely presented, organized. This directly relates to my biology classes - I will definitely integrate elements of this work!”

May 5, 2014 - Adam Weingarten (Chemistry) and Jessica Perez (Chemical and Biological Engineering) presented their research to teachers at Evanston Township High School. Twenty teachers from a variety of STEM disciplines attended the event.

April 28, 2014 - Justin Finkle (chemical and biological engineering) presented his research to teachers at Antioch Community High School. Eighteen teachers attended in total, including 12 from Antioch Community High School and 6 from Lakes Community High School.

February 6, 2014 - We held a kick-off event for GS3 in collaboration with Maine East High School in Park Ridge, which attracted more than 20 teachers from schools all over the Chicagoland area. After a pizza dinner (sponsored by OSEP), teachers attended two different hour-long sessions of their choosing. We offered seven concurrent sessions on a range of exciting research topics featuring presentations from the following graduate students: Justin Finkle, Jennifer Schoborg and Jessica Perez (Chemical and Biological Engineering); David Little (Communication Sciences and Disorders); Adam Weingarten and Alex Peroff (Chemistry); Emily Sun (Physics and Astronomy); and Joshua Townsend (Earth and Planetary Science). Many of the graduate student presenters were either former Reach for the Stars or Ready Set Go fellows.
Descriptions of the presentations from the GS3 kick-off

January 27, 2014 - Two former Ready Set Go fellows, Chen Wang (Mechanical Engineering) and Aaron Oppenheimer (Chemical and Biological Engineering), presented their research to STEM teachers at Lake View High School, a public school in Chicago. The event was attended by 24 STEM teachers from various disciplines.

January 10, 2014 - Two former Ready Set Go fellows, Adam Weingarten (Chemistry) and Bola Adeniran (Chemical and Biological Engineering), presented their research at our first GS3 event. The event was held at Muchin College Prep High School, a Charter school in downtown Chicago. Seven teachers from various STEM disciplines participated in the event.