ASCB’s 60-Second Elevator Speech Video Contest winner Stephen DelSignore with his super prize--cool wireless earphones. ASCB photo by John Fleischman

ASCB’s 60-Second Elevator Speech Video Contest winner Stephen DelSignore with his super prize–cool wireless earphones. ASCB photo by John Fleischman

You can buy almost anything on Amazon.com but Steven DelSignore, a postdoc at Brandeis University found a cellular metaphor, free of charge, in the online retailer’s warehouse system. He compared Amazon’s sorting and dispatch system to protein sorting and trafficking in cells. The metaphor and DelSignore’s no-nonsense delivery style convinced the judges of the 60-Second Elevator Speech Video Contest held at ASCB 2016 in San Francisco to award him top prize. This year, it was a pair of Powerbeats3 Wireless In-Ear Headphones which, incidentally, were ordered through Amazon by ASCB’s Public Information and Public Policy committees, co-organizers of the contest.

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The idea of the Elevator Speech Contest is to imagine yourself with a trapped lay audience and with one minute to convince your fellow passengers—a U.S. Senator, Lin-Manuel Miranda, or a skeptical family member—of the importance of your scientific research. Out of 15 entries submitted by attendees at ASCB 2016, the Elevator Speech judges also named three Honorable Mentions.

 

Samantha Sellers, East Carolina University, managed to use the word “autophagy,” without scaring off a lay viewer by quickly explaining that it was a recycling system for cells. Autophagy—and what goes wrong—is the focus of her research into runaway immune signaling that drives arthritis.

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Angie Hilliker, an assistant professor at the University of Richmond, told how a sister’s kidney disease turned her educational interest toward cell biology and eventually toward research into mRNA protein complexes.

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Tyler Allen, a grad student, at North Carolina State University, works on stem cell infusion therapy to jump start muscle regeneration for cardiac disease patients. Allen wowed the judges by carefully thanking the American taxpayer and the National Institutes of Health for funding his lab’s research.

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John Fleischman

John is ASCB Senior Science Writer and the author among other things of two nonfiction books for older children, "Phineas Gage: A Gruesome But True Story About Brain Science" and "Black & White Airmen," both from Houghton-Mifflin-Harcourt, Boston. Email: jfleischman@ascb.org