Two UMaine Ph.D. students win BioME Showcase awards

Two University of Maine Ph.D. students won first and third place in the college division of the 2021 Bioscience Association of Maine (BioME) Student Showcase. 

The annual competition, hosted virtually this year, tasks college and high school students, who participate in separate divisions, with presenting life-science focused research projects to win cash and academic prizes. According to BioME, 10 undergraduate and graduate students, including several from UMaine, delivered three-minute presentations with slides and answered judge questions during the college fast-pitch segment of the contest on April 28 and 29. 

Avery Bond, a Ph.D. student of microbiology, won first place for her presentation titled “Characterizing JC polyomavirus infection to identify potential targets for future therapies.” Michael Wilczek, also a Ph.D. student of microbiology, won third place for his presentation titled “Generating and analyzing large datasets to address questions in biomedical science.” Watch their presentations online

UMaine associate professor of microbiology Melissa Maginnis advises both students, who work in her lab and are part of the Department of Molecular and Biomedical Sciences. 

“These awards highlight the importance of effective scientific communication, and Avery and Michael are skilled presenters that can utilize graphics and oral communication skills to convey complex results to a broad audience,” Maginnis says. 

Prior to attending UMaine, Bond, a Jefferson, Maine native, earned her bachelor’s degree in biological and biomedical sciences from the University of New England in 2019. She also won the Best Presentation in Biomedical Sciences by a Graduate Student award at the 2021 and 2020 UMaine Student Symposium. 

“Participating in the BioME competition was an extraordinary experience,” Bond says. “Condensing scientific findings into a short presentation is a challenge, but science communication is arguably the most important and rewarding component of research.” 

Wilczek, a Marcy, New York native, earned his bachelor’s degree in biology from SUNY Albany in 2013. Since joining UMaine, he has earned several awards, including the Outstanding Graduate Student in Molecular & Biomedical Science, the Edith M. Patch Award and Outstanding Service Award this year. 

“I enjoy any opportunity to present my research,” Wilczek says. “Articulating your scientific findings to communicate to a general audience effectively is always a goal of mine, and this skill is critical to have more than ever.”

The goal of the BioME Student Showcase is to support innovation and commercialization of student ideas in Maine. As a result of having to shift the event to a virtual setting due to COVID-19, the organization opened the college segment of the showcase to the public this year, which allowed industry professionals, mentors, and friends to watch online.  

Contact: Marcus Wolf, 207.581.3721;