Award Competition Guidelines & Winners

Engineering Research Symposium Competition Guidelines

Poster sessions are College-level competitions across all Departments/Programs for students. These sessions are intended to highlight the research achievements demonstrated by our students. The focus of the sessions will be on communication of the participants’ work to a non-expert engineering audience.

Students of all disciplines may self-select into the Emerging Research Competition or Advanced Research Competition based on their individual circumstances.

Advanced Research Competition Guidelines

The Advanced Research Competition is intended for Ph.D. students who are in years 3-5 or entered the Ph.D. program with a Master’s degree.

Emerging Research Competition Guidelines

The Emerging Research Competition is intended for Masters students and Ph.D. students who are in the first 2 years of study.

All posters will qualify to win awards in one of four categories, with awards going to the highest scoring posters from each category. The judging rubric for the posters is available here.

Interested students must first submit an abstract for the competitions.

  • Abstract entries will be due on XXX, by 11:59 p.m.
  • A committee of postdoctoral judges will assess the abstracts and select the top scoring abstracts to invite to the competitions for poster submissions.
  • Poster contest abstract entries can be submitted by visiting the “Abstract Submission” section of the website.

All posters will qualify to win awards in one of four categories, with awards going to the highest scoring posters from each category. The judging rubric for the posters is available here. The judges will be invited faculty and alumni from all disciplines of engineering.

Poster Sessions Award Categories:

  • Science Communication
  • Engineering Innovation
  • Social Impact
  • Fundamental Research

Winners from each category will be announced at the Awards Ceremony on the evening of the symposium. Winners will receive a certificate and a prize of up to $800 each for the Advanced Research Competition, and up to $400 each for the Emerging Research Competition.

Scientific Visualization Competition Guidelines

The Scientific Visualization Contest is intended to be a visual record of the aesthetic and science of the diversified research done at UM, to be shared both with fellow researchers and the general public. Four finalists will compete for the Best Visualization Award. Movies/animations are judged by overall quality, how they illuminate science, and for creative innovations in the movie production process.

Please note that the Scientific Visualization Contest is not a venue for technical posters (which can be submitted through the normal abstract submission), nor student posters.

  • Scientific Visualization entries will be due on October 10, 2018, by 11:59 p.m.
  • The entries must include the title of the visualization. The primary author will be the one creating the submission. Additional author list and affiliations can be provided at the time of submission.
  • Scientific Visualization Contest entries can be submitted here

There will also be live displays throughout the symposium so that attendees can enjoy the latest in science and engineering results expressed through state-of-the-art visualization technologies. Special screening of the four finalists during the Towner session will also occur.

Review and Selection Process

Submissions need to include a movie (up to 1GB in size). Each submission will be reviewed by the Visualization Showcase Committee. Criteria for review include:

  • How effective is the visual communication of the data?
  • What engineering innovation is showcased in  the visualization?
  • What is the impact of the science story and how well is it told?
  • What visualization techniques were necessary to create the movie?

Scientific Visualization Submission Process

  1. All entries to the contest must create a submission entry (title, authors, affiliations, contact information and copyright permissions) by October 10, 2018 to enable the organizers to complete the program listing for the meeting.
  2. Authors must agree to make their entry available to the public
  3. The video may use any codec format and resolution (1920 x 1080 recommended), but must meet the following guidelines:
    1. Maximum length of 2:00 minutes. Longer entries will be truncated abruptly at the maximum length.
    2. Audio can be included as part of the video, but will not be played at the symposium due to possible interference with nearby exhibits. The judges will be able to listen to the audio however, during the judging process. Please note: copyrighted music or other audio must be properly licensed so that the video can be made available under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License and hosted on third-party services such as YouTube, Vimeo, etc.
    3. Scientific Visualization Contest entries can be submitted here

Best Visualization Award

After accepted authors present their work, a committee will select a submission for the Best Visualization Award. The Best Visualization Award with a prize of up to $500 will be presented to the winner during the Awards Reception.

Richard and Eleanor Towner Prize for Outstanding Ph.D. Research Guidelines

This is a College-level competition across all Departments/Programs for Ph.D. graduate students who are on-track to receive (graduate with) their degree between May 2020 – December 2020. It is intended to highlight the creativity and outstanding research achievements demonstrated by our Ph.D. students. Departments/Programs may each present up to two graduate students for this award. Candidates will give a 5-minute lightning talk followed by a poster session at the Engineering Research Symposium. A committee will select three student winners for this award.

Eligibility Criteria and Selection of Candidates

  • Criteria for the award: creativity and outstanding research achievement.
  • Graduate chairs can present up to two Ph.D. students as candidates for this award. To identify their candidate(s), we recommend using a process that allows nominations from both students and faculty, including student self-nominations.
  • Students must be on-track to receive (graduate with) their Ph.D. degree between May 2020 – December 2020.
  • Department/Program submission deadline: XXX

Nomination package must include the following as a single PDF in the order listed

  • Student personal statement (1-page max) explaining:
    • Why they should be selected for the Towner session
    • How the student and/or their research has been involved in/impacted our local or a broader community.
      • Examples include but are not limited to: involvement in student organizations, serving as a GSI, volunteer activities, and research impact on a specific community.
  • Two letters of recommendation (one from the student’s advisor)
  • The student’s CV with links to publications and/or patents
  • One-page abstract on the work the student will present at ERS
    • The abstract may include 1 figure as a part of the single page abstract. Abstracts should not exceed 1 page. See abstract template for guidelines.
    • Abstracts will be available online on the ERS website

Departments/Programs should submit these documents as one PDF file with the nomination form


  • Friday, XXX: Department/Program nominations due
  • Monday, XXX: Nominees notified with oral presentation instructions
  • Wednesday, XXX: Poster submissions due in landscape or portrait PPT and PDF format.
  • Wednesday, XXX: Lightning talk presentations due in PPT or PDF format
  • Thursday, XXX: Tech test-run session for lightning talks. Presenters will not be able to use their own laptops.
  • Friday, XXX: Presentations and Awards Banquet

Awards & Review Process

  • Candidates will be judged on their submitted materials and oral presentation by a committee of judges during the Engineering Research Symposium 
    • The judging rubric will assess research quality, effective communication, and broader impact 
  • Three winners will each receive $2,500. Winners will be announced at the Awards Banquet on the evening of ERS.
  • Winners will be highlighted on the CoE website 
  • Winners will be honored at the CoE Leaders & Honors Brunch in March

Questions about the Richard and Eleanor Towner Prize for Outstanding Ph.D. Research can be directed to

People’s Choice Awards

For each of the two main poster sessions (Emerging Research and Advanced Research), and the Scientific Visualization competition, all attendees will have an opportunity to vote on their favorite submissions. An electronic voting station will be present at the ERS to cast a vote. The author of the poster from each session and the Scientific Visualization competition with the largest number of votes will be recognized at the awards ceremony with a certificate and will receive a prize of up to $250.

Student Community Involvement

Non-presenting graduate students have the opportunity to win raffle prizes based on their involvement in ERS!

  • Graduate students who provide feedback to undergraduates at their poster exhibition will receive one raffle ticket for each student they provide feedback for, at the discretion of the presenters 
  • Graduate students who attend the professional development workshops will receive one raffle ticket for each workshop they attend. Visit the registration booth to receive your raffle tickets based on the attendance from these events.
  • Graduate students who vote for the People’s Choice awards will receive one raffle ticket for each vote 
  • Graduate students who visit the sponsor information booths will receive a raffle ticket for each booth they visit 
  • Graduate students who attend the alumni networking session to completion will receive one raffle ticket 

At the end of the networking event (4:00-5:00 PM in the lower level of Duderstadt), tickets will be drawn for several prizes.

Award Winners
2018 Award Winners
2017 Award Winners
2016 Award Winners
2015 Award Winners
2014 Award Winners
2013 Award Winners