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CWE Mini-Conference

Fall 2023

photo: Natalie Gayoso

The Center for Water and the Environment (CWE) held its first mini-conference in May 2021 over Zoom and was started as a student-built initiative. The first time around, students gave 10-minute presentations on their ongoing research. Our intention in continuing the mini-conference is to provide opportunities and strengthen the presentation and communication skills of our students as they become confident and competitive researchers on a national level.

photo: 2021 Zoom conference screenshots

We’re excited to give it another go and change the format a bit. The event will be in-person and student participants can choose to participate in a poster or 90-second perfect pitch session or they can participate in both. Mini-conference participation is not limited only to CWE students. Any UNM undergraduate or graduate student can participate as long as their research (or proposed research) focuses on water and the environment and broadly supports the CWE’s mission. All participants must submit an abstract for each session in which they will participate. Experience with pitches, posters, or conferences is not required, we encourage participation at all levels!

CWE Mini-Conference Date & Time

Friday, September 29, 1:00 – 3:00 PM
Located in STAMM Common Room, Centennial Engineering Center, Room 1044, UNM Main Campus


1:00 – Opening Remarks
1:10 – 2:00 Perfect Pitch Session
2:00 – 2:50 Poster Session
3:00 – Closing remarks

Submit Your Abstract(s)

Submit your abstract for either Perfect Pitch or Poster sessions here:


Abstract criteria:

  • Abstract submissions should be no more than 200 word
  • Research objective(s)
  • Experimental design (completed or proposed)
  • Most significant result(s) or anticipated result(s)
  • Impact of the research project

Perfect Pitch Session

Instead of traditional talk, we are asking students to answer the following three questions in 90 seconds: (1) what real-life problem their research addressed - or is to be addressed, (2) how they solved it - or will solve it - in a unique way, and (3) what impact it would have for society and in achieving the CWE’s mission—they learn a succinct way of talking about their research in the context of societal needs and the broader impact of their success. This mini-conference perfect pitch session is modeled after the National Science Foundation (NSF) Engineering Research Center (ERC) Perfect Pitch Competition. Each 90-second pitch should be accompanied by one digital slide.

Perfect Pitch Slide criteria:

Purpose of slide

  • Serve as a visual reference to help the audience remember your pitch
  • The visual complement to your pitch

Slide Format

  • Students are encouraged to be creative
  • Although the pitch must address the problem/opportunity, solution, and impact, slide content is not prescriptive
  • Videos, animations, and props are prohibited


NSF-ERC Perfect Pitch Competition 2019 Winner

2022 NSF ERC Perfect Pitch Competition (whole competition)

Poster Session

Students will create a research poster to showcase their current, completed, or proposed research. The poster should include at the top: 1) the title of the research; 2) the author and co-authors; and 3) funding sources, if established. The body of the poster should include 1) introduction/research background; 2) methodology; 3) results and discussion of significant findings; 4) broader impact of results; and 5) future direction of research. Students should be able to effectively communicate the scope of their poster within 4 minutes.

The NSF ERC’s How to Prepare an Effective Poster ppt is a very a great reference for how to create an effective conference poster.

Poster dimensions:

  • Maximum poster size is 36” x 42” (recommended not to go under 24” x 36”)/li>
  • Poster can be vertically or horizontally oriented

Poster printing details:

  • CWE will offer poster printing sessions for participants on September 25 & 26; printing details will be coordinated directly with poster session participants./li>
  • Printing your poster through an outside vendor is allowed, however, CWE will not cover printing costs if you decide to print your poster through an outside vendor (i.e. UNM Print Shop, FedEx, etc.)/li>
  • Posters should be designed and printed in color

Poster Judging Criteria:

  • To what extent does the student show a grasp of the material in both the presentation and responses to questions?
  • To what extent does the student clearly present the importance of the work and how others will benefit from it?
  • To what extent is the information displayed in a logical, interesting format that is easy to follow?
  • To what extent do the graphics explain and support the main results and conclusion of the research?
  • To what extent is text used intentionally to explain and support the presentation? Is the poster too word-heavy?
  • To what extent does the student with the audience? Is there minimal reading from the poster? Does the student present without notes?

Prizes for Perfect Pitch and Poster Sessions

The CWE offers 4 prizes total for the mini-conference session. Each session will award two, $100 gift cards to the UNM Book Store. In each session there will be a winner chosen by the judging panel and another winner chosen by the mini-conference participants (a “people’s choice” award).

Mini-conference Prep “Drop-In” Hours

There will be drop-in hours (in the fashion of office hours for courses) where students can show up and utilize that time to get help on writing an abstract (prior to Sept. 18), creating/structuring/editing their poster or pitch slide, or practicing their talks or pitches. This time is made for asking questions whether you’ve never been to a conference or you’ve been to many and want more details about these sessions.

DAY/TIME for drop-in hours: Thursdays (Sept 7, 14, 21, 28), 11:00 am – 12:00 PM

LOCATION for drop-in hours: Centennial Engineering Center, 3rd floor conference room 3031

* CENT 3031 is unavailable to us on Sept 21, alternate location TBD