By Kevin Papierski, 2x RISE Judge.
I can always tell when my dogs have had an overstimulating day. At the end of it all, when we’re unwinding on the couch, they’ll curl up and fall into a deep sleep, and as soon as they hit R.E.M., their legs will start twitching and flailing uncontrollably. I call these “kicky dreams.” Every year I attend Northeastern’s RISE, I know I’m in for my own kicky dreams.
I had no idea what to expect when I first agreed to be a judge. I’m not a structural engineer, a molecular biologist, or a nanotechnologist, though I was assured that didn’t matter. I’m a designer. An artist. More generally, a communicator. But I have always had a healthy passion for cool ideas, regardless of discipline, so I was sufficiently intrigued to give it a go.
Walking the RISE floor and seeing the breadth of work being presented was overwhelming, in a good way. This, as it turns out, is the perfect place for someone like me. It is the ultimate buffet for the mind, a chance to see cutting-edge research on pretty much any topic: medicine, architecture, technology, sociology… whatever.
Of course, when I explore the expo, I’m looking through a very particular lens, one crafted over my entire professional life. Clarity, above all else, is what attracts my interest. Clean design and clear presentation. The underlying research and concepts in a particular project may be incredibly complicated, but even the most complex ideas can (and should) be distilled and crystallized into something that can be communicated quickly and effectively to someone with limited knowledge in that specific field.
I do understand the challenge this poses to the presenters. For me, design comes easily, but ask me to set up an experiment to reconstruct neuronal arbors from 3-D image stacks (whatever that means) and the fact that I’m not a neuroscientist will become readily apparent. Why shouldn’t I expect the reverse to be true? Here, however, the real magic of RISE comes into play: the face-to-face interaction with participants, a chance to speak directly about their projects.
To a person, every presenter I’ve met has been happy to explain their work in however much detail I’m willing to try to comprehend. But it’s more than that. I’m always impressed and inspired by the passion that becomes evident when they speak. I feel a kinship with them, because I can see the same insatiable curiosity we share, whatever our chosen field, and it’s a beautiful thing. A topic I had never given a second thought just a few minutes earlier becomes absolutely riveting, and I find myself thinking about it days or even months later.
I can’t speak for the presenters, having never experienced RISE from their perspective, but for me, it’s this direct sharing of ideas that makes the event so rewarding. It’s what gives me kicky dreams, and we could all use a little more of that in our lives.
Want to hear presenters speak about the RISE experience? Read “RISE Awards: Grit over Glamour.”
Thinking about attending RISE:2018? Read “Why might one attend RISE?”