Telling Story Key to International Lecture Competition Win

Undergraduate beats graduate students from seven countries to win international lecture event in London

David Kisailus and Brian Weden stand in Kisailus' lab

Brian Weden, right, works in the lab of David Kisailus, left, at UC Riverside’s Bourns College of Engineering.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. ( — A University of California, Riverside Bourns College of Engineering student won the 2012 Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining (IOM3) international lecture competition in London earlier this month.

Yes, there is a contest devoted to giving lectures about engineering. And, yes, Brian Weden, a materials science and engineering major at UC Riverside, won it. In fact, Weden, 21, the only undergraduate in the competition, beat students, ranging in age from 25 to 28, from seven countries and Florida.

Weden does research with David Kisailus, an assistant professor in the chemical and environmental engineering department. He credits Kisailus for developing his lecturing style, which focuses on telling stories, weaving in jokes and using a lot of images and few words on PowerPoint slides.

“David really instills in us not to give the standard, boring, cookie-cutter presentation: intro, experimental procedure, results, discussion,” Weden said. “He doesn’t want us to give a presentation. He wants us to just go up and tell a story.”

Kisailus had praise for Weden.

“He’s an incredibly quick learner,” Kisailus said. “He doesn’t stumble like a lot of students when something is out their comfort zone. He just gets it quickly. And he’s eloquent with his words.”

Weden, who expects to graduate from UC Riverside in 2013, grew up in Pasadena and graduated from Don Bosco Technical Institute in Rosemead, where he studied materials science.

“It was the high school for kids who played with LEGOs, construction sets and liked to take apart DVD players,” Weden said. “In other words: me.”

He selected UC Riverside because of its materials science program. His freshman year he enrolled in an introductory materials science class taught by Kisailus and caught the professor’s attention by answering many of the questions.

By Weden’s second year was working in Kisailus’ Biomimetics and Nanostructured Materials Lab under the supervision of Qianqian Wang, a Ph.D. student. He was funded by the National Science Foundation – Research Experiences for Undergraduates grant that Kisailus received from Dave Brant at NSF’s Division for Materials Research.

The work by Weden and Wang focuses on the sesame seed-size teeth of chiton, a type of mollusk. They are analyzing the structure of the teeth and seeking to use it as a model to design stronger tools and drill bits, dental tools, and even motorcycle gear. They have submitted a manuscript about their research to a highly ranked journal and plan to submit another one soon.

Prior to winning the Young Persons’ World Lecture Competition in London, Weden won the U.S. Western Regional Young Persons’ Lecture Competition, which was held in March at the UC Riverside Bourns College of Engineering. That event was coordinated by Mike Clinch, vice president of technology and innovation for Luxfer Gas Cylinders in Riverside and an active member of IOM3.

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