Josh Bernin had a day to remember recently when he earned his master’s degree in May from University of Wisconsin-Stout.
Then, he had another special moment two months later, in early August, when he took second in a statewide research, ideas and innovation competition and took another step forward in his education journey.
Bernin competed in the WiSys Quick Pitch state finals held at UW-La Crosse. Given his inexperience with public speaking and having to go in front of other competitors, UW System officials and more, he was delighted with the results and the learning experience.
“It was one of my first times speaking in front of 100 people, and my heart was racing. The people and other competitors at the event were awesome, providing support to help calm my nerves. It was an awesome experience, and I would do it again,” Bernin said.
The competition brought together the winners from Quick Pitch events at UW System campuses. They had three minutes to impress the judges. Bernin, who graduated May 7 with a master’s in food science and technology, presented “Developing Protein Rich Higher Fiber and Antioxidant Cranberry Pomace Infused Soy Flour and Rice Flour Blend Extruded Fried Snack.”
“My reaction to placing second was disbelief. I knew that I had polished my speech and did my homework. However, the other competitors were very strong speakers, and I feel like all competitors were within a couple points of each other. After I got over the disbelief, I felt proud,” said Bernin, of White Bear Lake, Minn.
Competitors were judged on the effectiveness of their research pitch and its potential value to society.
“The research I worked on was how to add cranberry pomace to an extruded snack and see how the cranberry pomace influenced physical, nutritional and sensory aspects of the snack,” he said.
Bernin doesn’t plan to pursue his idea as a business. However, he is continuing his food science and technology studies and research this fall as a Ph.D. student at Washington State University in Pullman, Wash.
He worked as a research assistant in the Food Process Engineering Research Lab at UW-Stout under Assistant Professor Pranabendu Mitra, who also was his program director and thesis adviser. Mitra received research funding through UW-Stout’s Evelyn Van Donk Steenbock Endowed Chair and a WiSys Spark grant.
“His research has a great importance for the sustainability of the cranberry juice processing industry and soy processing industry,” Mitra said.
The spark for Bernin’s research came while working on a related cranberry extrudates project under Mitra. “He did a wonderful job by doing proper research design, conducting research and analyzing data,” Mitra said.
UW-Stout Chancellor Katherine Frank moderated the state finals, and UW-Stout’s Office of Research and Sponsored Programs was a partner with WiSys in supporting Quick Pitch.
“It’s a wonderful way for students to showcase their creative and innovative spirit by presenting their research findings and/or original ideas,” said Anne Hoeltke, ORSP director. “UW-Stout supports this competition to encourage innovative and entrepreneurial thinking and empowers students to consider the impact of their research or innovative ideas and how this could ultimately benefit or impact the local economy.
“Having Josh take second place at the state level competition demonstrates the creativity, innovation and support that our students are receiving at Stout,” she added.
Bernin credited Mitra, communications professors Becky DeGreeff and Amanda Brown and ORSP Research Program Coordinator Chela Cea with helping him prepare for the state finals. The event took place as part of the WiSys Spark Symposium in early August.
WiSys is an independent, nonprofit organization that serves as the technology transfer office for the UW System, supporting the creation and transfer of innovation from the UW System to the marketplace.
UW-Stout Quick Pitch, poster showcase
To advance to the state final, Bernin won the UW-Stout Quick Pitch competition on May 3 against seven other students, part of Research Day on campus. He also was the People’s Choice award winner.
The judges were Frank, Associate Dean Kevin Drzakowski and Hoeltke.
The UW-Stout runner-up was William Kunkel, of Jim Falls, who graduated in May in mechanical engineering. His presentation was “High Performance Computing Policies in Undergraduate Education.”
The UW-La Crosse event included the Student Research Poster and Innovation Showcase. Two UW-Stout students, also supported by ORSP, presented:
- Areeba Ali, of Lahore, Pakistan, M.S. food science and technology, “Beet Powder Fortified Muffins”; event faculty adviser, Mitra.
- Heidi Erickson, of Grantsburg, doctorate in career and technical education, “Preparing Young Adults Through Multiskilling to Meet Industry 4.0 Needs and Beyond”; event faculty adviser, Urs Haltinner.
The Spark Symposium annually highlights research, innovation and entrepreneurship across the UW System, including faculty, staff, students and alumni.