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Published: 2022-02-22

IceLab relaunches the Lunch Pitches after a two year gap

NEWS IceLab relaunches the Lunch Pitches on Tuesday March 1st with two pitches from Merve Yesilbas and Signe Lundqvist on water on Mars and molecule motion.

Text: Gabrielle Beans

The Integrated Science Lab, IceLab, launched the Lunch Pitches in 2015, with the aim of helping researchers in Umeå cross disciplinary boundaries and create the conditions for unexpected collaborations and research directions to emerge. Whether or not a concrete outcome arises from a pitch, past pitchers agree that it gave them the chance to share their research with a wider audience.

Judith Sarneel, Research fellow at Department of Ecology and Environmental Sciences, presented a pitch in 2019 related to her tea-bag decomposition research. Thinking back on her pitch, she said "I think it has inspired people and has been a nice occasion to share my work in a broad audience.”

For Niclas Kaiser, Clinical psychologist and Associate Professor in Psychology, Dept of Psychology, Umeå University, there have been more concrete outcomes since his February 2020 pitch on two systems becoming one

"It was great! It was important to get the experience of reaching out to persons with other skill sets than mine. And, most important of all, to find shared questions that are important for both. To get away from the usual situation where the Math/AI-people help others with their methods. Concretely, the lunch pitch led to AI-seed money and applications for Kempe PostDocs and VR.”

Niclas Kaiser and Eric Libby, Associate professor at Department of Mathematics and Mathematical Statistics and IceLab member, co-supervised a Master’s student Cordelia Horns this past year on the project he presented, and they earned AI seed money to develop the idea further with a working group.

Pandemic Hiatus

The first lunch pitch was held November 14th, 2015, with Martin Rosvall speaking on the topic “How do we come up with and execute research ideas that are breaking boundaries?” closely followed by Karolina Broman, Department of Natural Sciences and Mathematics didactics, under the heading “Scientists as role models – students’ interest in and ideas about research and researchers”. Since then, Lunch Pitches have happened every year, until they were interrupted by the pandemic. 

There were two more sessions left of the IceLab Lunch Pitches in March 2020 when the pandemic began and everyone was asked to work from home. Since then, IceLab has held two online pitch events but has not tried to recreate the Lunch Pitch experience online. 

Why not? Maybe it comes down to the sandwiches, or the easy, free discussions between pitchers and audience in the in-person Lunch Pitches. 

“Most people eat lunch. It’s not that hard to convince someone to eat a free lunch while listening to a couple of people talking about something they find interesting and asking openly for your input. It helps attract a diverse set of people who may have shown up with just a casual interest, and then become interested in following up with the pitcher to chat about what they just heard. Now try making that happen online. It’s just not the same," says Gabrielle Beans, IceLab Lunch Pitch coordinator.

Stéphane Verger, Assistant Professor, Umeå Plant Science Centre and newly affiliated member of IceLab, presented a Lunch Pitch in February 2020 on the physical forces keeping cells together or pushing them apart. For him, the informal discussions with audience members strolling over to a corner of the room to chat with a pitcher are a highly-valued aspect of the Lunch Pitches, says Stéphane.   

“The most interesting was the informal discussion afterward with people asking follow up questions. It was a great opportunity to meet people that I think I wouldn't have easily met otherwise and a couple of them with who I would easily imagine starting a collaboration with in the future if the opportunity would come."

Now, finally, the pitches are back, with sandwiches and good conversation guaranteed.

The Lunch Pitches kick off on March 1st with Merve Yesilbas and Signe Lundqvist talking about water on Mars and the motions of molecules. Registration is required if you want a sandwich. 

What about giving a pitch yourself? Contact Gabrielle Beans to sign up for a future date, and follow Stéphane’s advice on how to prepare:

“This is a very nice experience. It doesn't take too much time to prepare since it is a short presentation and supposed to give an overview accessible to a wide public. So it is a bit like "explaining your research / scientific problem to your grand mother”.”

First Lunch Pitch 1 March 2022

Where: KBCon Glasburen 

When: March 1, 12pm

Pitch 1: Merve Yesilbas, Assistant Professor Department of Chemistry: Following the Water on Mars: Is it just a cold desert or habitable environment?

Pitch 2: Signe Lundqvist, PhD student Department of Mathematics and Mathematical Statistics: Can we use combinatorics to predict motions of molecules?


 Register by 10am February 28 to reserve your free lunch (sandwich, drink, and little sweet snack).

The IceLab Lunch Pitches are supported by KBC.