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Lightning Talks

Lightning Talks are five-minute, highly focused talks designed to showcase interesting projects, spark discussion, and ignite collaborations across diverse research fields. This format is an excellent opportunity to practice presentation and communication skills in an informal setting, as speakers focus on key messages with clarity and precision rather than providing the detail and depth required in a longer presentation.

Lightning Talks will be held from 11:10 a.m. to 12:05 p.m. on April 2 in the McCormick Auditorium at Norris University Center on the Evanston campus.


Undergraduate and graduate students from all disciplines at Northwestern are eligible to present a Lightning Talk.

Eight speakers will be selected to present at CoDEx based on their submissions. We encourage submissions from all research areas to showcase the breadth of the research activities at Northwestern.

Submission Materials

The following materials will be required to be considered for selection:

  • Title: Limit to 20 words or less.
  • List of Authors: List all authors who contributed to the work presented.
  • Research Abstract: Describe your key research questions and findings. Abstracts should be written for a broad audience, avoiding field-specific language and limited to 300 words or less.
  • Relevance to CoDExProposals should embrace the themes of computational and data-enabled research and be limited to 250 words or less. Presentations should describe the motivation of the research and outcomes.

Evaluation Criteria

Judges will include Research Computing and Data Services staff and Northwestern researchers. Submissions will be evaluated based on their clarity and relevance to CoDEx's computational research focus, and they will be balanced based on their topics to provide a broad representation of the research activities at Northwestern.

Key Dates

  • March 4: Submission materials due.
  • March 8: Applicants notified of acceptance.
  • March 11–28: Selected speakers sign up for one coaching session and one dry-run session for their presentation. Draft slides will be due at this time. Download the slide templates for use at the symposium.
  • March 29: Invited speakers finalize their presentation in a standard template and upload slides in PDF format.
  • April 2: Lightning Talk presentation at CoDEx.

Coaching and Dry-Run Sessions

Research Computing and Data Services (RCDS) staff will offer coaching and dry-run sessions to all selected speakers to help you refine your presentation and deliver an impactful talk.

Preparing for Your Coaching Session

  • Come prepared with at least three to five draft slides to get feedback from your Lightning Talk coach.
  • These slides need not be final. You can have several alternate versions that your coach can help you choose from to showcase your research best.
  • Focus on one key message or research question.
  • Highlight the computational and data-intensive parts of your work.
  • Prepare your slides for a diverse audience.
  • Follow the standard template provided by RCDS.

Preparing for Your Dry-Run Session

  • Upload your finalized slides in PDF format before your dry run.
  • Understand How to Deliver an Impactful Talk information on this page.
  • Frame and rehearse your narrative a few times before the dry run.
  • Time yourself – Lightning Talks will be strictly limited to five minutes.

How to Deliver an Impactful Talk

When writing your abstract, consider your motivation. Why are you passionate about this topic? What did you do to answer your research question, what answers did you find, and why were your results significant?

When crafting your Lightning Talk, keep your message simple, start strong, and tell a story.

Lean In

Distill your ideas to their essence – find words and images that matter. The goal is to inspire your audience to research the subject after the presentation rather than orally or visually flooding them with all the information about a topic in the shortest time possible.

Deliver Elegantly

Frame your narrative to establish credibility with your audience at the start. Begin with a research question and follow up with experimental methods and results. Focus on logical transitions to help you stay on track and confidently convey the key messages of your presentation so that the audience can learn something. Most importantly, maintain a consistent energy and excitement to keep your audience engaged.

End with Impact

Consider ending with a relatable or inspirational statement that connects with your audience. Concluding with a thought-provoking quote, a powerful statistic, or a compelling anecdote related to your topic can leave a positive and lasting impression.

Additional Resources