Richard and Eleanor Towner Prize for Outstanding Ph.D. Research Guidelines

This is a College-level competition across all Departments/Programs for Ph.D. graduate students who are on-track to receive/graduate with their conferred degree between May 2021 – December 2021. It is intended to highlight the creativity and outstanding research achievements demonstrated by our Ph.D. students. Departments/Programs may each present up to two graduate students for this award. Candidates will give a 3-minute pre-recorded short talk and present a poster session at the Engineering Research Symposium (ERS). A committee will select three student winners for this award.

Eligibility Criteria and Selection of Candidates

  • Criteria for the award: creativity and outstanding research achievement.
  • Graduate chairs can present up to two Ph.D. students as candidates for this award. To identify their candidate(s), we recommend using a process that allows nominations from both students and faculty, including student self-nominations.
  • Students must be on-track to receive/graduate with their conferred degree between May 2021 – December 2021.
  • Department/Program submission deadline: Thursday, December 17, 2020.

Nomination package must include the following as a single PDF in the order listed

  • Student personal statement (1-page max) explaining:
    • Why they should be selected for the Towner session
    • How the student and/or their research has been involved in/impacted our local or a broader community.
      • Examples include but are not limited to: involvement in student organizations, serving as a GSI, volunteer activities, and research impact on a specific community.
  • Two letters of recommendation (one from the student’s advisor)
  • The student’s CV with links to publications and/or patents
  • One-page abstract on the work the student will present at ERS
    • The abstract may include 1 figure as a part of the single page abstract. Abstracts should not exceed 1 page. See abstract template for guidelines.
    • Abstracts will be available online on the ERS website

Departments/Programs should submit these documents as one PDF file with the nomination form


  • Thursday, December 17, 2020: Department/Program nominations due
  • Friday, December 18, 2020: Nominees notified with oral presentation instructions
  • Wednesday, January 27, 2021: 3-minute pre-recorded short talk presentations due.
  • Wednesday, January 27, 2021: PowerPoint poster file due.
  • Wednesday, February 3, 2021: Tech test-run session.
  • Friday, February 5, 2021: Presentations at the 2021 ERS
  • TBD, Award Ceremony

Awards & Review Process

  • Candidates will be judged on their submitted materials and oral presentation by a committee of judges during the Engineering Research Symposium 
    • The judging rubric will assess research quality, effective communication, and broader impact 
  • Three winners will each receive $2,500. Winners will be announced on the Monday following the ERS. 
  • Winners will be highlighted on the CoE website 
  • Winners will be honored at the CoE Leaders & Honors Brunch in March

Questions about the Richard and Eleanor Towner Prize for Outstanding Ph.D. Research can be directed to