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 2022 – December 2022.  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 3-5-minute lightning talk followed by a poster session at the Engineering Research Symposium (ERS) on November 19, 2021. 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 Ph.D. degree between May 2022 – December 2022.
  • Department/Program submission deadline: Friday, October 22, 2021

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 sessiony.
    • 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


  • Friday, October 22, 2021: Department/Program nominations due.
  • Tuesday, October 26, 2021: Nominees notified with poster and lightning talk presentation instructions.
  • Friday, October 29, 2021: Poster submissions due in PPT and PDF format (refer to poster template).
  • Monday, November 15, 2021: Lightning talk presentations due in PPT or PDF format.
  • Wednesday, November 17, 2021 (evening): Tech test-run session for lightning talks. Presenters will not be able to use their own laptops.
  • Friday, November 19, 2021: ERS Oral and Poster Presentations.
  • TBA: Awards Banquet.

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 at the Awards Banquet on the evening of 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