The College of the Environment Research Derby is hosted by SAFS and organized by FINS. The 2020 event will be held on April 29th and 30th. Research teams will present their final projects at 4 pm on April 30 in FSH 102. Awards will be announced at the reception following the presentations held in the SAFS lobby.

What is a research derby?

Research Derby is a 48-hour speed research event. Over two days, teams of 3–5 graduate students collaborate to devise and implement a novel research project. At the end of the derby, teams present their findings in a 15–20 minute presentation to students, faculty, and judges. First- and second-place prizes are awarded at a reception following the presentations.

This condensed version of the research process is meant to catalyze collaborations among people who might not otherwise work together, spark creative ways to answer challenging questions, and hopefully result in publications! This approach was conceived by the Earth2Ocean research group at Simon Fraser University.

The Research Derby is a great opportunity to meet students from other departments in the College of the Environment and conduct research outside your area of study; plus, it’s really fun! Previous derby projects have resulted in peer-reviewed publications and have even garnered media coverage. If that isn’t motivation enough, there are cash prizes for the first- and second-place teams!

Master’s and PhD students are welcome to participate, regardless of how far into your program you are. Working spaces, meals, and snacks are provided. Participants are expected to show up for both days with their freshest research ideas and a cooperative spirit.

The College of the Environment Research Derby is funded by the Usha & S. Rao Varanasi Endowed Fellowship in Environmental & Marine Stewardship with support for the Usha & S. Rao Varanasi Research Derby Award.

Interested in participating in the 2020 event?

Sign up HERE or email with questions

Previous first prize projects


Translation of scientific uncertainty from primary research to popular press in environmental science

Megan Feddern, Elizabeth Ng, Mark Sorel, and Rick Thomas


Addressing the potential ecological consequences of a Cascadia megathrust earthquake: subsidence and shoreline change in coastal ecosystems

John Best, Melanie Davis, Bryan Pelach, and Kristin Privitera-Johnson


Financial and ecological implications of global seafood mislabeling

Christine C. Stawitz, Margaret C. Siple, Stuart H. Munsch and Qi Lee

Frequently Asked Questions

Will we work for two straight days, without sleep?

No! Teams work for two full days, but not without rest or sleep. For the sake of you and your team, please go home and sleep at night.

I have a class/meeting I need to attend. Can I still participate?

Yes. Abdicating obligations as a student/person is not a condition of participation, nor is it encouraged. Please let us know ahead of time if you have obligations, as we will consider this when organizing teams so people with commitments are distributed among teams.

I’m a first-year graduate student. Is Research Derby open to me?

Yes! We highly encourage first-year students (MS or PhD) to participate. We will split teams to ensure a diversity of academic experience levels, departments, and labs is represented on each team.

I don’t have experience with [specific skill]. Will I be able to contribute to my team’s project?

Yes. You don’t need [specific skill] to contribute. If you are a graduate student in one of the departments invited to participate, you have skills that will be helpful to your team.

Do I need to come up with a research idea?

No. Teams are encouraged to pursue their own ideas, but we will also have a list of ideas from faculty.

I have an obligation that will prevent me from presenting on April 30. Can I still participate?

Yes. Participants are strongly encouraged to attend the presentations, but attendance is not mandatory. At least one person will need to present on behalf of your team, but teams often tag-team presentations.


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