Cooking up Something Special at Iron Prof 2011

It’s a special breed of academic that earns a position on The Wharton School’s faculty. Wharton professors who compete in the annual Iron Prof event are an even rarer breed. Their research must be pioneering in their respective fields, and they must be thick-skinned and brave to stand in front of hundreds of students and colleagues who vote for only one of them at the end.

The event is designed to mimic the popular TV series Iron Chef. The Wharton twist is that professors put together a five-minute slide presentation summarizing their latest research and then “sell” the idea to the audience. It leads to quick-talking and a presentation more akin to a carnival barker than a business school auditorium.

In large part, the Second Annual Iron Prof, held on Sept. 22, was about the importance of those professors sharing their “delectable research” with students, as event co-emcee Sara Luchian, WG’12, phrased it. Professors invested time and effort into their presentations for the competition.

“They really wanted to show you their passion for teaching,” co-emcee Elizabeth Kiernan, WG’12, said to the audience.

Already one of the more popular extracurricular activities on campus—and only its second year– Iron Prof also serves to bring together the disparate departments and groups at Wharton.

“I really enjoyed seeing the interaction among the different elements of the Wharton community. Not only were students complimenting the faculty on their research, but there were even some professors introducing themselves to each other for the first time,” Iron Prof student director, Ibraheem Basir, WG’12, told us.

Changes made to this year’s event were meant to improve upon its format, according to Basir. Organizers cut the maximum number of slides from 20 to 15. They allowed fewer competitors to enter this year so that students could remain engaged throughout the hour-long program.

At this year’s Iron Prof, out of a total of 457 audience votes, taking first place by a mere two votes, the winner was Jonah Berger, James G. Campbell Assistant Professor of Marketing. Berger gave a concise presentation on his research into how poll location and visual cues affect how people vote.

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