Your Elevator Speech Life Kit, Suzanne Parete-Koon


Ever find that person at a science or technical meeting that you have been desperately wanting to meet, but find yourself speechless when you finally get the opportunity to speak with them? Perhaps you have had that online job interview where you had to summarize your whole resume in the first moment to a group of strangers tiled across your Zoom Screen.

It helps to prepare in advance for such moments.

Come work together to hone your elevator speech, the 30 second overview yourself or your research, that makes all the difference when it is delivered well. We’ll work in small groups to craft a 30 second self-introduction that you can use at the ECP Annual Meeting and other places. We’ll also peer-mentor each other over the week about other topics related to how to make good first impression at a technical meeting or interview.

Short Biography:

Suzanne Parete-Koon is a High Performance Computing Engineer for Oak Ridge Leadership computing facility (OLCF). She works to support scientific applications running on Summit and other high performance computing (HPC) resources at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. She leads the ECP project’s new HPC Workforce Development and Retention Action Group.

After completing her PhD in astrophysics at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, in 2008, Parete-Koon spent a year working as a foreign affairs officer for the US Department of State through an American Institute of Physics Executive Branch fellowship. During that time she served as a representative to the ITER Council and as the United States’ primary point of contact for space weather. She helped foster international relations by facilitating global scientific collaboration through workshops and meetings, including the United States–Egyptian remote sensing satellite data workshop.

Her passion for people eventually directed her interests toward the support angle of computational science. For almost a decade she has worked as an OLCF User support specialist and HPC engineer collaborating with OLCF staff on innovations to improve user experiences and working directly with users to help them get the most out of their applications and time on OLCF’s super computers.

Suzanne has also been trained in science communicate through journalism course-work at the University of Tennessee, and numerous workshops given by the U.S. Department of State, the AIP/AAAS Executive Branch Fellows Program, and the Alda Center for Communicating Science.


I have been that tongue-tied graduate student at the big scientific meeting unable to smoothly start asking the luminary of nuclear astrophysics the the questions that I had built up reading their publications. I have also been the no-longer-new-PhD at the big computing meeting who was able to convince the most exciting AI anthropologist speaker at the meeting into giving at talk at ORNL, even though it was across the country from where she lived. The difference? I learned how to give a concise 30 second overview of what I wanted and I learned how to actively listen to my target audience. I also have learned that being shot-down is part of this game, winning requires being willing to go-for-it again with the next person you want to meet. I gained theses skills from mentors, career experience, and workshops given by the Alda Center for Communicating Science. I have developed a short elevator speech class, based on what I learned , and taught it twice to groups of early career professionals at ORNL. I want to keep empowering others with these skills.