The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation introduced a new grant competition aimed at University of Wisconsin graduate students Friday that will award up to $5,000 in grants for research.

The Discovery Challenge competition will promote cross-disciplinary research and will serve as an opportunity for students to share their research skills and results as they compete for several mini-grants awarded by the challenge, according to a WARF statement. 

WARF Director of Programming Laura Heisler said the competition will be comprised of two parts: The first step includes participation in a seminar of students studying engineering, arts, humanities, various sciences and other majors to present their existing research and exchange ideas and findings.

Participation in the spring seminar will qualify students to compete for several mini-grants equaling up to $5,000 in the second step.

Heisler stressed a low barrier to the seminar is a vital way to bring students of varying studies together to learn from each other’s research and collaborate in new, innovative ways.

“We want a lot of people to participate, and we don’t want to make it hard to,” Heisler said of the challenge. “We’re also hoping to expand people’s horizons and get them to meet and talk to people that they don’t usually get to.”

Heisler said WARF student ambassadors suggested the idea for the Discovery Challenge competition to better fuel collaboration between graduate students that spend their time performing research in one solitary area on campus.

She added the competition would further the productivity of research through the creation of partnerships across study fields.

“We’re really looking to stimulate unexpected, serendipitous contact between students, and we want them to connect in ways they wouldn’t even know how to connect to ultimately benefit their research,” Heisler said. “It’s all about getting all the grad students out and getting them to cross-pollinate a little bit.”

UW graduate student and WARF Ambassador Gagan Gupta, one of the 11 students who proposed the Discovery Challenge, said he was excited for the competition and he hopes to engage more students in research combining different fields of study.

“We’re hoping to achieve a platform for people to showcase what they’re already doing,” Gupta said of the forum, which will take place May 23. “We want people to meet and find radically different ideas from different fields and come up with something really unique that you wouldn’t find in your own office.”

He added the ambassadors hope ideas from research presented at the forum will ultimately enter the marketplace.

Up to $2,000 in cash prizes will also be awarded to Discovery Challenge competitors, according to the WARF statement. 

The statement also said $500 each will be awarded to the top two graduate students and postdoc presentations.

Students interested in competing in the competition should submit an abstract idea of a presentation describing their individual research work to WARF before April 16, Heisler said.  

She added WARF will choose abstracts across a broad range of disciplines to ensure the forum is wide-reaching and encompasses varying subjects and types of research.

Gupta said if the Discovery Challenge proves to be a success in May, WARF will continue to host the competition in coming years.