Dr. Kraal Wins First Prize in Lunar and Planetary Science 'Haiku' Contest

KUTZTOWN, Pa. - Dr. Erin Kraal, associate professor of Physical Science at Kutztown University, recently won first prize for her haiku at the 50th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Houston. Kraal's haiku was also featured in the Wall Street Journal, for which she was interviewed, as well as the London Times and USA Today.

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Kraal's winning poem accompanied the presentation on geomorphic mapping of landslides in Aram Valley, Mars, with her undergraduate research student, Brianna McCardle. It reads, "Sudden wall collapse/Petals of debris lay down/Valley feels deformed." She also wrote an acceptance haiku, read at the informal awards ceremony, where she had returned to campus: "Teaching demands an end / to planetary playtime, now / enjoy science for me."  

"It's a fun challenge to try to tell the story of your research in just a few, powerful words," Kraal said.  

Kraal's haiku was one of 335 entries submitted to the conference in place of one-sentence summaries researchers typically send to describe their work. Most of the entries are haiku, which are poems that originated in Japan. They are generally comprised of 17-syllables and often divided into a 5-7-5 sound distribution. The use of haiku is part of a growing social media trend that uses unorthodox means to make science more accessible to and interesting in the public eye.