Three Minute Thesis contest will coincide with Brock research celebration

John McNamara isn’t sure how he would stack up presenting against Brock graduate students in this year’s Three Minute Thesis Contest.

John McNamara isn’t sure how he would stack up presenting against Brock graduate students in this year’s Three Minute Thesis contest.

John McNamara isn’t sure how he would stack up presenting against Brock graduate students in this year’s Three Minute Thesis contest.

The Professor of Child and Youth Studies contemplated that question during a recent radio interview about the competition with Mike Saunders on CFBU’s Inquisitive Minds program.

McNamara and Associate Professor Kim Gammage, of the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences, are coordinating Brock’s second annual contest on behalf of the Faculty of Graduate Studies.

“The contest really relies on a different skillset,” says McNamara, who has been teaching at Brock since 2003. “If I think back to my graduate student days, I don’t think I would have done as well as some of our presenters last year. They were amazing in the way that they took complex phenomena and presented it with style and humour.

“It looks easy when you watch them present. It almost looks as if they are doing it off the cuff. But I know it involves weeks and weeks of preparing.”

The preliminary round of the contest takes place on Tuesday, Feb. 25, from 4:30 p.m. to 6:45 p.m., in Pond Inlet. That event will determine the top spots for Brock’s 3MT® Final that will be held on Monday, April 7 as part of the Mapping the New Knowledges Graduate Student Research Conference.

On the line are cash prizes of $500 for the winner and $250 for the runner-up. Both events are open to the Brock community and the general public.

“In planning for this year’s contest, the Faculty of Graduate Studies thought it would be a good fit to hold our preliminary round on Feb. 25 to coincide with the University’s second annual research celebration,” says Gammage. “It’s a fun competition that puts a spotlight on graduate students and lets them tell us about the great research they are doing here.

Everyone is welcome to attend and we hope to see faculty, staff and students come out in support of graduate student research.”

The faculty held a recent coaching session for all participants. Sharing advice and tips with the students were Prof. Stephen Cheung and Brock graduate Julia Course, a professional actor.

Cheung spoke about how to make complex research come alive for public interest, while Course talked about and demonstrated effective performance skills.

McNamara says the 3MT® contest is a valuable communications and presentation exercise for students because it teaches them how to take a complex research topic and make it accessible for non-academic audiences.

That’s a skill he says graduate students can harness in many other ways from job interviews and grant applications to media attention about their research.

“One of the eligibility criteria for 3MT® is to be in the latter stages of their research, so that means you know your data, you know your research,” he explains. “The challenge isn’t so much understanding your data - the challenge is in presenting your data to non-academic audiences in a colourful way, in a way that makes its implications very clear.

“We’re used to talking to our peers and colleagues and we use the vernacular that we are used to as academics and researchers. But when speaking to non-academics these terms and language really don’t make much sense. The challenge for 3MT® presenters is to present research in a non-academic way in a short period of time and in a way that highlights your presentation skills.”

Students competing Feb. 25 will be scored by a non-academic panel of judges who include Brian Hutchings, Brock’s vice-president, finance and administration, Debbie Slade, director, Brock’s Centre for the Arts, and Mike Saunders, CFBU radio host.

The 3MT® competition was initially developed in Australia by the University of Queensland in 2008, soon followed by other Australian and New Zealand universities, culminating in the first Trans Tasman competition held in 2010.

3MT® has spread internationally and is now held at universities across Canada.

Brock took part in the first Ontario competition held last year at Queen’s University. This year, the winner and runner-up of Brock’s April 7 final will advance to the provincial contest April 24 at McMaster University in Hamilton.

The Canadian Association for Graduate Studies is sponsoring the first national (3MT®) that will be held as a virtual event in May.

Posted on February 12, 2014

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