Three Minute Thesis tests graduate students’ preparation, presentation skills


Biotechnology graduate student Abdullah Mahboob makes his presentation during the Three Minute Thesis contest. Mahboob was one of five finalists.

Julian Petrachenko had a lot of material to fit into three minutes.

The Applied Health Sciences master’s student detailed his plan to merge arts-based activities with significantly modified physical activity for underserved youth.

Monday’s Three Minute Thesis (3MT) research communication contest at the Mapping the New Knowledges graduate student research conference was foreign territory for Petrachenko, who was one of five finalists.

“It’s a unique experience because you don’t often get the opportunity to do this,” he said afterwards. “Most of the time, from my past experience, it’s usually a 20-minute, half-hour seminar, a few questions you get to discuss.”

Presenting in three minutes meant Petrachenko had to “be vague yet spark excitement in the audience,” which included judges Cathy Majtenyi, who works in the Office of Research Services, three-time Olympic wrestling medalist and Brock graduate Tonya Verbeek, and Rob Wells, drummer for the Juno-nominated Tim Hicks Band.

“It was really tough because in one sense, you want to spark that sense of urgency where you are attacking an issue that has global effects,” Petrachenko said. “At the same time, you don’t want to focus too much on the negative aspects, or at least that was my approach.”

Leslie Nash, another Applied Health Sciences master’s student, won $500 and qualified for the provincial thesis competition April 24 at McMaster University for her presentation Simplici-Tea: Investigating tea as a dietary strategy for better bone health.

“It was a tough choice for the judges,” Majtenyi said. “The presentations were really well done. In three minutes, all of the contestants managed to explain complicated concepts in clear, lively and engaging ways. The range of research was fascinating.

“Leslie stood out for us as being particularly skillful at explaining scientific terms and processes in ways that we could quickly grasp. I thought the subject of her research – osteoporosis – was especially relevant to the Niagara Region, as we have a high concentration of seniors living in the area.”

Andra Lenius, Applied Health Sciences, (Fit For Action – Adapted Fitness and Conditioning Programs for Individuals with Disabilities) placed second and won $250.

Aly Bailey, Applied Health Science, and Abdullah Mahboob, Biotechnology, also made the final five.

Brock’s second annual 3MT contest had 12 participants. Though much smaller than some schools – Waterloo had more than 100 participants – Brock Prof. John McNamara sees future growth.

“We’re hoping eventually to have all Faculties involved in running their own competitions and to put forward one or two representatives to compete in the final round,” he said. “We may move toward that model in the future.”

McNamara, one of the 3MT organizers, said the contest is a great exercise in preparation for students.

“It allows students to take their research, which is sometimes quite complicated, and make it accessible,” he said. “I think that’s important for researchers in general, so I think the skills they are learning in something like this have some real world applicability.”


Brock 3MT finalists (from left): Andra Lenius, Julian Petrachenko, Aly Bailey, Abdullah Mahboob and Leslie Nash.

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