Graduate students present thesis in three minutes

Graduate students at Wilfrid Laurier University had the opportunity to present their dissertations and research at the Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition, which was held on March 24 in the Senate and Board Chamber.

The event was initially created at the University of Queensland, Australia in 2008.

Since then, the competition has grown into an international research communication competition. 3MT has been held annually at Laurier since 2012.

Within the event, PhD and masters students are given three minutes and the use of a single PowerPoint slide to communicate their thesis or dissertation to a broad audience.

A graduate’s thesis, depending on the discipline, can be approximately 300 pages.

“For many graduate students, their research is relatively complicated. But we ask them to boil it down to just the essentials … what they’re doing, why it’s important and what type of impact it would have,” Jeffery Jones, acting associate dean: faculty of graduate and postdoctoral studies, who was a member of the event’s organizational committee, said.

The event also provides participating students the opportunity to refine their communication skills.

For many graduate students, their research is relatively complicated. But we ask them to boil it down to just the essentials …

– Jeffery Jones, acting associate dean: faculty of graduate and post-doctoral studies


“In terms of research today, one of the things that governments in North America, as well as Europe, are asking researchers to do is to communicate the value of their research to the public,” Jones said.

As a lot of research is highly technical; it can be difficult for people who are untrained in the area to understand its value and purpose.

For this reason, research funding council’s want the public to understand the benefit of the research they are paying for with their taxes.

“One of the benefits of the 3MT is introducing students who are being trained to conduct research to communicate the value of the research that they’re doing and hopefully they’ll learn how to communicate this. It will benefit them in their careers in the future [sic],” Jones said.

Fifteen graduate students volunteered their time to present at the competition. The range of participating students spoke on a variety of topics, including infants, toddlers and mobile technology; sedentary behaviour, physical activity and mobile apps; beyong and contemporary xenophobia and parochialism.

A panel of judges rated each participant’s effectiveness to communicate their research, as well as their ability to engage the audience.

Judges at the event included Jean Becker, senior adviser: Aboriginal Initiatives, Andrew Clairk president and CEO of ALIGNED Insurance, Deborah Dubenofsky, vice-president of finance and operations, Gary Edwards, owner of Golfdale Consulting and Michael Melling, regional news director of CTV Ontario.

Richard Edwards, MsC of science and chemistry, was announced as the winner of the competition.

As a result, Edwards will receive a prize of $1,000 and will get the chance to present his thesis, Chiral Quantum Dots: Lending a Hand in the Fight Against Cancer, at the provincial Three Minute Thesis competition which will be hosted by the University of Waterloo on April 12.

In addition to the student competition, the event incorporated a challenge undertaken by professors to celebrate its sixth competition at Laurier.

One of the benefits of the 3MT is … to communicate the value of the research that they’re doing …

-Jeffery Jones, acting associate dean: faculty of graduate and post-doctoral studies

Three professors from Laurier also participated by speaking about the contribution made by graduate students to the success of Laurier’s research enterprise.

Each of the three professors were also given three minutes to present their ideas and thoughts on the subject.

“It will benefit them for their academic careers in the future, and if they don’t go on to acadmics,” Jones said.

“It will absolutely be beneficial in any other type of career where they have to communicate with other people or the public.”

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