Laurier’s 3-Minute Thesis gives graduate students a chance to perfect their “elevator pitch”

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Laurier’s annual “3-Minute Thesis” competition took place on Mar. 27, 2019, giving students at both the undergraduate and graduate levels a chance to give an “elevator pitch” summary of their thesis for a chance to compete at the provincial level.

The winner of the graduate studies competition was Mariam Elmarsafy, an MSc with her thesis entitled “Resurrection Ecology: Determining Water Flea Tolerance to Salinity” from the department of biology. “I signed up because I thought it would be something different than I normally do and I know that there’s an opportunity for creative writing which I’ve always loved to do and just for my practice because in science, especially when somebody on the outside asks you what you do, you kind of give them a long, complicated answer that they don’t understand,” Elmarsafy said. “I thought it would be a nice challenge because I wanted to be able to talk about what I do to anybody — not just people who actually understand what I’m studying, it was really for me, that was my main reasoning.”

Elmarsafy’s research is on the evolution of the water flea and resurrecting water fleas of the past, an insect at the bottom of the food chain that is integral to the survival of many animals. She will be presenting her three-minute thesis again at McMaster University on Apr. 17.

“I want to work on my hand movements for the provincial competition and also taking it a little bit slower because I was super nervous and I think I need to pace myself a little bit better, those are two areas I’d like to improve on and I think I can do it,” Elmarsafy said.

“I just had a lot of fun and everybody involved was extremely helpful. Faculty especially gave me a lot of support, on Twitter all the faculty of Biology tweeted at me and I felt really supported by my community. I know Laurier is the most supportive community of all, but it really showed, so I really appreciate that. It made it even better of a win because of everyone around me.”

“It was the first time I had been a judge …  there were a lot of different topics, a lot of different backgrounds, but I was absolutely amazed at how everyone did, it was such a constraint only having one slide and three minutes, it doesn’t give you a lot of flexibility in what you can do,” said Tristan long, a professor in the department of biology and judge of the competition.

Scott Donald, from the faculty of kinesiology, received the second-place honour for his thesis entitled “Psychological Readiness to Return to Sport After Injury,” being only one of two students from the entire faculty competing in the competition.

“I felt good because it means I got my message across, I had a lot of fun making the speech and preparing it so knowing that other people really responded well to it and accepted it as something worthwhile was a great feeling,” Donald said. “Representing the department of kinesiology was great; there were only two of us who were presenting, so there’s a good feeling in getting that respect from the judges and from the audience. One of the judges told me they could tell I was going places in life and that’s always great to hear at any point.”

Victoria Parker, from the faculty of psychology, received the honourable mention for a second year in a row with her thesis “Diverging Definitions: The Consequences of Defining “Feminism Differently” which was a different thesis than her 2018 presentation.

“It’s really good practice, especially since it’s a new topic, so I figured it would be an excellent opportunity to refine my pitch and see exactly how accessible my thesis was, especially because both years I was incredibly nervous, I could not sleep the night before and the whole process in having to memorize it and wanting to do it exactly the way it’s written,” Parker said.

“Once you’re up there, you just have to be able to adapt on the fly even if you miss a line which I did both years. Getting honourable mention even after those mishaps was really incredible, validating is the wrong word, but it was very encouraging.”

The competition was judged by many different faculty members across science as well as established professionals in journalism in business, the Students’ Union president & CEO, the Laurier Brantford dean of liberal arts and more.

“My experience as a judge was actually a bit different than I expected, I didn’t expect to be so excited by everything. In the end I was so engaged, I came away with this feeling of being so impressed by the breadth of research that is being undertaken by students and how creative and articulate they are,” said Eden Hennessey, research and programs director for the Laurier Centre for Women in Science who was a judge for the competition.

“It was not only that piece; it was also super cool to connect with other people on the panel of judges. We had a lot of those conversations as to what is the role of science communication, how important is it to get students to mobilize their work and connecting this to larger things like funding opportunities which in the end really the currency of this profession.”

The 3-Minute Thesis competition was also open to undergraduate students for the first time ever, with Leah Mindorff from the biology department receiving the first-place honour, and Brampton Dakin from the departments of geography, geomatics and earth science receiving second.

“It was the first time I had been a judge …  there were a lot of different topics, a lot of different backgrounds, but I was absolutely amazed at how everyone did, it was such a constraint only having one slide and three minutes, it doesn’t give you a lot of flexibility in what you can do,” said Tristan long, a professor in the department of biology and judge of the competition.

“They put a huge amount of effort into practising their talks, they are putting complex research projects into really understandable fashion.”

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