The 3MT is like the Bulk Barn of knowledge – something new and different every three minutes.
– Ontario 3MT Master of Ceremonies Matt Baram,
National Theatre of the World
From insect management to wastewater treatment, Canadian-Soviet relations to wetland reclamation, a link between weight training and mental health to innovative asthma treatments – these were just some of the topics presented at the second annual Ontario Provincial Three Minute Thesis® Competition – also knows as the 3MT® – at McMaster University on Thursday, April 24.
It was standing room only as more than 130 people filled the Great Hall at McMaster's University Club in support of 19 graduate students from across the province – Ottawa and Kingston in the east to Thunder Bay in the west, and many points in between, both north and south of Hamilton. The competition was live-streamed.
The challenge for participants? To present their research - and its wider impact – in only three minutes or less, using nothing more than a static presentation slide.
Determining the winner was no easy task for this year's judging panel.
First place went to Daiva Nielsen from the University of Toronto. Nielsen is a PhD candidate in the nutritional sciences program. Her research examines gene-based diet recommendations and how it may impact the eating behaviour and health of Canadians. This year was her first experience with the 3MT®.
"I'm a nervous public speaker. It's something I've wanted to improve since entering graduate school," Nielsen said. She saw the 3MT competition as an opportunity to work through her fear and improve her communication skills.
"As graduate students, we do a lot of public speaking at conferences and seminars. It's important to have good communication skills and present effectively. I told myself that it was only three minutes on a stage, and to try to have a good time with it. It's really helped to boost my confidence in public speaking," she said.
After completing her PhD, Nielsen hopes to get a postdoctoral fellowship and continue her research into translational genomics and the use of genetic information in clinical care.
Second place finisher Leslie Nash, Brock University, said that being succinct in explaining her research has always been a challenge.
"My undergrad thesis was over 100 pages and I was criticized for it. And even now, I'm finding it difficult to cut down on the information I include in my Master's thesis. So the 3MT has been a great opportunity for me to work on my communication skills," Nash said. Nash is in the final year of a Master's in Health Science. Her research looks at the use of black tea as a potential dietary strategy in the prevention of osteoporosis.
Muhammad Ali Naqvi, a PhD candidate in molecular science at Ryerson University, won third place in this year's competition. His research focuses on the structure and function of casein peptides in milk.
Naqvi found the 3MT to be an "exhilarating experience." He believes that one of the biggest challenges grad
students face is how to explain the importance of their research to a diverse audience. He said that many grad students find it difficult "to strike a balance" between making their research accessible to a broad audience and ensuring that presentations are accurate.
"Sometimes that balance shifts more towards being correct rather than being accessible. That's a challenge I face," he said. Naqvi joined the 3MT because he wanted the challenge of creating something that was "almost a story" – both accessible and accurate.
The inaugural National 3MT Competition will take place in May. The top three winners in Ontario will compete nationally, along with Joseph Donohue, Western University, and Yasina Somani, University of Windsor, who placed fourth and fifth respectively. Ontario competitors voted Cory Scurr from Wilfrid Laurier University, as their Participant's Choice Award winner.
Muhammad Ali Naqvi, Ryerson University, has been voted this year's 2014 Ontario People's Choice winner.