COSAM News Articles 2022 November COSAM graduate students compete as finalists in Auburn University’s Three Minute Thesis competition

COSAM graduate students compete as finalists in Auburn University’s Three Minute Thesis competition

Published: 11/15/2022

By: Leslie Leak

On November 8 in the Melton Student Center Ballroom, ten graduate students competed in the finals of Auburn University’s 2022 Three Minute Thesis Competition, or 3MT, hosted by the Graduate School and the Graduate Student Council.

Two of the ten finalists represented the College of Sciences and Mathematics: Ishveen Kaur from Biological Sciences and Miranda Silano from Geosciences. At the competition, a panel of judges voted on an overall winner and a runner-up, while the audience voted on a People’s Choice Award winner. Silano received the most votes to take home the People’s Choice Award, earning $250 in prize money. Kaur initially tied for runner-up with Justin Harvell, a student in Chemical Engineering; Harvell was named runner-up after a tiebreaker decided on by People’s Choice votes.

Auburn’s overall winner, Shivaprasad Nageswaran, a student in Industrial and Systems Engineering, advances to the regional competition, held next spring in conjunction with the annual meeting of the Conference of Southern Graduate Schools.

Kaur’s 3MT presentation was titled Plants emit stinky compounds to repel insect herbivores. It focused on plants’ natural ability to provide protection safely without the use of chemical compounds, and she displayed a comparison of trichome numbers between bottle gourd and cucumber plants. Kaur is a doctoral student working in the Leisner Lab under the direction of Courtney Leisner. Her research interests include harnessing the potential of bioactive compounds from plants to develop functional foods.

Silano’s 3MT presentation was titled The Calm Before the Storm: Keeping an Eye on the Gulf of Mexico’s Tropical Cyclone Risk and Vulnerability. It focused on the concept that estimating risk and assessing vulnerability will save lives and money, which can further our knowledge of how tropical cyclones affect society. Silano, a trainee in Auburn’s NRT Climate Resilience Program, is currently working towards a master’s in geography with Chandana Mitra as her advisor. Her research interests are focused on resilience to climate hazards for medium-sized cities along the Gulf of Mexico.

Held annually since 2013, Auburn’s 3MT competition is derived from the Three Minute Thesis, a research communication competition developed by The University of Queensland.

3MT challenges current graduate students to effectively explain their research in language appropriate for a general audience in only three minutes, using only a single static PowerPoint slide and no electronic media or props. Once a student begins their presentation, the clock starts to run. With 30 seconds remaining, the timekeeper holds up a sign, and a bell chimes at the end of the three-minute period. If a competitor breaks any of the competition rules, they are disqualified.

Prior to the final competition, over 60 Auburn graduate students competed in seven preliminary sessions held Oct. 25 and 26. Competitors were evaluated by a panel of judges on three areas of equally weighted criteria (comprehension, engagement and communication) with an emphasis on audience.

Ishveen said she enjoyed hearing the research questions and ideas from fellow competitors. “I was quite intrigued with the amazing research happening here at Auburn University,” she said.

“Through participating in 3MT, I learned how to overcome my fears and to have faith in my abilities,” Ishveen stated. “I never imagined coming this far at the entire university-level competition.”

Silano remarked that she enjoyed being able to be her own “director” and “script writer” during the 3MT process and enjoyed the challenge of having to summarize two years’ worth of work in under three minutes. “I loved being able to discuss my research in a narrative format which allowed me to really speak to the emotional side of the audience who may or may not have been familiar with the topic,” she said.

Silano stated that participating in 3MT taught her to be more confident in her ability to communicate complicated research effectively to an audience with a diverse background.

“I learned that scientists have the responsibility to communicate our research to audiences in a digestible format, like the one the 3MT requires, so that everyone can be aware of how our research can benefit them,” she said.

For more information on 3MT at Auburn and to view this year’s award-winning presentations, visit the 2022 3MT Winners site.

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