Student, professors and community business leaders looked on as eight Trent graduate students competed in the annual Three Minute These (3MT) competition on April 3.
Each student had one challenge – take months of research and condense it down to a short, accessible, three-minute presentation.
Soaring presentation on gliding Mammalia
Sasha Newar, a Ph.D. candidate from Catharine Parr Traill College in Environmental and Life Sciences, used her 180 seconds to convey her fascinating research on nocturnal gliders and ultrasonic communication in gliding Mammalia.
“I know I really struggle trying to clearly communicate my ideas in my day-to-day science conversations,” says Sasha. “Trying to wrap up months and years of work in a few brief minutes is a challenge on a regular day, let alone in front of a judging panel listening to every word you say!”
Although the presentation itself was only minutes long, Sasha’s preparation began two years ago, shortly after the 2020 3MT competition where she took home first place. While the 2020 event was exhilarating, it was pre-recorded, and Sasha says her research has come a long way since then.
“This time I thought I’d explore a different chapter of my thesis and try to see if I could actually do a 3MT live and in front of an audience, instead of recorded in my parents’ dining room.”
Sasha explains that the process helped her gain confidence in communicating complex ideas and even helped strip away feelings of imposter syndrome, “Especially now that I’m approaching the last year of my thesis, that confidence is needed now more than ever!”
Seeking out the best of the best
The judges of this year’s 3MT had a tough task – to seek out the best presentation based on communication, comprehension, and engagement. The panel this year was composed of Syd Birrell, conductor of the Peterborough Singers, Dr. Gregory Couch, president of Equium Intelligence Inc., and Sacha Lai-Svirk, partner and vice-president of People & Technology at Outpost379.
Each judge took careful note of the participant’s research, and, ultimately, the judges were very impressed with Sasha’s presentation, winning the School of Graduate Studies Prize first place prize ($500) and travel stipend to participate at the provincial level in Guelph, Ontario later this spring.
“I am always awestruck by the both the poise and the breadth of scholarship that our graduate students exhibit in the competition,” says Dr. Michael Eamon, principal of Catharine Parr Traill College, and master of ceremonies for this year’s 3MT competition. “While the event challenges each student to reduce their research down to its essential components, I hope that the process also allows them to explore one of the most valuable moments in a researcher’s career – being able to stop, reflect, and value months of hard work.”
Additional 3MT 2022 winners include:
- Tristan Baecklund, a Ph.D. candidate from Catharine Parr Traill College in Environment and Life Sciences, took second place, winning the Catharine Parr Traill College Prize ($500).
- Simal Iftikhar, a M.Ed. student from Otonabee College in Education, took third place, winning the Trent Graduate Student Association Prize ($500).
Coordinating this year’s 3MT competition
After two years of competing remotely due to COVID-19, this year was quite a shift from anything the organizers have done before.
“This year, we decided to go with an in-person, invite-only event structure,” says Sue Beckwith, Academic Skills Instructor at Trent and an organizer for the 2022 event. “We had eight stellar participants who each put their academic prowess forward and did extremely well. We are so proud of each of these amazing students and the important research they are conducting.”
The Trent University Three Minute Thesis competition is sponsored by the School of Graduate Studies, the Academic Skills Centre, Trent Graduate Student Association, and Catharine Parr Traill College.