Pacific Holds First Annual 3-Minute Thesis Competition

Meagan Strickland discusses skills training to prevent alcohol overconsumption. PC: Piper Davis

On Wednesday, February 7, the Graduate School held an academic competition never before seen on Pacific’s campus. The First Annual Three-Minute Thesis (3MT) Championship pitted 14 graduate students from four different schools against each other in a contest of communication and conciseness.

Each participant described his or her research project to an enthusiastic crowd in the DUC Ballroom. The catch though, as indicated in the event’s title, is that participants had only three minutes to describe their research to a layperson audience.

The content of the graduate students’ research varied widely, with topics including a newly developed physical rehabilitation device, alternative cancer treatments, student training in alcohol consumption, and a computer algorithm that significantly cuts down on the length of time required to complete an animation technique.

Participants were judged by a panel consisting of Pacific faculty and members of the Stockton community, most notably Mayor Michael Tubbs. The judges rated students on clarity, enthusiasm, and communication of research significance, among other criteria.

The audience was also able to weigh in on the competition, as a “People’s Choice” award was given to the student who garnered the most votes from a paper ballot.

Judges and Participants pose following the 3-Minute Thesis Competition.              PC: Piper Davis

That award was won by Siwen Wang ‘18, for his presentation on targeting and inhibiting enzymes found in tumor cells. The Doctor of Pharmacy won $300 to go along with the award.

Joshua Harzman, Master of Arts in Communication, won second place and a $500 prize for his presentation, “Urban Scrawl: Satire as Subversion in Banky’s Graphic Discourse.”

The first place prize of $1,000 went to Amy Burns, doctoral student of Educational and School Psychology, for her presentation titled, “Are You Paying Attention and Does it Even Matter?”

“I have been working on this research for almost two years,” Burns told The Pacifican. “I started working on this in the summer of 2016.”

“I am drawn to school psychology for many reasons but my biggest draw is my family, especially my older sister,” she said. “My sister has inspired me to help students in any way I can and work hard to make school the best place it can be for every child.”

The Pacifican presented Burns with an even more difficult challenge than the one she faced at Three-Minute Thesis: could she describe her research in three sentences?

“Social skills have a grand impact on any child’s development and as educators we should always be looking at ways to positively impact a child’s social experience at school. My research found evidence to suggest attention impacts a child’s social skills such as assertion, self control, and cooperation. We can use this knowledge to further advocate to support social skills for children through attention interventions,” Burns said.

In addition to her prize money, Burns also won the opportunity to compete at the Three-Minute Thesis Regionals Championship in March in Las Vegas.

Conceived at the University of Queensland in Australia one decade ago, the Three Minute Thesis competition has spread to over 200 universities around the world. It found its way to Pacific thanks in large part to the work of Graduate Services Specialist Manali Jha.

“I started working nine months ago to bring this to the University of the Pacific,” Jha told The Pacifican. “After contacting the University of Queensland and getting some help with the branding and marketing, I started organizing and talking to the deans and program directors across three campuses, and they were really excited.”

“Our graduate students are really great in presenting without any help; they really have great presentation skills,” Jha said. “I am more motivated now to put on this kind of event not only for the graduates, but also the undergraduates, if I am allowed to.”

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