3MT: Academic race against the clock
Kashfia Shafiq gazed into the audience. She was scared. The master’s student in the department of human anatomy and cell science, Max Rady College of Medicine, was participating in the Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition for the first time.
Graduate students have just three minutes to present their complex research in language aimed at non-experts. However, Shafiq’s fear didn’t last long. She spotted her lab mates in the crowd and thought about how easily she presents to them each week in meetings. She blocked out the rest of the audience and began her presentation called Dying Young at a Very Old Age.
“It was exciting,” she said.
Shafiq is one of three winners in the second heat of the U of M’s 3MT competition. The event, featuring 12 Rady Faculty of Health Sciences graduate students, took place on the Bannatyne campus on February 27. Andre Coleman and Samira Seif will also move on to the finals.
The 3MT competition was first held in 2008 at the University of Queensland in Australia. Events now take place at universities around the world – from the United States to Hong Kong to the United Kingdom.
Competitors are judged on three categories: comprehension, engagement and communication style.
Seif, a master’s student in the department of physiology and pathophysiology, Max Rady College of Medicine, said she approached the competition like a storyteller. She wanted the audience to connect with her presentation, called MicroRNA: a Gift for a Broken Heart, so she developed a narrative.
“I have a very difficult concept, so I tried to make it very, very simple,” she said. “I think that’s the key for the Three Minute Thesis. You should convey the concept, but in a simple way.”
Coleman, who is a master’s student in the department of physiology and pathophysiology, spent a couple of days crafting his presentation called Novel Mechanisms in the Development of Blood Pressure Changes After Spinal Cord Injury. He then rehearsed the presentation whenever he could – from on the bus to at home to just sitting down to take a break. He’s already devising a plan to improve his presentation for the finals.
“I might give myself a weeklong break to get fresh ideas and then tackle it again,” he said.
With her first presentation out of the way, Shafiq is looking forward to the finals.
“I’m very excited, scared at the same time, but I think a little bit of fear is good,” she said. “It makes you serious about the things you’re doing.”
Heat 3 takes place today at 4:30 p.m. in E3-270, Engineering Building on the Fort Garry Campus. Heat 1 took place on February 26.
The 3MT final is on March 18 at 7 p.m. in the Robert B. Schultz Lecture Theatre at St. John’s College. The Western Regional Competition is at the University of Northern British Columbia in Prince George, BC on April 17.