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(L-R) President and Vice-Chancellor David T. Barnard, Provost and Vice-President (Academic) Joanne Keselman, Second Place winner Anjali Bhagirath, First Place winner Karlee Dyck, People’s Choice winner Paul White, Vice-President (Research and International) Digvir S. Jayas and Vice-Provost (Graduate Education) & Dean, Faculty of Graduate Studies, Jay Doering at the Feb. 25, 2016 3MT® final. (Photo by Mike Latschislaw)

(L-R) President David Barnard, Vice-President (Academic) Joanne Keselman, Anjali Bhagirath, Karlee Dyck, Paul White, Vice-President (Research and International) Digvir Jayas and Vice-Provost (Graduate Education) Jay Doering. (Photo by Mike Latschislaw)

Grad students distill research into powerful 3MT presentations

Karlee Dyck captures first place in competition final

March 2, 2016 — 

Condensing complex research into quick-paced presentations, graduate students showcased their intellect and skills in front of a packed Robert B. Schultz Lecture Theatre during the Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) final on February 25.

Karlee Dyck, a master’s student in human nutritional sciences, captured the first-place prize among 12 finalists at the event.

“I thought the other finalists all did a really amazing job and the results could have gone any which way. I’m thrilled,” said Dyck.

Dyck’s research looks at fetal alcohol spectrum disorder and whether pregnant women in certain populations get enough nutrients to reduce the risk. In addition to her studies, Dyck has also served as a volunteer and now outreach worker at Mount Carmel Clinic, helping support pregnant women and mothers with substance abuse issues. She hopes her research can have a positive, lasting impact.

“I think this a huge project and there are so many more places this can go. I would really like to bring back these results to the community and to moms who were so wonderful in giving their time to me during my research,” said Dyck. “I would like to see organizations be able to use this research and advocate for food security for this population.”

She thanked all the people and organizations that have supported her research, including her advisor.

The 3MT® final shone a light on the wide scope of graduate student research done at the U of M with work from several disciplines, including school psychology, biomedical engineering, architecture and immunology, covered by competitors.

The finalists each had three minutes, using only one slide as an illustration, to clearly explain the aims of their research to a non-specialist audience. The finalists were selected from a total of 36 graduate students competitors who competed in previous heats.

Taking second place in the event was Anjali Bhagirath, who is pursuing a PhD in oral biology.

“I am passionate about understanding bacterial behaviour in chronic infectious diseases,” said Bhagirath in the lead up to the final. “Every year thousands of lives are lost to un-treatable chronic infections and most vulnerable to these are those with genetic conditions such as cystic fibrosis and immunocompromised individuals. I want to bring about a difference in their lives.”

The People’s Choice award went to Paul White, who is pursuing a master’s in biomedical engineering. He said the format of 3MT® provides an excellent learning experience for grad students to distill their ideas.

“The three-minute limit means that absolutely every sentence has to contribute meaningfully to what you’re saying,” said White.

White was also a member of Team Biohack, which took second place in the Game Changer competition earlier in February.

The public in attendance at the final event voted on the People’s Choice award, while a three-person panel judged the competitors on multiple factors for awarding first and second place, including whether the presentation clearly outlined the research to the non-specialist audience in attendance.

3MT® is a research communication competition originally developed by The University of Queensland.

First place ($5,000)

Karlee Dyck
Human Nutritional Sciences (Master’s)
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder: Are pregnant women getting enough nutrients to reduce the risk?
After finishing her dietetic internship and working as a Clinical Dietitian in Thompson, Manitoba, Dyck came to realize her passion for maternal and child health, as well as Aboriginal health. This led her to undertake a master’s degree in community/clinical nutrition looking at the nutrient intake during pregnancy of women in Downtown and Point Douglas Winnipeg. She has volunteered with the Mothering Project at Mount Carmel Clinic for the last two years, supporting pregnant women and mothers with substance use issues.

Second place ($2,000)

Anjali Bhagirath
Oral Biology (PhD)
Mind over matter: Outsmarting the bacteria by brainwashing
Educated as a dentist, Bhagirath has a passion for understanding disease processes, particularly those of chronic diseases. She says research empowers her by providing skills to answer complex biological questions. She would like to use her training and skills towards advancing medical knowledge and eventually contribute to improving the quality of lives of individuals suffering with long-term disease and compromised immune systems.

People’s Choice ($1,000)

Paul White
Biomedical Engineering (Master’s)
Immersive virtual reality as a cognitive treatment tool for Alzheimer’s disease

While completing his computer engineering degree, White discovered the joy of research. He has received several NSERC Undergraduate Student Research Awards in diverse fields such as biomedical instrumentation, image processing/sensor fusion and automotive instrumentation. He has also developed applications for smartphones. His thesis work uses virtual reality to study the relationship between Alzheimer’s disease and spatial navigation.


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