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Vimala Bharathi S K and Sristi Mundhada

Reducing food losses the goal of 3MT finalists

March 30, 2021 — 

Two Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences graduate students tackled the challenges of grain storage at the University of Manitoba’s Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) final event on April 21. The event broadcast can be viewed on YouTube.

3MT is an international graduate student research communication competition developed in 2008 by The University of Queensland (UQ) where challengers have just three minutes to present their research and its importance in plain language, using only a single slide to illustrate their topic. The competitors are judged on comprehension, engagement, ease of communication while providing an understanding of the background and significance of their research.

The UM 2021 3MT event began in March with 40 challengers from 32 different departments who each explained their complex research to three judges and a virtual audience in just three minutes.

At the final, students – both master’s and doctoral students – competed for the Dr. Archie McNicol Prize for First Place ($2,500), the UM Retirees Prize for Second Place ($1,250), and Third Place ($750). The online audience will vote for the People’s Choice award (UM Bookstore gift certificate). The first place winner will advance to the Western Canada regional online competition on May 13 and have the chance to be featured in a non-competitive showcase of 3MT videos from graduate students across Canada.

Vimala Bharathi S K and Sristi Mundhada, both graduate students in the Department of Biosystems Engineering, were among the 12 student finalists, and when the judges announced the results, Sristi was named third place winner!

Meet our students:

Vimala Bharathi S K
PhD student in Biosystems Engineering
“Understanding the insect movement pattern inside a grain bin”

What is your presentation about?

My presentation focuses on understanding the behavioural pattern of insects in three-dimension, inside a grain bin. Through my research, I aspire to reduce the food grain storage losses, occurring as a result of insect infestation.

Why did you want to do 3MT?

Through this competition, I wanted to let people know the importance of reducing the food grain loss. Personally, I wanted to improve my communications skills as well as eliminate stage fear.

What has your 3MT experience been like so far?

While preparing for the competition, I learned to explain complex science to a non-specialist audience, in a simpler way. Now, I am more confident to speak about my research in the public. Also, I learned a lot about the importance of various other researches, by listening to the 3-minute talks of other challengers in the past and the present. 

What are your future plans?

I aspire to continue working in research and development areas that focuses on reducing the food grain losses in storage, occurring mainly due to insect pests and improper storage structures.

Final thoughts?

I strongly encourage the graduate students to participate in the 3 MT competition. It is not about winning; if they are able to communicate their whole research in less than 3 minutes to a general audience, it boosts their confidence as well as plays a big part in the success of their careers.

Sristi Mundhada
MSc student in Biosystems Engineering
“Safe storage of flaxseed”

What is your presentation about?

My presentation is about the development of safe storage guidelines for flaxseed and the importance of proper storage of grains. We are a steadily growing population of about 8 billion and the most essential thing for everyone is food and proper nutrition. It’s about time that we shift our focus towards proper storage and preservation of food to prevent its wastage. The reason why I chose to work on flaxseed is because of its high industrial demand and rich nutritional profile. I hope that the developed guidelines will help farmers mitigate their financial losses, improve exports, and prevent spoilage.

Why did you want to do 3MT?

3MT is a platform that gives me the opportunity to explain the importance of food and agricultural research to a widely diverse audience who might or might not be related to this field of study. This will in turn develop a perspective towards the opportunities of betterment that grain storage might provide.

What has your 3MT experience been like so far?

 3MT has been quite challenging for me until now and that is what excites me the most. Sometimes, when we are too busy with our experiments, we tend to forget the essence behind our work. I got a chance to relive the essence of my work, when I started my preparation for 3MT, trying to convert all my technical knowledge to a layman’s language. Moreover, it made me more passionate about my research.

What are your future plans?

I would like to hone my skills in the research and industrial sectors. Hopefully, a few years down the lane, I would love to start my own business in the field of food and agriculture.

Final thoughts?

New to this field of grain research, we always studied the importance of the amount of moisture in the grain and how every important factor revolves around it. It was funny, as a huge part of my project was conditioning the seeds, where we would add water or dry the seed by removing water to reach a particular moisture content and this would last for a few weeks. I did not realize when I was carrying out my experiments but after I acquired my data, I was amazed to find out how a single percentage difference in the moisture of the grain can change its quality drastically. Then imagine how it would be like to deal with tons of grain and maintain its quality throughout its harvest until retail or export.

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