On Nov. 13, 2020, the Graduate School held the finals of its Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition virtually, with neuroscience Ph.D. student Cherish Taylor winning first prize for her presentation “SLC30A10 Protein: The Key to Discovering Treatments for Manganese-Induced Parkinsonism.”
Special education Ph.D. student Saashya Rodrigo was runner-up for “Special Education Learning Disabilities and Behavioral Disabilities,” and mechanical engineering Ph.D. student Ramin Sabbagh won the People's Choice Award for “Industrial Data Compression and Management.”
3MT is an international competition that helps graduate students cultivate the skills to communicate academic and research concepts to general audiences. Participating students use approachable language and concepts to explain their research in three minutes or less to a panel of judges.
Taylor receives $1,000 and will represent the university at the regional 3MT competition at the online Conference of Southern Graduate Schools in February. Rodrigo will receive $750 and Sabbagh $500. The prizes were generously underwritten by the Graduate Coordinator Network.
In total, 20 students participated in the competition, which was organized in two heats. Ultimately, 10 individuals advanced and competed in the final. This year, students pre-recorded their presentations, which were played during the virtual event for audience members and judges.
"Trying to communicate your specific research topic is always a challenge, especially when communicating with a general audience," said Taylor. "3MT provided participating students so many resources (such as webinars and feedback appointments) on how to tell a research story that can be understood by anyone. So now we have a three minute pitch to clearly and concisely discuss what we do and why. Participating in the 3MT provided a skill that we can carry with us and use in any career."
Competitors are judged on the content of the presentation—both verbal content and PowerPoint slides—and how well they convey concepts and engage with the audience.
The judges for this year's final included leading Austin communication and business professionals:
C. J. Harris, manager of talent acquisition and organizational development at Luminex Corporation
Trevor Scott, co-host of “We Are Austin” on CBS Austin
David Ong, senior director of talent acquisition at MAXIMUS