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Public invited to first-ever UNC-Chapel Hill competition in which 10 Ph.D. students present their research in 3 minutes; audience members determine one winner

The final round of UNC-Chapel Hill’s first-ever Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) competition takes place Nov. 4, and the public is invited to watch as 10 doctoral students present their research on a stage, using one slide and no props other than the slide.

The final event will be held Nov. 4 from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History.

The 3MT was developed by the University of Queensland and is now held in more than 200 universities in 18-plus countries worldwide. The competition provides students with an opportunity to hone their communication skills while distilling their dissertation to the most important features, said Steve Matson, dean of The Graduate School.

“Students, during their academic training, learn how to communicate with an academic audience,” he added. “However, they do not frequently have a chance to share their work with a general audience in a way that captures the importance of their work and its relevance to the world today. We’re pleased that the audience within our 3MT finals competition actually determines one of our campus winners.”

Doctoral students from a variety of disciplines participated in an earlier judged preliminary round competition, and the 10 finalists for Nov. 4 are:

  • Nicole Bauer (history) – “In the Kingdom of Shadows: Secrecy and Transparency in Eighteenth-Century France”
  • Elizabeth Cutrer (education) – “ ‘Getting’ what I’ve always got’: A multi-domain literacy coaching approach to support teachers resistant to change”
  • Evan Faulkenbury (history) – “The Voter Education Project and the Civil Rights Movement”
  • Mejs Hasan (geological sciences) – “Using Satellites to Monitor Water Pollution”
  • Bianca Lopez (curriculum for the environment and ecology) – “Know your backyard: Urbanization and its effects on plant communities”
  • Colleen O’Neil (chemistry) – “Single Molecule Sequencing: The Key to Precision Medicine”
  • Kayla Peck (biology) – “Host Range Expansion of MERS-Coronavirus”
  • Marni Siegel (curriculum in genetics and molecular biology) – “The Evolution of Breast Cancer Metastasis”
  • Nick Wagner (psychology) – “Early origins of externalizing psychopathology”
  • Megan Wildes (School of Nursing) – “Tools for Life: Resiliency 101 and Coping with Stress”

A panel of judges will assess the participants’ ability to clearly explain the significance of their research, and their engagement with the audience, among other criteria. Judges for the final round are:

  • Joel Curran, vice chancellor for communications and public affairs, UNC-Chapel Hill
  • Brian Malow, curator of the SECU Daily Planet and science communicator, N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences
  • Zach Ward, owner, executive producer and artistic director, DSI Comedy Theater
  • Kelly Wolff, general manager, The Daily Tar Heel

Todd Boyette, director of the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center at UNC-Chapel Hill, will serve as the master of ceremonies for the final round.

“Effective communication skills is the number one transferable skill employers seek in job candidates,” said Brian Rybarczyk, director of Academic and Professional Development within The Graduate School. “3MT is a professional development opportunity for graduate students to develop verbal communication skills. Students have to translate their research for a non-expert audience, make it accessible, highlight its importance and connect their work to the world outside an academic setting.”

The winner of the campus competition will receive $1,000; the runner-up and People’s Choice awardee (determined by the audience) will each receive $500. The campus finalist advances to the regional competition at the Conference of Southern Graduate Schools in February 2016 in Charlotte.

More information on the 3MT is available at the Three Minute Thesis website.


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