How do you serve up a winning Three Minute Thesis? Just ask Daiva Nielsen – the $1,000 prize winner of the Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) University of Toronto competition for her talk: Do Dietary Recommendations Based on Genetics Change Eating Behaviour?
"I spent a lot of time focusing my overall goal," she explained. "I looked at the bigger picture and thought about the most important point to get across."
A PhD candidate in nutritional sciences, Nielsen is undertaking research to personalize nutrition to the level of genes. "It is a new field, and I wanted to get the ideas across clearly."
To prepare for the 3MT®, she practiced her talk in front of her lab group and supervisor, and then kept improving it, choosing her study design as the focus of her presentation.
"My study design is the gold standard. I am looking at the most direct relationship."
The 3MT® challenge is to present complex research information in an engaging, accessible, and compelling way. On March 26, the School of Graduate Studies, in partnership with Student Life, hosted the 3MT®, a University-wide competition for doctoral students. Fifteen finalists from three divisional heats competed for two prizes.
As the U of T winner, Nielsen will be heading to McMaster University to participate in the 3MT® provincial competition April 24 and defend U of T's championship title won last year.
"I will be revising my presentation slightly by incorporating some of the feedback from the judges," Nielsen said. "The new material will add enthusiasm and simplicity. It will be like a mini-Ted Talk.
"In science, it is important that other people understand our research. We need to disseminate our findings."
Joseph Bondy-Denomy agrees about the importance of accessibility. A PhD candidate in molecular genetics, his talk, Harnessing Viruses as the Next Generation Antibiotic, earned him second place.
"I asked myself what someone who is outside the field of science would think," he said, adding it is important to practice with someone who provides honest, critical feedback. "It makes all the difference."
Brian Corman, dean of graduate studies and vice-provost of graduate education, said students taking part in the 3MT® gain valuable experience in distilling their research discoveries and their impact into a three-minute talk aimed at a non-specialist audience.
"This provides them with the opportunity to develop the communications skills they need to explain their important work to the public that has supported them. The 3MT® competition allows the University of Toronto the opportunity to showcase the significant research being done by our graduate students."