Three Minute Thesis Competition Returns to UMB

May 23, 2018    |  

On May 2, 2018, nine PhD students from area universities gathered at the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) for the third annual Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition.

From left, Mustafa Al-Adhami (UMBC),Yuhan (Douglas) Rao (UMCP), Deborah Stiffler (USUHS),  Caroline Vissers (JHU), Valerie Rennoll (JHU), Britney Hardy (USUHS), Omni Cassidy (USUHS), Caroline Vissers (JHU), and
Alex M. Rittle (UMBC).

From left, Mustafa Al-Adhami (UMBC),Yuhan (Douglas) Rao (UMCP), Deborah Stiffler (USUHS), Caroline Vissers (JHU), Valerie Rennoll (JHU), Britney Hardy (USUHS), Omni Cassidy (USUHS), Caroline Vissers (JHU), and Alex M. Rittle (UMBC).

Each student had three minutes to effectively explain their research in language appropriate to a non-specialist audience, and they were allowed one slide to accompany their talk. (See video below.)

The 3MT competition was developed by The University of Queensland (UQ) in Brisbane, Australia, in 2008, when the state of Queensland was suffering severe drought. To conserve water, residents were encouraged to time their showers, and many people had a three-minute egg timer fixed to the wall in their bathroom. The then-dean of the UQ Graduate School put 2 and 2 together, and the idea for the 3MT competition was born

The competition has since spread to more than 600 universities and institutions across 65 countries worldwide, including UMB. Senior associate dean Erin K. Golembewski, PhD, of the University of Maryland Graduate School attended regional semifinals in Ontario, Canada, in 2016 and brought the idea back to Maryland. “It’s the highlight of my spring semester,” she said.

Competitors came from several Maryland universities, including Johns Hopkins University (JHU), the University of Maryland, College Park (UMCP), the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), and the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USUHS).

Their presentations were evaluated by a panel of three judges that included Golembewski, Peter Espenshade, PhD, associate dean for graduate biomedical education at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, and Julianna Pieknik, PhD, USUHS.

First place was awarded to Britney Hardy (USUHS) for her presentation Bacterial Bombs, which explored her interest in antibiotics and the microbiome. Second place was split between Omni Cassidy (USUHS) for Food Marketing and Obesity and Sarah Atreed (JHU) for Building a Better Vaccine. A People’s Choice Award went to Valerie Rennoll (JHU) for Tunable Acoustic Transducers: Harnessing the Power of Sound. Each winner received a small monetary prize and the “promise of fame and fortune,” Golembewski joked.

Hardy said she was thrilled about her win and the opportunity to share her passion for learning. “I love talking about science. It’s my favorite thing to do,” she said. She also acknowledged the high level of competition and congratulated the other participants. “Doing this and hearing everyone else’s presentations has been great. We all did a really great job.”

Other presentations included:

Caroline Vissers (JHU), Notes on Brain Health

Yuhan (Douglas) Rao (UMCP), Earlier and Warmer Spring Could Plant a Drier Summer

Alex M. Rittle (UMBC), Mapping the River in Three Dimensions

Mustafa Al-Adhami (UMBC), Rapid Antibiotic Susceptibility Testing

Deborah Stiffler (USUHS), Understanding How Asymptomatic Malaria Contributes to Transmission