The McGill-wide Three Minute Thesis (3MT) and Ma thèse en 180 secondes (MT180) competition are hosted annually by SKILLSETS in Teaching and Learning Services in collaboration with Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies. Since launching in 2008 at The University of Queensland, this global competition challenges graduate students to communicate their research to a general audience in three minutes or less and using only a single, static slide.
The last time this event was hosted in-person was March 2020, at the doorstep of the disruption caused by the pandemic and the shift to remote teaching and learning at McGill. After running the 2021 competition fully online and spending a lot of time on Zoom in general, the 2022 main event returned to the Faculty Club ballroom on April 6th to an in-person audience, with over 100 people also joining live via YouTube. Reflecting on this year’s return to the Faculty Club, Associate Provost (Graduate Education) and Dean of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, Josephine Nalbantoglu said, “Being back in person this year was a wonderful way to celebrate what is event is all about – our graduate students. They are the best of the best, and the incredible contributions to research of our entire graduate student community help shape excellence at McGill.”
From the 15 exceptional graduate student finalists who delivered engaging presentations that truly communicated their passion for their research, the panel of judges had the challenging task of naming four prize winners. This year’s judging panel included Dr. Joe Schwarcz (Director, McGill Office for Science and Society), Justine Peres Smith (VP, Quebec Critic’s Association (AQCC)), Dr. Laura Winer (Director, Teaching and Learning Services) and Dr. Liette Lapointe (Vice-Dean of Programs, Information Systems and Associate Professor).
First place in the 3MT was awarded to Atia Amin, a PhD student in Human Genetics, for their talk “Preventing Leishmaniasis Using Exosome”. According to Atia, “participating in 3MT was a humbling experience for me. It was amazing to meet the presenters in-person during the finals and learn about their cutting-edge research projects”. Atia will now advance to represent McGill at the 2022 Canadian Association for Graduate Studies Eastern Regional 3MT competition. First place in the MT180 went to Ylauna Penalva, a PhD student in the Integrated Program in Neuroscience, for their talk: La Maladie d’Alzheimer: Avant d’oublier. Ylauna now advances to represent McGill at the 2022 Finale national de Acfas MT180. Muhammad Ghufran Rafique (PhD, Chemistry) won second prize for “Integrating electronics with biology at the nanoscale”, and the third prize winner was Charlotte Maschke (PhD, Integrated Program in Neuroscience) for “Will he ever wake up again?”. Last but not least, the in-person and online audience also got to have their say. “Localized Laryngeal Cancer Treatment: Give Patients a Voice” by Christian Moya Garcia (PhD, Biological and Biomedical Engineering) was the 2022 people’s choice award winner.
Another highlight was having graduate students themselves lead the show. This year, the final competition was co-hosted by two graduate students: Saima Ahmed (PhD, Experimental Medicine) and Nathalie Jreidini (PhD, Biology (Ecology & Evolution), and 2021 3MT Finalist). The commentaries between the two hosts created a uniquely fun experience for the audience that was engaging, dynamic, and humorous. As Nathalie remarked, “the tension is always high in any competition, but having two co-hosts who helped organize the 3MT and got to know the contestants helped ease the tension.” This sentiment was echoed by Saima: “Our job was easy; the finalists had prepared their talks so well and the audience was ready to absorb all that wonderful knowledge. The room had a great energy, we tried our best to keep it light and fun, sharing our genuine reactions and little anecdotes between talks.”
With this showcase of communication skills and passion for research, there are many takeaways for participants, organizers, and audience members. According to Ylauna following her first-place award for the MT180, “I now always consider various ways to retain my audience’s attention while making sure they comprehend the key message of my talk. Another great experience was getting feedback from my fellow competitors. While you may expect that in a competition, people would be unwilling to give advice, the environment was actually very friendly and collaborative!” Despite the competitive nature of 3MT/MT180, this experience lends itself to creating a network of graduate students who are passionate about research communication and skills development that has the potential to grow further, beyond this annual competition.
To learn about this year’s winners, finalists, and their exceptional research, you can watch the 2022 3MT/MT180 competition online and consult the competition program. For any eligible graduate students who may be interested in participating in the 2023 competition, registration will launch later this year.