This Thursday, April 12, 25 Concordia graduate students will compete in the university’s first Three Minute Thesis Competition (3MT™). The competition, held annually at universities around the world, is designed to test how well students can distill their research into a three-minute, jargon-free presentation.
“We have some really interesting topics to be presented, from women’s studies in the Middle East to rocket fuel optimization,” says Mukhbir Singh, a graduate student at the John Molson School of Business (JMSB) and a member of the 3MT organizing team from GradProSkills, Concordia's graduate and professional skills training program.
The organizers selected 25 competitors from a pool of 30 applicants. Singh says he and his colleagues were very happy with the amount of interest the competition garnered among graduate students at Concordia. “We would have been happy if we had received 15 applications.”
Master's student Jean-Marc Leduc first heard about the competition while working as a French conversation leader with GradProSkills last summer. “It seemed like a great exercise to explain my research in plain language,” he says, adding that the prize money was also a factor in his decision to register. Two winners will receive international travel grants worth $750, and one runner-up will receive the People’s Choice Award, worth $250.
Leduc, a Quebec literature student in Concordia’s Département d'Études françaises, is writing his master's thesis on the role of Irish characters in Québécois fiction. “I think people are generally interested in the role of the Irish in Quebec, and that my project adds a new dimension to the question,” he says.
Damien Biot-Pelletier is a year and a half into his PhD in Biology at Concordia. His research deals with the conversion of renewable biomass into fuels to replace fossil fuels. He first heard about the 3MT competition from his program director, who suggested he register. “I like to use every opportunity that I can get to improve my communication skills, because communication is a huge part of science,” Biot-Pelletier says.
While he recognizes that communicating research objectives and results to the taxpaying public is the duty of every scientist, Biot-Pelletier says it is one of the most challenging aspects of his job. “It forces us to get back to the basic concepts, to forget about the daily jargon of our discipline, and to find simple and (hopefully) effective ways to discuss our research,” he says.
As a native French speaker, Biot-Pelletier says he’s happy that the competition is bilingual. “The vast majority of scientific communication is done in English,” he says. “Francophones don’t get that many opportunities to formally share their research in their mother tongue."
The winner of the Three Minute Thesis Competition at Concordia will get to represent the university in a 3MT Competition (Votre Soutenance en 180 seconds) being held during the 80th Congrès de l'Acfas (Association francophone pour le savoir) in May.
To prepare for the Concordia competition, Biot-Pelletier says he has spent a lot of time writing his text. “Finding the right words, the short but effective sentences that will make everything clear, is a long process,” he says.
When he finished writing, Biot-Pelletier began practicing his presentation in front of anyone who would listen. “I’ve been rehearsing over and over again, giving my speech to the walls, to the sidewalk, to my cat, my wife, my colleagues, everyone.”
The Montreal chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) and GradProSkills recently held a one-day seminar to prepare students from across the province for the upcoming Three Minute Thesis Competitions.
Yvonne Callaway Smith, owner of Midnight Oil Ink and past-president of IABC's Montreal chapter, has also been helping the students polish their presentations. The current president of IABC’s Montreal chapter, Sharon Hunter, will serve on the judging panel with two Concordia faculty members, who have yet to be confirmed.
Read the Q and A with grad student and contender Mona Tajali.
When: Thursday, April 12, 2012, from 1 p.m. until 3 p.m.
Where: J.A. DeSève Cinema, ground floor of the J.W. McConnell Library Building (1400 De Maisonneuve Blvd. W.), Sir George Williams Campus
• Concordia Three Minute Thesis Competition
• “A Year’s Research in Three Minutes or Less” — NOW, February 14, 2012