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Concordia’s Three Minute Thesis Competition goes virtual

GradProSkills and 4TH SPACE host the 2020 edition of the popular event to a record audience
July 22, 2020
By Alexander Hackett

Quickly summarizing one’s research in three minutes after years of in-depth study, with all the technical jargon and theoretical concepts involved, can be something of a challenge.

Yet this is precisely what participants were required to do at Concordia’s 2020 3MT/MT180 competition, which took place for the first time as an online event on June 23. GradProSkills and 4TH SPACE co-hosted the contest.

3MT stands for “Three Minute Thesis,” and “MT180” is the French-language version, “Ma thèse en 180 secondes.” Students have a maximum of 180 seconds to communicate the outline and importance of their research to a crowd of non-specialists in a clear and captivating manner using only one static slide.

“Basically, grad students prepare a three-minute elevator pitch for their thesis, taking really complex projects and summarizing them in a way that’s really engaging,” explains Rachel Berger, director of the Individualized (INDI) program, who acted as a coach for the participants this year.

The judges were Concordia alumni Inder Bedi (BComm 96), Sujan Soosaithas (BEng 09, Meng 18), and Amanda Rossi (BSc 06, MSc 09, PhD 15).

“It’s a great way for students to clarify their thoughts and think about what the resonance of their work can be outside of their field and why it matters,” adds Berger, who is also associate professor of history.

“It’s a huge skillset that students are able to gain in preparing for this competition.”

A new platform

Traditionally an in-person event, organizers faced the challenge this year of bringing the 3MT competition online.

“We had to review the entire process and adapt it to work online and remotely. Thankfully, the great team at 4TH SPACE stepped up and provided their expertise,” says Racha Cheikh-Ibrahim of GradProSkills.

“The event was challenging but a wonderful success, and we had double the audience of previous years. We learned a great deal and are already excited for the 2021 Concordia 3MT/MT180s.”

Smartphone data leakage, next-gen therapeutics and micro-devices for Alzheimer’s disease patients

The 3MT competitions originated at the University of Queensland in Australia in 2008, but have since gone international and spread to more than 200 universities worldwide.

Concordia’s 2020 presentations ranged from gender composition in industry and smartphone data leakage to the use of micro-devices in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease patients and next-generation therapeutics.

“Of the finalists, one student is selected to represent Concordia at the 3MT eastern regional final competition and another to do so at the francophone competition Ma thèse en 180 secondes,” says Brad Nelson, associate dean of academic programs and development.

“The bar was set high, following on recent years when Concordia’s champion went on to win the Northeastern Association of Graduate Schools competition as well as the Canadian national competition. We have an excellent coaching program here. I applaud all the participants for accepting the challenge.”

Winners reflect the diversity of Concordia’s research

Concordia 3MT MA winner Chesline Pierre-Paul

This year’s MA winner is translation studies student Chesline Pierre-Paul, who wowed the judges by summing up her research in “Positive visibility.” Pierre-Paul explores the paradox of overrepresented negative visibility and underrepresented positive visibility of indigenous peoples, and ways in which that imbalance can be challenged.

Biology student Joshua Oliver was the runner-up with “They shall pass,” illustrating how studying yeast can have a big impact on treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.

Sarah Rahimi, who studies business management, was the People’s Choice winner with “Do male-and-female dominated industries influence CEO pay?” Rahimi’s research examines the improving trends in the gender pay gap at the executive level.

Concordia 3MT PhD winner Erica Pimentel

The first-place winner in the PhD category is business administration student Erica Pimentel for exploring the importance of the common question, “What do you do?” in relation to how accountants perceive themselves and their purpose.

Sylvie Ouellette (BA 95, BSc 17), from the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, was the PhD runner up for “How do bacteria steal your iron?” which shows how her research seeks to create a 3D model of the compounds that bacteria like salmonella and E. coli use to scavenge iron from the host.

And mechanical engineering PhD student Ehsan Yazdanpanah Moghadam was the People’s Choice Award recipient for “Modeling Alzheimer’s disease on a micro-device.” Moghadam introduces his “micro-lab,” a device used to measure cell healthiness and activity for treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.

All three PhD candidates are also 2020 Public Scholars.

Concordia MT180 winner Vanessa Mardirossian

Concordia’s MT180 winner is Vanessa Mardirossian, from the INDI program, for her presentation, “Des couleurs saines pour un corps sain.” Mardirossian examines use of synthetic materials in the fashion industry and its impact on human health and the environment.

Mardirossian and Pimentel will represent Concordia at their respective regional competitions this year.

Learn more about Concordia’s GradProSkills and School of Graduate Studies.

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