How 3MT Demystified the Complications
On March 15th, 2018, twenty-five participants took to the stage to deliver an engaging three-minute pitch about their research to an eager audience for the annual Concordia Three Minute Thesis & Project Competition. From speeches about diabetes and a protein that may counteract some of the damage the disease causes to finding out what makes us want to drink alcohol, each Concordia graduate student showed their passion for their academic pursuits with enthusiasm and eloquence.
We caught up with Kenechukwu Nnodu, the Runner-up for the Masters presentations, to discuss his experience participating in the event. Kenechukwu, who goes by Kene for short, is a graduate student pursuing a Master of Applied Science (MASc) within the department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. His 3MT presentation entitled “Reprogramming your CELLfie” discussed the computation of cells and the riboswitch component that can be mimicked by researchers to build biological systems to aid agriculture.
What were some of the highlights for you while participating in the 3 Minute Thesis & Project Competition?
Kene: At the first workshop/info session, we had an activity to talk about our research in a group of three and I realized that I needed a better way to communicate my research because I felt my group members did not understand it. I also discovered that the first statement I used to make to talk about my research was always "it is complicated" and I think I used to say this either to avoid the conversation, or to be able to look at the listener as if to say, "I told you so" when they seemed lost.
I didn't sign up for the next coaching session, but thanks to the persistence and tenacity of the coaches, they helped me make the decision to participate.
The coaching sessions felt like a corroborative environment. The coaches made it a very supportive platform for us to help one another. At the 3MT event, I was blown away by the presentation of each person. If you told me that it would be at that level when we started or even 24 hours earlier, I would not have believed it.
Has participating in the 3 Minute Thesis & Project Competition changed how you view or understand your research?
Kene: It helped me to view my research in a global perspective. My 'little' contribution will eventually fit into a bigger picture and now I can see it.
How did you prepare yourself for presenting your research to an audience in three minutes?
Kene: I asked myself, "what part of my work can the audience easily relate to?" It was not clear the first time, but after digging deep, I came up with a good analogy/metaphor. I also recorded myself and listened to it whenever possible especially before going to bed. To improve my eye contact, I imagined my audience as the three corners of my room while I practiced.
What did you learn about yourself after participating in this event?
Kene: "Educators take something simple and make it complicated. Communicators take something complicated and make it simple" John C. Maxwell.
I am becoming a better communicator and I think I need to give myself more opportunities to "fail" at it, so I can succeed eventually.
When asked if Kene has ever tried explaining his research initiatives to his family or friends he told us that he hasn’t really spoken to his family about his research before. However, after participating in the 3MT event and attending the training as well as coaching sessions offered by GradProSkills, Kene stated “I think I am well equipped to do so now. I have also talked to few people about my research after the competition and it is a lot easier. I won't ever start with ‘it is complicated’ again. 3MT has demystified the complications.”
For those thinking about competing in the Three Minute Thesis & Project Competition or just wanting to improve their ability to discuss their research with their peers and the public, Kene recommends the Public Speaking with the Toastmasters and Mitacs Skills of Communication workshops that GradProSkills offers.