Maya LaGrange Rao

Introduce yourself...

I am a PhD candidate in Earth Science. I greatly enjoy teaching and communicating research with others, so I decided to participate in the Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition to develop my public speaking and science communication skills.

What are you researching and what do you hope comes out of your research?

Though the present-day Northwest Territories is more than 700 km from the west coast of North America and over 7,000 km from the equator, 380 million years ago, this area was actually in the tropics, along the west coast of the continent and covered by the oceans. My thesis focuses on an interval of rocks that formed in the Northwest Territories at that time, during a previous period of global warming. I hope that my research will shed light on past ocean conditions, on both a local and global scale, which will teach us about Earth history and the potential consequences of global warming.

How did presenting a Three Minute Thesis (3MT) help explain your research to the public?

Preparing a 3MT was quite challenging but also very rewarding! This process helped me find ways to reduce the number of technical terms that I rely on to explain my research. Normally, I talk in terms of molybdenum, mudstone, isotopes, anoxia, euxinia… but by making a 3MT, I was able to find ways to minimize jargon and explain the technical words I do use in simple terms. I also struggle a lot with being concise. A three-minute time limit forced me to really consider what information is most valuable.

What inspires you to do research?

Our beautiful planet! Whether I’m swimming at the beach or in the mountains admiring rocks that initially formed in the sea, I’m fascinated by the oceans. With my research, I will better understand how oceans evolved through time and their impact on living systems.

What are three keywords important to your 3MT?

oceans, oxygen, molybdenum

If you had to dedicate your research to anyone from the past, present, or future, who would it be and why?

My research is dedicated to our awesome lab group! The members of this close-knit research family have made my graduate studies a pleasure and an adventure.