Learning About U of A’s Incredible Graduate Researchers

A thesis in three minutes?? Learn more about U of A’s Three Minute Thesis competition!

By Michelle Reid

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We might not be playing basketball, but March still feels a bit mad for many grad students. There’s preparation for field season, midterms, spring fever — and the Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition.

This competition is a showcase of what grad students are doing in their day to day lives, and I decided to try it out this year. During the month of February, the FGSR put on workshops that gave students across disciplines the opportunity to talk about what they are doing and how they might approach doing a 3MT presentation. It was interesting to see just how much variety there was; there were people doing research on everything from how to improve fertility to machine learning, and then there was me looking at insecticide use in alfalfa fields. You name it, there are people studying it. It was amazing to see how unique and passionate everyone is about their research in their own way.

These workshops helped me take another look at my research and think about what I love about what I am doing. I put together a slide and a three-minute speech, and I competed in the semifinals. Presenting on Zoom was a very different experience than if we had been on a stage. Some might find it easier, but I found the lack of connection with the crowd made me unsure if people liked it at all. Turns out, they did! The next week I learned that I had won a spot in the finals! It was a wonderful feeling. After the semifinals the finalists got together in smaller groups and helped each other improve our presentations including how our slides look, what we say, and even how we explain things. The feedback from people not in my discipline was invaluable because they provided a totally new perspective on my work.

After all the feedback, I had about a week to mull over those comments and prepare an even better presentation. I pre-recorded a new version of my 3MT, and you’ll be able to view it (along with all of the presentations from the 15 semi-finalists) starting on March 29 when People’s Choice voting opens.

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After being focused for so long on one small facet of research, the 3MT process has opened my eyes to the breadth of amazing research happening by students at the U of A. It is a wonderful reminder that no research happens in a vacuum, and that grad students are doing some really cool things. I did my undergrad and now my masters degree in plant agriculture, so hearing about how other students are changing the world in their fields is amazing. Graduate student research isn’t always showy or high profile, but the people behind the research are passionate and excited.

Passion and excitement, is there anything better to strive for?

Come cheer on U of A’s graduate students… three minutes at a time. Meet the finalists and vote in the People’s Choice Award starting March 29. Tune in to the finals viewing party on April 1 at 1 pm.Meet the finalists and vote in the People’s Choice Award starting March 29. Tune in to the finals viewing party on April 1 at 1 pm.

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About Michelle

Michelle is a second-year master’s student in the Department of Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Science specializing in Plant Agriculture. Read more about her 3MT presentation here.here.