Chemical Engineering Student Wins Concordia’s Three-Minute Thesis Master’s Competition
How has the 3MT process helped you?
A: The most important thing I learned was how to effectively convey a complex topic to the audience. It took several drafts. I had at least three and a half iterations before I was sure my audience would understand the concept I was describing.
And I learned to look for clues. When we had our Zoom meetings with our coaches and the other competitors, as I read my presentation, I watched their facial expressions. “What are they thinking? What are their eyebrows saying? Oh! It seems too complicated.
This experience took me out of my comfort zone — the lab — where I am surrounded by those who are already in the field. It put me in front of people from diverse backgrounds, like in the liberal arts.
Would you recommend the experience to your peers?
A: All areas of research depend on funding. It is essential to get the public to understand your research so that they then push their government and industries to increase their investment in it. This is what drives policy making in any country. To turn the gears of research, it is necessary to communicate effectively with the general public.
It’s definitely not the same as going to a research symposium and having other like-minded people listen to your topic. They already have practical research experience.
Here is an example. This is what I learned about the word “insulator”.
Isolation, to me, in the context of batteries, means that the electrons don’t want to move. They are isolated. But for the general public, insulating means insulating for heat. This is a separate phenomenon. We don’t start heating in the winter. So, I thought, what is a similar concept that people are familiar with that allows them to perceive isolation as I understand it?
Conductivity! I don’t mean it’s one-to-one, but it’s pretty close: something that’s insulated has low conductivity. I had to make sure there was no confusion for my audience.
Do you have any advice for graduate students considering getting into the ring next year?
A: I highly recommend recording yourself or having a friend listen to you at least once after you make noticeable progress in your delivery.
The other key thing is that a lot of people have hand gestures. Coaches will tell you if you have too much or not enough. It is essential to have perhaps a gesture that is really related to your speech. For example, if you say “Let me take you out” and physically take a step back, that adds to your presentation of the presentation.
Plus, if you don’t take the time to practice public speaking, you’ll never know how good you could be. I’ve seen international students who struggled to speak English in the empty race and were considerably better in the final event. I was very impressed and proud to have seen them improve. I consider that as important as winning.
Finalist and People’s Choice Award winner Maryam Rezaei is pursuing a Master of Applied Science degree in Civil Engineering. She presented his research on “Bacteria can eat oil!” on the basis of his thesis “The anaerobic biodegradation of hydrocarbons by native mature thin-tailed bacteria”.
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