Friday, April 26, 2019

The University of New Hampshire’s fourth annual Three Minute Thesis finale was Wednesday, April 3, during Graduate Student Appreciation Week in in MUB Theater 2. Seven esteemed judges chose the top three winners –  Sydney Birch (first place), Zane Relethford (second place) and Katherine Ineson (third place) –  and audience members also chose Relethford as this year’s People’s Choice recipient.

This year’s judges included UNH President James Dean; criminal defense attorney Cathy Green; Interim Associate Vice President of Community, Equity and Diversity Monica Chiu; UNH Director of Research Integrity Services Julie Simpson; USNH Board Trustee and Sight Line Public Affairs President Jamie Burnett; NHPR Reporter Sam Evans-Brown; and Maria Emanuel of Large Center Development and Broader Impacts and UNHInnovation.

The goal of the 3MT is for students to explain their research to a general audience in three minutes or less –   a critical skill in the professional world, said President Dean.

“I enjoyed the variety of topics addressed by the students, and the creative ways they got their points across. I think any graduate student would benefit from participating in this event,” President Dean said.

Emanuel said she finds the competition so impactful she’s decided to adopt this format for a faculty internal grant program.

“It is amazing to watch the students, regardless of whether they are beginning or concluding their graduate career, convey their expertise and enthusiasm in one static slide and three minutes of presentation,” she said.

For third-place winner Ineson, the most difficult part of the 3MT was condensing her research into three minutes and ultimately deciding what to include and, what to take out. Relethford, a self-described “thorough and long-winded person by nature,” also struggled breaking out of the traditional presentation style.

“I tried to focus on making it fun and compelling, rather than strictly academic. I focused on bringing the most accessible parts of my work to the audience, and going from there,” Relethford said. “It's surprising to step outside my normal community and still feel welcome. It makes me feel more confident about crossing that bridge into industry after I complete my degree.”

Birch said developing hers forced her step back and think about how her research impacts everyday society and why people should care. She participated in all the Graduate School’s 3MT workshops and the practice round hosted at Flight Coffee Co. in February. For her, one of the most valuable aspects of participating was learning about other graduate student work.

“I enjoyed the overwhelmingly supportive environment, which led to new friendships and connections,” Birch said.