FSU has inaugural three-minute thesis competition

Neleen Leslie was declared the winner of Florida State University’s first Three-Minute Thesis Competition on Tuesday.

The doctoral candidate in mass communication from Jamaica was one of 12 finalists who presented their 80,000-word thesis in three minutes or less. Contestants were only allowed to use a single, static slide to present their findings.

Finalist Takudzwa Madzima, from Zimbabwe, spent two days working on his presentation, which focused on breast cancer survivors and how resistance training and protein supplementation can help keep their bodies strong. He was encouraged by his professor to participate in the event and in the process found that it was good for his future.

“I think, for us, it’s good career practice, talking about research to a general audience,” Madzima said. “As for the school, it’s good for them to know what different students are researching about.”

Topics ranged from the interaction of informed buyers and salespeople to prolactin and fertility regulation. The contestants had to ensure that their topics were explained clearly to an audience of non-specialists.

The first-place winner received $500, second place received $300 and the people’s choice winner, voted on by the audience, received $250.

Jonathan Christian, a doctoral candidate in chemistry and biochemistry from Philadelphia, was won second place.

Judy Hefren, a doctoral candidate in social work from Fairview Park, Ohio, was the people’s choice. Her thesis topic centered on the significance that parents place on belongings following the death of a child. She spoke about the hard work it took for her to compete and her gratefulness for being voted as the people’s choice.

“It feels good,” Hefren said. “I think people appreciate the challenge it has been following the death of my son. This is a great skill for people to develop, to talk about their research to a general audience. I’m thankful for the opportunity to do so.”

The Three-Minute Thesis event originally started at the University of Queensland, Australia, in 2008.

With the success of the event this year, Nancy Marcus, dean of the graduate school, said FSU will “indeed” have this event next year.

“It’s a great opportunity for graduate students to develop speaking skills with a wide, diverse audience,” Marcus said. “I think they did great. They were inspiring.”