Biomedical graduate students shine in thesis competition

Biomedical graduate students shine in thesis competition

The 3 Minute Thesis winners were Audrey Torcaso, Neuroscience Program (1st Place, center), Chelsea Denault, History (2nd Place, right), and David Ford, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology (3rd Place, left) (Photo: Leanne L. Cribbs, PhD)

By Erinn Connor

Scientists and researchers don’t include public speaking as a top skill on their resume, but some biomedical graduate students are making it a priority.

Audrey Torcaso and David Ford were honored at the Loyola University Chicago 3-Minute Thesis competition, held on the Lake Shore Campus on February 17. Neuroscience student Torcaso took first place and also went on to take the top prize at the Midwest Association of Graduate Schools 3-Minute Thesis competition in April in Indianapolis.

Ford, a student in the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology program, took third place in the HSD competition. Chelsea Denault, a PhD candidate in history, came in second.

The 3-Minute Thesis competition originated at The University of Queensland in Australia and is meant to help student researchers easily explain their research in three minutes to a non-scientific audience. Students are judged on how well they can explain their research without using jargon, the ability to articulate the significance of their research and why it’s relevant, and how well they engage with the audience.

“As I'm nearing the end of my doctoral training, everyone (family, friends, fellow grad students, potential future employers) wants to know what I've been doing with the last five years of my life,” Torcaso said. “I wanted to participate in the 3-Minute Thesis competition so that I'd have an ‘elevator talk’ prepared for when I get asked about my research.”

Torcaso spoke about her research on how binge drinking affects the brains of teenagers, and Ford gave a presentation titled “New Clues to Cancer: Inside a Fly.”  Denault was honored for her presentation on Detroit’s use of trash incinerators and the impact on the local economy

Leanne Cribbs, PhD, Associate Dean for Graduate Education at the Stritch School of Medicine and The Graduate School, coordinates the 3-Minute Thesis program on the Health Sciences Campus and hopes it’s something more graduate students will use to round out their burgeoning scientific careers.

“It’s a valuable experience that helps our biomedical science students present their work in a clear, concise manner to general audiences, which can be harder than it seems,” she said. Explaining complex scientific concepts is a crucial skill for those looking to go into teaching.

Adds Ford: “The exercise of distilling and then communicating the critical aspects of high-level scientific work is an absolutely necessary skill to any looking for a career in academia.”