Typically, the Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition is held every March, but this year university campuses closed before the event could take place.
However, the show must go on, as they say, and last week it did, when seven TRU graduate students presented their research virtually before a panel of non-expert judges. The judges, which included Acacia Pangilinan, executive director of the Kamloops Chamber of Commerce, Christopher Foulds, editor of Kamloops This Week, and Katie Neustaeter, interim executive director of the United Way Thompson Nicola Cariboo, deliberated and returned with their winners.
And the winner is…
Ted Morton, Master of Science in Environmental Science, was awarded first place, along with a $1,000 prize, and will advance to the Western Canadian regional competition, hosted virtually on Wednesday, Sept. 23, by the University of Alberta.
Morton’s presentation, “The narcissist of land-use management,” poses some critical questions about the multi-million-dollar mountain biking industry and the challenges that arise, generally, from commodifying the outdoors.
As the owner of the Canadian Enduro Series, which stages mountain biking events across Canada, Morton has a unique insider’s view into the sport, and said he began graduate school as a way of devoting time to answer questions that kept surfacing.
“I had a feeling that mountain biking wasn’t as good as I originally thought it was for communities, and whenever I brought up my concerns, nobody seemed to have the answers I was looking for,” he said.
The goal of his research is to ensure that the sport he has devoted so much of his life to thrives, but not at the expense of other land users, the environment and communities.
Morton opted to tackle the three-minute communication competition to increase his comfort with public speaking.
“I’m pretty comfortable in the mountain biking world, and in talking to other mountain bikers, but on the academic side, I don’t have as much experience expressing my thoughts and speaking in front of that crowd. I wanted to take a subject that was really close to me and display it in a manner that is really relevant,” he said.
And the runners up are…
Taking second place and a $500 cash prize was Kyley Drach for her presentation, “Hidden chemicals impacting the menstrual cycle,” and in third place, receiving a $250 prize, was Aramide Taiwo, for “How harmful are poultry farms close to lakes?”
Despite not having an opportunity to judge the event in person, the judging panel was nevertheless impressed by what they saw.
Judges suitably impressed
“This was my first time judging the competition and I would do it again in a heartbeat — hopefully in person when this pandemic finally departs,” said Foulds. “I like it, and I think the community at large would too, because it gives laypeople like myself a good summary of more complex issues that are part of the participants’ research. They are only three minutes long, but you can learn a heck of a lot in that time frame,” he said.
“The judging experience was fantastic, and an impressive group of candidates made for challenging deliberations,” said Pangilinan. “A job well done to each of the participants, and congratulations!”
“The opportunity to learn from the work of these engaged students was an honour. Their commitment to research and their effort to make a positive impact on the world through their field of interest was inspiring and encouraging,” said Neustaeter.
Morton is now be one of 17 graduate students competing in the Western Regional 3MT. The winner of that competition moves forward to the National 3MT, hosted by the Canadian Association for Graduate Students later this fall.
The 3MT is an international academic competition that assists graduate students with fostering effective communication skills. Students have just three minutes and a single static slide to explain the breadth and significance of their research to a non-specialist audience.