Ontario Three-Minute Thesis Competition 2013

​U of T Doctoral Students Compete

  • April 19, 2013

It takes a scholarly lifetime to prepare for a three-minute talk

Lily Yee-Sloan

It was not your typical dissertation panel. A musician, a swimmer, a lawyer, an economist, and a policy analyst arrived at Queen's University to judge 30 thesis presentations from 16 Ontario universities.

At the Ontario Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) competition, each graduate student had three minutes, one static slide, but no other props to convey their research topic to the non-specialist judging panel. The University of Toronto entered two scholars.

The competitors scored first and second place.

Jasdeep SaggarJasdeep Saggar won top honours. A PhD student in medical biophysics, Jasdeep claimed the championship trophy and $1,000 for her presentation on hypoxia-activated pro-drugs: a novel approach for breast cancer.

She exclaims, "My participation in the Three Minute Thesis competition has been nothing short of exhilarating; representing the University of Toronto at the provincial level is an honour and truly humbling."

"I’ve always been passionate about science communication and received the most satisfaction and joy after being approached by non-specialist audience members who said that they understood how chemotherapy worked after hearing my talk. Being able to communicate with a multi-disciplinary audience is crucial for knowledge dissemination. After all, science alone cannot be truly appreciated until its value is contextualized within the domain of human health."

Abraham HeifetsSecond place winner Abraham Heifets is a PhD student in computer science. He posed the question: how can we make better medicines? Computer tools for chemistry.

Abraham tells us, "Participating was a lot of fun. I appreciate the huge amount of work that it took to organize these competitions. It is rare to have the opportunity to practice describing my work honestly, accurately, simply, and succinctly; I believe that everyone, including researchers, needs these skills to communicate effectively."

Third place went to Chau Minh Phan, a PhD student in vision science from Waterloo University whose presentation focused on treatment of fungal eye infections using contact lenses and nanoparticles.

The five-member judging panel – Rob Baker (guitarist for the Tragically Hip), Vicki Keith (marathon swimmer), Hugh Christie (lawyer), Donald Drummond (economist), and Peter Gooch (Council of Ontario Universities) – made the decision at the province-wide event.

Dean Brian Corman was at Queen's to support the two U of T finalists. "This is a proud moment for the School of Graduate Studies and for the University of Toronto. To capture first and second place amongst a prestigious group of graduate researchers doing excellent research at 16 Ontario universities is an impressive achievement. I am indeed very proud of the presentations made by winners Jasdeep and Abraham."

"Doctoral students may be deeply immersed in their research, but to be able to encapsulate their research and to clearly, but concisely, convey it in layperson's terms is a critical skill. Universities must continue to translate their research to the community in a comprehensible manner."

The 3MT® provides a platform to hone the skills for that activity. It showcases innovative and significant research undertaken by our graduate students.

The School of Graduate Studies held divisional heats to choose two students to represent the University of Toronto at the provincial finals. Approximately 60 doctoral students from across all four SGS divisions – humanities, social sciences, physical sciences, and life sciences – competed in divisional rounds in March. Jasdeep Saggar and Abraham Heifets were chosen to represent U of T at the provincial finals on April 18.

See also
Three Minute Thesis contest is Canadian Idol for the geeky set, the Toronto Star, April 20, 2013 with video of Jasdeep Saggar's winning three-minute thesis presentation

 The First Ontario Three Minute Thesis Competition is complete, Queen's University, April 19, 2013  ​