The Ongoing Impact of My 3MT® Experience

By Daiva Nielsen​
August 6, 2015

When I entered the Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) competition​​ last winter, I never imagined where it would lead. As a researcher, I know the importance of having sound communication skills, so I saw the 3MT® as a unique way to practice public speaking and to learn new techniques.  

Preparing my mini-talk was a lot of fun. I still remember pestering my friends — Hey, do you have three minutes? — so I could practice. I am very grateful to my U of T lab group and PhD supervisor (Dr. Ahmed El-Sohemy) for their input and support as I moved through the competition.  

After I felt content with what I was saying in the three minutes, my focus shifted to the small details. How should I gesture, where should I use intonation, when do I refer to my slide? This part of the process was very valuable for me, since I hadn’t really considered those details in my previous talks.

Gaining experience in crafting a presentation was rewarding enough for me, and I still apply what I learned from the 3MT® in talks that I give now. However, to my delight, the reward stretched further, and I went on to place first at the U of T Final and then the Ontario 3MT® competition.

While my focus had never been on winning, the achievement has benefited my career substantially.   Shortly after defending my PhD thesis last summer, I applied for a lecturer position at U of T and for a Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) fellowship award. I noted my participation in the 3MT® in both applications and how the experience impacted my communication skills. I was hired to teach and was awarded a fellowship. I am certain that the 3MT® played a role in these accomplishments. One of the fellowship reviewers even commented on my success in the Ontario 3MT® competition.

I will be starting my postdoctoral training in Boston at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in September. My research in translational genomics is a new field that is creating methods and processes of integrating individual genetic information into medical practice to improve health outcomes. I am very excited to be embarking on this research, which will impact the health of many people and create new standards of care in health practice.

Over the last year, I helped develop and teach a workshop series with a friend and colleague. Our goal is to teach computing skills to graduate students and academics that can be applied to data analysis to improve the efficiency and reproducibility of scientific work. I am passionate about this area and hope to build on it during my time in Boston.  

The 3MT®​ will always be special to me. The experience increased my confidence in public speaking and helped open the door for me to follow my passions. I look forward to staying connected to the competition and hearing about the positive impact that it will surely have on future competitors.