Xu, a master’s student in the College of Agriculture and Bioresources, entered the competition because she wanted to get better at communicating her research on yellow peas and red lentils and their suitability in enhancing meat-based products. She also hoped to shed some light on the importance of food science.
“It’s not about cooking, but the science of how we produce these products and how this knowledge will make food healthier and better,” said Xu.
For her efforts, she was surprised to win first place in the university’s 2017 3MT competition last month.
The competition—the third such event held at the U of S—challenges graduate students to present their research in three minutes or less, using only one visual slide to illustrate their work.
It's a daunting task, said Derek Sutherland, one of the co-ordinators of the event. An 80,000-word thesis would take nine hours to present, according to the event’s organizers.
“It’s not just a public speaking exercise—it’s an exercise in conveying research to people who might not have an understanding of what you are talking about,” said Sutherland.
For Xu, even getting on to the stage is an intimidating exercise, given the emphasis such lightning-quick presentations place on clarity and professionalism.
“This competition was close to my thesis defence, but I really wanted to take this chance,” she said. “It was my first time competing and I was definitely not expecting to win.”
There were 38 competitors in the first round. Taking second place was Shailza Sapal, while Brian Kulyk nabbed third place. Xu will go on to represent the university at the regional finals, which takes place on April 28 in the Graduate Students’ Association Commons at the U of S.
While similar competitions occur at universities across Canada, this will be the first time the regionals have been held at the U of S.
“There is definitely some prestige behind the event,” said Sutherland. “There are certainly those out there across North America who will be paying attention to those competing.”
As the sole competitor representing her school, Xu adds that there is an added pressure during the presentations.
“We have to convince everyone that this research is important, and many people will not have the background on this knowledge,” said Xu, who will be squaring off against 13 other students during the regional event.
The public is invited to watch a livestream of the Western Regional Three Minute Thesis competition and cast online ballots for a people’s choice winner.