The CBR Rises to the Top in UBC 3 Minute Thesis Competition

authors_3MTBy Jenny Huang and Linnette Ocariza, Conway Lab at CBR

As a science graduate student, one of the most important skills to have in your toolbox (apart from decreasing your physiological needs for sleep) is the ability to communicate the significance and goal of your research to broad audience. The 3 Minute Thesis (3MT) is an academic competition that provides a platform for grad students to practice this skill at a high level. Using only the power of spoken words, contestants are challenged to create a 3 minute presentation with the help of a single PowerPoint slide devoid of animations or transitions. This is presented to a public audience, and the students are judged based on 2 key aspects: knowledge and content of their research, and their ability to convince the audience that their work is significant and exciting.

This is the first year that the CBR hosted a 3MT Heat in conjunction with the Microbiology Department. It was a big hit and the LSC3 lecture hall was packed with people from both teams coming to witness 9 contestants battling it out for a chance to enter the 3MT Semi-Finals. The competitors skillfully engaged the audience with attention-grabbing pictures, flow-charts, and perfectly selected analogies, with research topics ranging from blood sciences to bacterial infection/cure and cancer research. The normally jargon-filled seminar topics were proficiently condensed to 3 minutes and were appreciated by audiences with scientific and non-scientific backgrounds alike.

The contestants all gave outstanding presentations and made the ranking decisions very difficult for the judges. At the end, taking third place was Diana Canals, a Master’s student from Dr. McNagny’s Lab at the CBR, who stood out with her thesis topic: the study of podocalyxin in cancer metastasis, in which she compares podocalyxin on cancer cells to having a “Teflon coating” that promotes the motility of cancer cells, aka. metastasis. The runner up, Gyles Ifill, a PhD student from Dr. Fernandez’ Lab, gave a compelling presentation on the significance of the outer membrane of Bordetella Pertusis in adapting to their external environments and how this knowledge can help increase the efficiency of vaccines against whooping cough. First place went to Kelsey Huus, a PhD student from Dr. Finlay’s lab, who captivated the audience by breaking the common misconception that diet can cure malnutrition and spoke of how the gut flora plays a significant role in contributing to environmental enteropathy, which in turn causes the cycle of malnutrition in third world countries.

All three prize winners went on to represent the CBR and the Microbiology Department at the UBC 3MT Semi-Finals, where Diana Canals won second place and Kelsey Huus received an Honorable Mention. At the UBC 3MT Finals, Diana Canals was victorious over other excellent contestants from many UBC Departments and was the runner up!

The feedback on this event was overwhelmingly positive, with the only complaint being “why didn’t we do this before?!” We have the feeling that this won’t be the last we’ll hear of CBR’s involvement in this valuable experience. In fact, we heard a rumor that we will be taking the same approach to all seminars in the future…

Watch Diana Canal’s Talk in the 3MT Finals: