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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

Three-Minute Thesis Competition Hones Graduate Students' Skills

By Corey Van Vlymen

Lindsay Thornton, a graduate student in physics, was selected as the people's choice and first place winner of Old Dominion's inaugural Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) competition, held Oct. 24 in the University Theatre.

The 3MT program was first conceptualized by the University of Queensland, Australia, in 2008 and has since gone global. The goal of the competition is for graduate students to develop communication skills by translating their research into a three minute presentation for an audience not trained in their respective fields. The audience in this case was made up of around 100 students, faculty, staff and the general public.

The ODU competition was emceed by WHRV's Cathy Lewis, host of the popular public affairs call-in show "HearSay with Cathy Lewis." Presentations were judged by Mary Miller, Downtown Norfolk Council; Jorge Nadal, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Norfolk District; and Dr. Travis Reeves, Eastern Virginia Medical School and Children's Hospital of the King's Daughters.

The competition was open to ODU graduate students working on their thesis or dissertation research. There were presentations from eleven entrants representing four academic colleges. Graduate students from the colleges of sciences, engineering and technology, education and business presented on topics ranging from applying artificial intelligence to solve problems in our daily lives to developing better criteria for admitting students to graduate programs in speech pathology.

In keeping with the original framework of the competition, the judges selected a winner and a runner-up, while the audience selected a "people's choice" favorite. The winner received a $1,000 prize as well as financial support to represent ODU at the statewide 3MT competition next week in Falls Church, Virginia; and the Southern Council of Graduate Schools competition, in February, in Fayetteville, Arkansas. The runner-up received a $750 prize, and the people's choice winner received a $500 prize.

Thornton's presentation, "All-Optical Production of Metastable Krypton with Applications to Atom Trap Trace Analysis - OR - Krypton Dating, Not Just for Superman Anymore," explained the need for a quicker, more efficient process and apparatus for krypton dating.

"In the lab, (Lindsay) displays the same enthusiasm and disciplinary command as was evidenced at the 3MT competition," said Charles Sukenik, professor of physics, who serves as Thornton's faculty mentor.

Mindy Gumpert, from communication disorders and special education, was selected as runner-up for her talk, "An Examination of Scientific Argumentation in an Elementary Inclusion Classroom."

The 3MT competition served as a "reminder of why I love working at a university — the breadth of knowledge that was shared was truly impressive," said Robert Wojtowicz, dean of the graduate school. "I was making connections among disparate fields that I hadn't thought about before."

The competition will be held again next year, and the graduate school is considering offering mini-competitions at the college level to broaden student participation in future competitions. Wojtowicz thanked Bryan Porter, associate dean of the graduate school, for organizing the event and Provost Austin Agho for his participation and support.

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