Presenting Complex Ideas, Briefly

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North Dakota State graduate students are facing their fear as they participate in what is known as the annual Three Minute Thesis competition.

The competition is hosted by the College of Graduate and Interdisciplinary Studies. The students’ primary objective is to explain their research under a strict time limit while implementing everyday language for the ordinary listener.

Although numerous students say the competition can be quite anxiety inducing, there are incentives for competing. The winner of each round receives $250 and then competes in the final round, with a possibility of leaving the competition with $1,000. Besides cash prizes, the hours of preparation for the event aids students with an advantage during job searches. This is particularly true in situations where human resources personnel require short presentations. Overall, the competition makes students more marketable.

There is the benefit of acquiring communication skills as well. “Graduates will work with people from a variety of fields, who may have expertise in engineering, chemistry or sociology. They all need to work together in a productive way,” says Brandy Randall, event organizer and associate dean of the College of Graduate and Interdisciplinary Studies.

The 2016-2017 winner of the competition, Taybeth Anajafi Marzijarani is an example of a success story. Her presentation was titled, “Targeted Drug Delivery in Pancreatic Cancer,” which focused on research of chemotherapy delivery that targeted cancer cells.

After the competition, Marzijarani competed at the regional Three Minute Thesis competition in Seattle, Washington. Later, she graduated with a doctorate in pharmaceutical sciences and is now a method development and scientist for Eurofins Bioanalytical Services in Missouri. She owes her success to the competition and its ability to prepare her for the workforce.

Yet another example of a competitor who has nothing but positive things to say about the competition is Breanne Steffan, a doctoral student in microbiological sciences who will be one of the competitors in the 2017-2018 event.

Steffan is researching interaction of the Aspergillus fumigatus mold and the host’s immune response. The student is particularly interested in how the mold contributes to childhood respiratory diseases such as asthma and cystic fibrosis.

“A big problem in today’s society is the lack of trust and understanding by the general public about the current research being done,” Steffan said.“The competition helps bridge that gap between research at NDSU and the F-M community.”

There are numerous graduate students who are preparing to compete in the fourth annual competition. The event is sponsored by Sanford Health and is scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 22. Preliminary rounds are set for the morning, with finals taking place in the afternoon in the Memorial Union.

In conjunction with the competition, the NDSU Graduate Showcase will take place in the Great Plains Ballroom. Both events are free and open to the public.

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