Stopwatch that says 3 Minute Thesis

Cool under pressure

Two Faculty of Arts and Science students have won top honours in the Queen’s University Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition hosted by the School of Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs. El Zahraa Majed (PhD candidate in Kinesiology and Health Studies) placed first with her presentation: How to belong? Physical Activity as a Vehicle for Integration.

How to Belong? Physical Activity as a Vehicle for Integration

Majed has earned a trip to the Ontario 3MT finals, being hosted by Queen’s University for the first time since 2013. The event takes place May 17 at the Isabel Bader Center for the Performing Arts.

Annelies Verellen (MA candidate in Department of Art History and Art Conservation) won the People’s Choice award for her presentation Painting is a Woman: The Allegory of Painting in Women’s Self-Portraiture.

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The 3MT is a skills development activity which challenges Research Higher Degree students to explain their research project to a non-specialist audience in just three minutes. Developed by The University of Queensland in 2008, enthusiasm for the 3MT concept and its adoption in numerous universities led to the development of an international competition in 2010. Queen’s was the first Ontario University to host this competition in 2012.

Distilling research into a clear form, without over-simplifying or making it overly complex, and highlighting the wider implications of this research are important skills to carry into post-graduate employment and public service.

Majed says that when she started her PhD in 2019, she heard about the 3MT and was immediately interested. “I have been passionate about public speaking since I was young and in school but I never challenged myself to do so at a scholarly level. You need to know and understand your research well enough to simplify it to others in an enjoyable and relatable way.”

Verellen agrees with that point and emphasizes how it’s critical to be able to explain her research to a non-expert audience and encourage students to take an interest in a field that could be outside their comfort zone.

“After the finals, an audience member came up to me and told me she was excited to get home and do more research on my topic. This made me feel so happy because that is exactly what I had hoped to achieve; to awaken interest in seventeenth-century women artists through my presentation.”

Majed explains she used to struggle to explain her research in simple terms so entering the 3MT event was a logical solution. “When I decided to enter, I wanted to do it the right way. I attended workshops and practiced around the clock. This made me comfortable enough in explaining my research to others which will help in my PhD, post-grad, and in future jobs.”

With this win under her belt, Majed encourages other students to just go for it.

“As graduate students, some of us may feel less confident and go through imposter syndrome which might make you doubt your abilities. That’s why I think that if this is something you’re remotely interested in, do it and take the leap, because it is so worth it.”

Verellen says that while the competition’s timed format may seem daunting at first, it’s actually a great way to grow more confident in your research and presentation skills. “I also think that if you go into this experience and view it as a fun challenge that will help you grow, this mindset will help take a lot of the pressure away from it and make it more fun. I would say go for it; you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.”

To learn more about the event, visit the 3MT website. More details on the Ontario 3MT will be posted here once available.