International student wins Three Minute Thesis

International student wins Three Minute Thesis

March 25, 2015


Distilling years of research into a three-minute presentation is challenging enough, but doing it in your second language is a monumental task.

That’s what Chenman Yin did as she claimed the Queen’s University title for the Three Minute Thesis on Tuesday.

Ms. Yin, who is pursuing a Master’s degree in Engineering and Applied Physics, is an international student from China who also completed her undergraduate studies at Queen’s.

Her presentation – a three-minute talk and a single static slide – on using lasers to cut bone during brain surgery, earned her the top prize of $1,000 and the chance to compete at the provincials. She competed against nine other finalists who spoke on a wide array of topics, from powerful numbers in mathematics and using geosynthetics in landfills to protecting traditional knowledge and whether or not allergies develop before birth.

The event is a mix of in-depth research, engagement and humour, with the goal of helping the audience understand the findings.

The win was a bit of a surprise for Ms. Yin who entered the contest at the last minute and, being an international student, wasn’t confident in her presentation skills. She credits her friends for pushing her to enter the contest in the first place.

“As an international student, where English is not my first language, there is always pressure when speaking in front of a big crowd. I think I needed that push to do something like this. I wouldn’t voluntarily do it,” she says.

She also points out that taking part in the event will help her as she works on her thesis, providing focus as well as giving her confidence in her presentation abilities. She also just loves what she is doing and wants others to know about it.

“I think this is a great opportunity to think about what you did over the past two years, in three minutes. I personally think that my project is cool so I really want to tell people about it,” she says. “A lot of people get scared when they hear the word physics but for me it isn’t (scary), so I guess I try to use everyday language to show people why physics is neat and they actually can do something to help people live a better life.”

Nicolle Domnik, who is pursuing a PhD in physiology, claimed the runner-up prize and $500 for her presentation on her research on the cardiopulmonary system, while Changhai Zhu, a Master’s student in biology, picked up the People’s Choice Award for his work in using fishing competitions to monitor bass populations in Lake Ontario.

Ms. Yin will represent Queen’s at the Ontario University Three Minute Thesis Competition set for April 23 at Western University.

For further information on the Three Minute Thesis, go to