School of Graduate Studies

School of Graduate Studies
School of Graduate Studies

3 Minutes of Thesis Flare 

March 2016

By Karl Hardy

Evelyn PopielEvelyn Popiel presents in the 2015 Three Minute Thesis competition

Evelyn Popiel is getting really good at talking about worms. 

She’ll be a returning contestant in 3 Minute Thesis (3MT), an annual university wide competition for Queen’s masters (thesis or research project) and doctoral students in which participants present their research and its wider impact in 3 minutes or less to a panel of non-specialist judges. Evelyn also participated in last year’s 3MT, an event that challenges graduate students to distill their research into a clear form without over-simplifying or making their work overly-complex.

Evelyn is currently finishing the second year of her Master of Science here at Queen’s studying the mechanisms of neuron development in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, which will be the crux of her three minute thesis presentation.

She is working to discover which genes ensure the appropriate development of these neurons, which give the worms a sense of touch. Researchers like Evelyn are hoping insights derived from their studies might provide useful applications for human benefit.

C. elegans are a very popular model organism for my field, which is molecular biology and genetics--don’t tell them I said that, it will inflate their ego,” says Evelyn with a laugh. “These are tiny little worms; the adults are about a millimeter in length so all of our work is done under a microscope.”

Evelyn’s pursued her graduate studies after completing a Bachelor of Science in Biology also here at Queen’s, where she worked with Dr. Sharon Regan for her fourth year thesis project studying trichome development in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana. She credits her current supervisor Dr. Ian Chin-Sang for encouraging her to participate in the 3MT, and for fostering “such an excellent environment for me to pursue my MSc.”​

“I found out about 3MT from my supervisor, and after reading up about the event I decided it would be an easy and fun way to work on my research presentation skills,” Evelyn said. “I’ve been involved in theatre throughout my time at Queen’s, and I completed a Drama minor as part of my undergraduate degree, so the 3MT was an excellent chance to combine my passion for research with my flare for the dramatic.”

Indeed Evelyn is currently a part of two different theatre companies at Queen’s: the charity-comedy show Queen’s Players, and the devised immersive company Colliding Scopes Theatre. She is also the Treasurer for a new club at Queen’s called Scientista, which aims to encourage women in STEM fields to pursue further education and/or careers in these fields. She was also recently a guest on CFRC’s “Grad Chat,” a 30 minute radio show that highlights graduate students and their research, presented by Queen's School of Graduate Studies on CFRC 101.9.

“3MT helped to remind me of the ‘big picture’ of my research, which is so easy to lose sight of when you’re so immersed in the research,” Evelyn said. “It also improved my ability to connect to a larger audience when explaining my research, which I believe is such an integral part of being a scientist. I hope to continue in academia to become a Professor, and 3MT was an excellent stepping-stone to improve my public speaking skills.”

This year’s competition starts with the opening heats on March 22-24 followed by the finals on March 30.

Come out and support this year's presenters:

Heat 1 - Tuesday, March 22, Start – Noon B176 Mackintosh Corry Hall
Heat 2 - Wednesday, March 23, Start – 9:30 am, B176 Mackintosh Corry Hall
Heat 3 - Thursday, March 24, Start – Noon, B176 Mackintosh Corry Hall

Queen’s Final - Wednesday, March 30, Start – 4:45 pm, Biosciences 1101