Three Minutes and One Big Idea: SCRA Judges MUSC’s 3-Minute Thesis Competition

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MUSC graduate students share their big ideas with hopes of advancing to the next round.

Charleston, S.C. – Just imagine it: you have a bit of a complex idea, and on a good day, it would take at least an hour and a half and 20 pages to begin explaining it. However, you walk into a room where the challenge is to explain that same idea in three minutes—with only one slide.

Last month, thirteen students from the MUSC’s College of Graduate Studies’ postdoctoral (PhD) and medical scientist training programs (MSTP) did just that. They competed in the third annual MUSC 3 Minute Thesis (3MT) competition. The room was packed with students, faculty, and staff, all in attendance to cheer on this year’s contestants. In addition to the attendees and presenters were five judges, including SCRA Marketing and Communications Director Adrianne Grimes. She had never judged an event like this, but it was a challenge she was certainly up to.

“I was ecstatic to be invited as a judge this year,” says Grimes. These students are the future of research in South Carolina, and having a front-row seat to hear about the work they’re doing is extremely exciting.”

Grimes joined four other judges on the panel: Bobbi Conner, the host of “Health Focus” on SC Public Radio; Sean Fourney, a faculty member at the Citadel and the Director of their Public Speaking lab; Katie Kamin, a morning co-anchor and reporter for Live 5 News, and Beth Sundstrom, a faculty member at the College of Charleston and a leader in the areas of strategic and health communication.

Starting at the University of Queensland (Australia), the Three-Minute Thesis (3MT) gives students just three minutes to effectively explain their research in language that the lay audience can understand, with only one static slide in the background as a visual. While the science behind the presentations may seem like the focus, 3MT really focuses on highlighting the focus on science communication skills.

“Effectively communicating your research—what you know already, what your research question is, and how you’re investigating—is critical,” says Dr. Lori L. McMahon, MUSC vice president for research. “It’s a skill we know will serve these students as they move their research forward.”

Being a judge in the competition allowed Grimes to connect with the students and educate them about SCRA’s resources. SCRA supports researchers as they take their ideas to the next level. Whether it’s grant funding or matchmaking with the right industry partners, SCRA is there to help drive research further from the very beginning.

“These early-career researchers are on the cutting edge of what’s next in biomedical science,” said Grimes. “As their research moves toward becoming the next innovative diagnostic method or treatment, being able to pitch their idea or discovery is essential. Programs like 3MT help that.”

The winners of this year’s event were Amber Hazzard (2nd-year student), who took 1st place and People’s Choice for “The HIGHway to Hell” and Runner Up Josef Blaszkiewicz (G3 MSTP student) with “Closing the Door on Cholesterol.” Winners will move on to the regional competition in Greenville in March at the annual meeting of the Conference of Southern Graduate Schools.