Complex research explained in 180 seconds or less
When Xiaoqian Liu (MEd ’13) entered Queen’s Three Minute Thesis Competition (3MT), she didn’t think she could turn her 100-page thesis into a 180-second talk for a general audience using only one slide and avoiding technical jargon.
"I wanted to face my fear," said Ms Liu, who is from China and speaks English as a second language. "This event teaches you how to communicate, how to summarize and how to talk to a general audience."
Not only was Ms Liu up for the challenging experience, she beat out 30 other masters and doctoral students to finish first. She is now one of two students that will represent Queen’s when it hosts 15 other universities for the Ontario 3MT championships on April 18.
Ms Liu researches how teachers assign grades to students. While grades are supposed to be based solely on achievements, research has found that teachers look at other factors – such as a student’s attendance, effort, progress and ability – when determining a mark.
"Grades are an indicator of everything, it’s not just achievement," says Ms Liu.
Ryley Beddoe (PhD Civil Engineering ’14) will also represent Queen’s at the Ontario championships. She studies landslides and types of static liquefaction – which is about how water affects the stability of soil.
"I don’t even think I use the word liquefaction in my presentation," says Ms Beddoe.
She uses simple examples – such as how water around a sandcastle on a beach eventually causes the sandwalls to crumble – to explain her research. She talks about Canada’s deadliest mudslide (the Frank Slide which lasted 90 seconds and killed 90 people in 1903) to demonstrate how her field of study makes life safer for Canadians.
Ms Beddoe watched her friend and former Queen’s 3MT champion, Jennifer Campbell, compete last year and thought the experience would be fun. The competition challenges students to present complex research and show how its impact reaches beyond the lab to the general public.
Everyone is invited to attend the Ontario Three Minute Thesis Competition on April 18. It is a chance to learn about the innovative research taking place at Ontario universities.