3MT 2019

Plant Breeding Graduate Student Teddy Yesudasan Wins 2019 3MT Competition

By Katya Hrichak

“Growing up in southern India, all I saw were white potatoes, and so when I came to Ithaca as an international student and went grocery shopping for the first time at Wegmans, I was shocked to see potatoes that came in different colors,” began Teddy Yesudasan, a research master’s student in plant breeding and genetics, at the fifth annual Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition.

3MT 2019 winners (from left): Pamela Meyerhofer (People's Choice), Teddy Yesudasan (1st place), and Shao-Pei Chou (2nd place). Credit: Phil Wilde
3MT 2019 winners (from left): Pamela Meyerhofer (People’s Choice), Teddy Yesudasan (1st place), and Shao-Pei Chou (2nd place). Credit: Phil Wilde

Alongside nine other students selected from 22 preliminary round competitors, Yesudasan had to present his dissertation research in just three minutes to a panel of non-specialist judges, staff, and students from across campus. Presentations were judged on their comprehension, clarity, engagement, and communication style.

His presentation, “What Makes a Red Potato Red?” earned him first place and $1,500. Second place and $1,000 was awarded to genetics, genomics, and development doctoral student Shao-Pei Chou for her presentation, “Decoding the 2% Difference That Makes Us Human.”

After nearly 200 audience members cast their ballots, votes were tallied and the People’s Choice Award was presented to policy analysis and management doctoral candidate Pamela Meyerhofer for her presentation, “Paid Family Leave and Fertility.”

“Prior to competing, I was struggling to explain why my research was interesting to someone besides myself,” said Meyerhofer. “Having this compelling framework makes it easier to discuss and share my work.”

Chou voiced similar takeaways, adding that her public speaking and communication skills were enhanced by competing.

“I often found it’s difficult to explain what I’m working on to my friends and family. Even to other biologists, my field is new to them,” Chou said. “I made a decision last year that I was going to compete for the next 3MT and use that as a chance to force myself to find an … excellent way to explain my research. It worked super well!”

The 3MT competition was first held in 2008 at the University of Queensland and has since been adopted by over 600 graduate schools in over 65 countries. This year, Cornell’s winners will compete in the inaugural Ivy+ 3MT competition to be held April 25 at the United Nations (UN) in New York City. Yesudasan will also compete via video at the Northeastern Association of Graduate Schools annual conference in Philadelphia in April.

Finalists for 3MT 2019 with Associate Dean Jan Allen. From left: Teddy Yesudasan (1st), Robert Swanda, Jeffrey Pea (honorable mention), Maria Sapar, Pamela Meyerhofer (People's Choice), Ashwariya Lahariya, Michelle Duong (honorable mention), Shao-Pei Chou (2nd place), Cassandra Benson, and Katherine Adler. Credit: Phil Wilde
Finalists for 3MT 2019 with Associate Dean Jan Allen. From left: Teddy Yesudasan (1st), Robert Swanda, Jeffrey Pea (honorable mention), Maria Sapar, Pamela Meyerhofer (People’s Choice), Ashwariya Lahariya, Michelle Duong (honorable mention), Shao-Pei Chou (2nd place), Cassandra Benson, and Katherine Adler. Credit: Phil Wilde

“3MT is a wonderful opportunity for students to refine their presentation skills and translate their research into language appropriate for policymakers and others in a general audience,” said Jan Allen, associate dean for academic and student affairs. “It’s always so impressive – and fun – to watch our students be so great at this!”

Yesudasan and Chou look forward to the opportunity to present on behalf of Cornell at the upcoming event.

“I consider it an honor and a privilege to be able to participate and represent Cornell at this inaugural event,” said Yesudasan. “I have always wanted to visit the UN, so representing Cornell as an international student at this event is extra special.”

Cornell’s 5th annual 3MT final round competition was held on Wednesday, March 20, 2019 at 5:00 pm ET in Call Auditorium. 3MT challenges research degree students to present a compelling story on their dissertation or thesis and its significance in just three minutes, in language appropriate to a non-specialist audience.

3MT Finalists

First Place: Teddy Yesudasan, Plant Breeding & Genetics: “What Makes a Red Potato Red?”
Special Committee Chair: Walter De Jong

 Second Place: Shao-Pei Chou, Genetics, Genomics & Development: “Decoding the 2% That Makes Us Human”
Special Committee Chair: Charles Danko

People’s Choice: Pamela Meyerhofer, Policy Analysis and Management: “Paid Family Leave and Fertility”
Special Committee Chair: Francine Blau

Katherine Adler, Civil & Environmental Engineering: “Making Waves to Competitively Produce Biofuel”
Special Committee Chair: Edwin Cowen

Cassandra Benson, Economics: “Born on the Wrong Day?”
Special Committee Chair: Maria Fitzpatrick

Michelle Duong, Food Science & Technology: “Franken-phage to Save the Day”
Special Committee Chair: Sam Nugen

Ashwariya Lahariya, Fiber Science & Apparel Design: “What if Your Clothes Can Warn You of Dangerously High Carbon Dioxide Levels”
Special Committee Chair: Jintu Fan

Jeffrey Pea, Biomedical & Biological Sciences: “Oh-No Varies! Tales of DNA and Infertility”
Special Committee Chair: Paula Cohen

Maria Sapar, Biochemistry, Molecular & Cell Biology: “How do Phagocytes Recognize Degenerating Neurons?”
Special Committee Chair: Chun Han

Robert Swanda, Biomedical & Biological Sciences: “Why the Quality, Not the Quantity, of your Protein Matters”
Special Committee Chair: Shu-Bing Qian