Plant Breeding Graduate Student Wins 2019 3MT
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.
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.”
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.
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.
“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!”