Three minutes to change the world

(Courtesy Clifton Li)

(Courtesy Clifton Li)

If you could say anything in three minutes, what would it be? Muhammad Ali Naqvi talked about milk and won $750.

Naqvi is a molecular science PhD student who won first prize at Ryerson University’s Three-Minute Thesis (3MT) competition Thursday in the Podium building.

Fifteen graduate students presented their academic research to a panel of judges and a crowd of non-experts.

“I have done many, many presentations before,” said Naqvi. “The thrill of making it concise is different from making a half-hour presentation. I felt a lot more adrenaline after (presenting my thesis).”

Naqvi’s winning presentation was titled “Milk. It does a body good… but how?” His research studied the process of how calcium is absorbed into the intestine.

Naqvi had been preparing for the presentation for two weeks. With the help of a tutor from Ryerson’s graduate student support service, he wrote a script and videotaped his presentation to make sure that it was logical and visual.

The runner-up in the competition is Adrian Bulzacki, a PhD student in electrical and computer engineering. His presentation was titled “Machine Recognition of Human Gestures Aided by Commercialization.” He has developed a database of human gestures recorded for a computer to recognize and process. He won $500 for his presentation.

Fatima Hussein is also a PhD student in electrical and computer engineering and she was awarded the Contestants’ Choice award of $250. Her presentation was titled “Magic or Machines?”

Hussein is researching new technology that could allow people to interact with our appliances through text message.

“These presentations really make me want to go back to school,” said Heather Lane Vetere, vice-provost of students and one of the judges. “The things that these students are doing and learning are just amazing.”

This year’s panel of judges was Lane Vetere, Ryerson chancellor Lawrence Bloomberg, and associate dean Jean Mason from the faculty of communication and design.

“It was nice to see students competing in a very positive way,” says Bloomberg. “We live in a very competitive world. Exposing students to competitions like this is good for them.”

The competition has a set of strict rules that each presenter has to follow. Aside from the time limit, each presenter is allowed to use only one static PowerPoint slide. No props or costumes are allowed.

The judges look at the presentations based on the contestants’ abilities to successfully communicate their complex work. If the presenter exceeds the three-minute mark, he or she is automatically disqualified.

This is the second time that Ryerson has held the competition at the university. Initially developed by Australia’s University of Queensland in 2008, the 3MT competition has spread internationally.

Naqvi will go on to represent Ryerson in the first Ontario-wide 3MT competition on April 24, hosted by McMaster University. First prize in that competition is $1,000.

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