Three minutes to win $1,000

A psychology graduate student has been chosen to represent Ryerson University in a battle of brains against 19 other universities in a province-wide competition.

Jaclyn Ludmer bested 13 of her peers from various Ryerson faculties in a contest to present their theses in three minutes for a $1,000 grand prize.

The competition, known as Three Minute Thesis (3MT), started in Australia in 2008 to promote communicating research in layman’s terms and has since become an international phenomenon. Participants must present a condensed version of their technical research using one static slide and no props to a non-specialist audience and judges.

“It was my first time,” Ludmer says. “And I was nervous.”

Ludmer’s thesis, Understanding Infants’ Genetic and Environmental Risk for Depression, looks at early signs of depression in infancy, a mother’s symptoms and how an infant’s genetic characteristics contribute to that stress activity.

“I find (the topic of depression) interesting and I think it’s an important area to study,” Ludmer said. “It’s important to intervene early as opposed to waiting until the infants are grown up and they actually have depression.”

Ludmer says the 3MT competition was a good opportunity to work on her presentation skills, something she says will come in handy when she defends her thesis.

Leslie Mutic, graduate programs assistant and organizer of 3MT, said a winning presentation must be comprehensive and communicated in an engaging way.  “It’s not just about great content … if they suck at presenting, they’re not going to win,” Mutic said. “It’s a whole package.”

A panel of three judges, consisting of administrative staff from various faculties, selected Zainab Al-zanbouri, a computer science masters student, as runner up. Al-zanbouri’s thesis, Green and Sustainable Computing, focuses on using computers efficiently with minimum impact on the environment. She won $500 for her presentation.

I’m very interested to do more research in this area,” Al-zanbouri said. “This is a very significant research area because technology in general interferes with all (other areas).”

The third-annual 3MT province-wide competition will be held on April 23 at Western University, and will be judged by a panel including Rob Baker, the guitarist for the Tragically Hip, and retired NHL player Eric Lindros.

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