Fargo, N.D., Feb. 17, 2023 – Nitin Rai, doctoral candidate in agricultural and biosystems engineering, was named champion of NDSU’s annual Three Minute Thesis competition and has taken home the $1,000 top prize. Six students competed in the final round held Feb. 16.
The event, hosted by the Graduate School, highlights graduate student research by challenging them to present their work to the public clearly and concisely in 180 seconds. An 80,000-word thesis would take nine hours to present in full.
Rai’s presentation was titled “Drone spots illegal weed plants: The future of agriculture takes flight.” His faculty advisor is Xin “Rex” Sun, assistant professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering.
“I am happy to be named 3MT champion. There were a lot of things I learned through this process like how to concisely write a summary so that someone who does not work in my area can really understand my research and can relate to what’s happening in the real world,” Rai said. “If you can explain your research to someone in layman’s terms, that means you really understand what you are doing, and that has an impact on me. Public speaking doesn’t come naturally to me, but through this process I learned a lot.”
Rai will advance to the Western Association of Graduate Schools regional competition in Portland, Oregon.
“The 3MT competition cultivates professionalism amongst our graduate students and offers a valuable way for them to not only talk about their research, but to do so in a way that’s a good spirited professional experience,” said Colleen Fitzgerald, vice president for research and creative activity and Three Minute Thesis emcee. “Any time you have an opportunity for students to display the kinds of communication skills that these students did – distilling their message, thinking about their audience, staying within a time limit – you have a real winning experience for them in terms of developing those skills to go on in their career.”
The competition began with 24 students submitting videos about their research projects. Six contestants were named finalists and received $250. The other five finalists included:
- Sifat Karim Chowdhury, mechanical engineering doctoral student, “Fluid-Structure Interaction of Collapsible Thin-Walled Vessel under Different Flow Conditions,” Advisor: Yan Zhang, assistant professor of mechanical engineering
- Shokoofeh Ghasemi, coatings and polymeric materials doctoral student, “Anti-ice coating; Making it hard for water to freeze,” Advisor: Dean Webster, professor and chair of coatings and polymeric materials
- Ellysa Johnson, natural resources management master’s degree student, “That’s One Hot Commodity: Both Cattle and Monarchs (Danaus plexippus) Eat Milkweed (Asclepias spp.) in Rangelands,” Advisor: Torre Hovick, associate professor in the School of Natural Resource Sciences
- Siavash Mansouri, coatings and polymeric materials master’s degree student, “Safe buildings by new green smart fire-fighting coating,” Advisor: Mohiuddin Quadir, assistant professor of coatings and polymeric materials
- Ankita Sawant, environmental and conservation sciences master’s degree student, “Mycorrhizas and native prairie restoration: exploring the effects of mycorrhizal inoculum, seed origin, and phosphorus on plant performance,” Advisor: Laura Aldrich-Wolfe, associate professor of biological sciences
Faculty, community members and graduate student representatives judged the competitors in the areas of content, comprehension, communication and engagement.
The University of Queensland hosted the first competition in 2008 and the idea has spread worldwide. The NDSU Graduate School hosted its first Three Minute Thesis competition in 2015.
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