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3MT Competition: Bengals take honors in state research challenge

February 15, 2019

BOISE – It was a daunting task – condensing thousands of words and hundreds of hours of research into a three-minute presentation before a live audience.  But five Idaho State University graduate students rose to the challenge at the state’s first Three Minute Thesis/3 Minute Masters Competition Feb. 12 in Boise.

ISU’s Jessica Whitaker-Fornek took third place for her doctoral presentation titled “A Peek Inside the Eggshell: How a Baby Bird's Nervous System Develops to Control Breathing,” and Staci Phelan took the People’s Choice award for “Real World Retention & Career Path Internships.” Whitaker-Fornek won $200 and Phelan $500.

The contest was an opportunity for students to step outside the laboratory and showcase their   academic, research and communication skills in front of seven judges and a lay audience. Competitors were allowed one slide as a visual. Judges represented the state’s education, research and business communities.

Phelan was thrilled to take the People’s Choice prize, selected by audience and online viewers.

“I recognized as an education major I’d be competing with people in hard sciences. I really needed to make a personal connection with the audience to convey the importance of what I was doing,” she said.

Her presentation used hard data to advocate for college programs, such as ISU’s Career Path Internship program, which can help students facing financial and personal hardships stay in school and complete their degrees. She told the story of “Student A,” a first-generation college student who was at risk of dropping out, but beat the odds.  

“So what happened to Student A?” she asked the audience. “She is standing before you, presenting her doctoral research.”

Other ISU participants and their topics were:

• Elizabeth Milgate, Meridian, Speech-Language Pathology (Master of Science), Title: How Online Training Impacts the Coaching Behaviors of Student Clinicians

• Jonathan Goode, Pocatello, Clinical Psychology, (Doctor of Philosophy),Title: Mental Health Stigma in the Veteran Population

• Lucas Bryan, Athletic Training, Pocatello, (Master of Science), Title: Increasing Athletic Potential in Intellectually Disabled Students  

ISU Graduate School Associate Dean Tracy Collum said the competition was an opportunity to learn about the important research conducted by students at ISU, Boise State University and University of Idaho

“Not only was it a time to engage in conversation with these innovative graduate students, but it was amazing to watch the student interactions” as they shared their projects with each other, she said.

There were 15 competitors—five each of Idaho’s three public research universities, which sponsored the event. It was modeled after Three Minute Thesis (3MT®), an academic research and communication competition developed by The University of Queensland, Australia.

You can view the presentations at https://www.facebook.com/pg/IdahoStateGradSchool/videos/?ref=page_internal or https://idahonews.com/news/local/watch-15-idaho-graduate-students-take-on-the-3-minute-thesis-challenge-in-boise.