Group of Grad students standing for group photo

Concise Communicators

Doctoral candidates take on the challenge to convey their work in under three minutes


Stony Brook’s graduate students are pushing the edge of discovery with their own groundbreaking research. But hours in the lab or in the field are only one part of the equation for success. Critical to their future as scientists is to learn how best to communicate their often complicated findings in an engaging way.

Katherine Kling took top honors with her presentation, “Paradise Lost in Madagascar?”

Fourteen doctoral candidates recently worked on fine-tuning their presentation skills with help from the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science as they prepared for the annual Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition, held by The Graduate School this past April.

3MT was designed to help advanced students develop their research and academic communication skills to explain their work more effectively to general audiences. Originating at the University of Queensland in Australia in 2008, 3MT is now held in more than 200 universities around the world.  

The premise is exactly what the name implies; competitors — all doctoral candidates — have three minutes to explain their research to a panel of judges. In addition to the time limit, presenters are allowed only one slide that best supports their work. Competitors battled in two groups of seven, and judges scored the presentations based on comprehension and content, and engagement and communication. The top four in each group then squared off in a final round with prizes awarded to the top three competitors.

Katherine Kling, a PhD student in the Interdepartmental Doctoral Program in Anthropological Sciences (IDPAS), took top honors with a presentation titled Paradise Lost in Madagascar?, which explored how rural communities in northeastern Madagascar use wild plants and what consequences that has on the environment.

“I touched upon two chapters of my dissertation for this competition,” said Kling. “For my three minutes, I really wanted to focus on what — if anything — people may have heard about the people of Madagascar and to ask my audience to think a bit critically about the treatment people who use natural resources for subsistence often receive.”

Kaushik Londhe, a PhD Candidate in civil engineering was the runner-up with a presentation titled Can Radiation Solve our Drinking Water Problem?

“My biggest challenge was trying to simplify a very complex engineering topic with a lot of chemistry and radiation physics without being vague,” Londhe said. “I chose my topic because no matter who you are or where you live, drinking water is something we all consume on a daily basis and thus, access to clean water, without hazardous chemicals is a necessity, not a luxury.” 

For more on the 3MT competition, please click here.

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Jacob Crosser, Applied Mathematics and Statistics, presents "Much Ado About Brain Models."
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Yunting Yin, Computer Science, discusses "The Sound of Aging."
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Brianna Gonzalez, Integrative Neuroscience, shared her findings on how our brains react to seeing "Fake News."
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Mae Saslaw, Geosciences, presented her research on "Water in the Desert."
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Provost Carl Lejuez
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Joanne Saldanha, Genetics, presented "A Fork in the Road to Cancer Therapy."
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Zongxing Xie, Electrical and Computer Engineering, discussed his work on "Wireless Sensing for In-home Health Monitoring."
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Danilo Segovia, Molecular and Cellular Biology student, during his presentation, "Understanding the Play of Life."
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