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USM Graduate School concludes annual thesis competition

Oare Addeh
USM President Dr. Joe Paul and Dr. Katie Anthony, Interim Dean of the USM Graduate School, pose with winners of the Three Minute Thesis competition.

The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) recently concluded its 10th Annual Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) competition, an innovative academic research communication competition pioneered by The University of Queensland (UQ), Australia. This exciting graduate research showcase highlighted the institution’s commitment to academic excellence and demonstrated the impact of effective communication.
The primary objective of the 3MT® competition is to enable participants to communicate the significance of their research to a broad audience, free from technical jargon. The competition format encourages students to utilize one static PowerPoint slide as a visual aid, further enhancing their ability to convey complex ideas in a clear and accessible manner.
Shaadi Shoubaki, Assistant Director for Professional Development and Outreach at USM, provided exclusive insights into the details of organizing the event and the strategies employed to encourage graduate student participation.
Shoubaki detailed the efforts to motivate graduate students, emphasizing a proactive approach in organizing preparation workshops. This year’s workshop, led by the previous 3MT® champion, Evan Stacey, proved instrumental in addressing students’ shared concerns about their presentations. Shoubaki stated,
“We really didn’t have anything in place previously,” Shoubaki. “So, this year, we had a workshop. We gave students tips on what type of title to use and what type of images to use.”
The interactive workshop equipped participants with essential skills, empowering them to distil their research into concise, engaging three-minute presentations.
In addition to the workshop, they utilized social media platforms, including Instagram and Facebook, as well as its main homepage, to promote the event. A video showcasing a performance from last year’s 3MT added a visual reference for prospective participants.
Shoubaki highlighted the broader impact the competition can have on participants, stating, “The grand champion from Southern Miss goes to a regional conference. And if they win that conference, then they go to nationals.”
This regional representation allows students to showcase their research on a larger stage, expanding their networks and potentially gaining national recognition.
“I wouldn’t say there were any challenges…we were in a new venue this year, which students seem to like a lot more,” Shoubaki stated, reflecting on the organizational aspects.
The transition to the Joe Paul Theater marked a positive change, enhancing the overall experience for participants.
Among the memorable moments, Shoubaki highlighted the announcement of finalists before the final round, a moment of excitement that captured the essence of the competition.
“Speak with students who have previously participated…speak with their major professor…watch the videos from past performances that we have posted on our website.” Shoubaki stated, advising future participants.
The winners of this year’s competition were celebrated for their exceptional presentations:
Grand Champion: Meagan Stanley, PhD in Chemistry – $1,000 Prize
Presentation: “Using Inclusion Chemistry to Develop Molecular Probes for Metal Ion Detection​”
Runner-Up: Nick Enos, PhD in Polymer Science and Engineering – $750 Prize
Presentation: “Atoms to Aircraft: Controlling Crystallization in High-Performance Composites”
Runner-Up: Lindsey Ostermiller, PhD in Psychology (Counseling) – $750 Prize
Presentation: “Lifestyle Behaviors and Mental Health Outcomes in LGBTQ+ Graduate Students”
Several other finalists made noteworthy contributions, each earning a well-deserved $250 prize for their exceptional presentations.
The 10th Annual Three Minute Thesis competition celebrated these outstanding researchers and highlighted the diverse and impactful research across various disciplines at The University of Southern Mississippi. The event served as an avenue to promote groundbreaking research addressing real-world challenges.

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