Malaria researcher wins UH Manoa's first Three-Minute Thesis competition

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Krystyna Aune, (808) 956-7541
Dean , Office of Graduate Education
Posted: Apr 22, 2016

Liang Shi and Samuel Tassi Yunga.  Shastagraphy photo.
Liang Shi and Samuel Tassi Yunga. Shastagraphy photo.

On Saturday, April 16, 2016, 46 graduate students representing 30 different majors and programs from across the UH Mānoa campus competed in the inaugural Three-Minute Thesis competition.  This event, started in 2008 by The University of Queensland, is now held at nearly 200 universities around the world, 95 of which are in the U.S. 

Samuel Tassi Yunga, a doctoral candidate in Tropical Medicine, Medical Microbiology and Pharmacology, was announced as the first place and people’s choice winner (chosen by audience members).  He won over the judges and the audience with his passionate speech about his travels to Cameroon, West Africa, to collect blood samples and track newborns, both prior to and after birth to determine the effects of malaria parasite infections.

Second place winner was Liang Shi, a doctoral candidate in Civil & Environmental Engineering.  Her research captured the audience’s attention with her analysis of driverless vehicles and its effect on traffic congestion.  Shi shared that she thought this event “would be a ‘Ted Talk’ experience” for her.

Dean of Graduate Education Krystyna Aune sought to bring this competition to UH Mānoa to give graduate students an opportunity to further develop their communication skills and share their research with the campus and the public.

Graduate students must explain their master’s or doctoral research in three minutes or less, with the aid of only a single PowerPoint slide.  This is quite a challenge considering it would take a person two hours to read out loud an average master’s thesis manuscript, and about six and a half hours to read out loud an average doctoral dissertation manuscript.

Participants are evaluated on their ability to convey the gist of their research questions and results in a manner that is understandable and engaging to an intelligent, but non-specialist audience, while avoiding trivializing their research.  Said Professor Amy Hubbard, chair of the steering committee and chair of the Department of Communicology, “This can be quite intimidating, both intellectually and communication-wise.  But we are very proud that our graduate students willingly embraced this.”

Twenty-eight UH faculty had the difficult task of judging the preliminary rounds.  The final round judges -- who included the UH Mānoa Chancellor, two UH Regents, a retired associate justice of the Hawai‘i Supreme Court, a longtime Hawai‘i developer and entertainer, a National Academy of Science member, and a director for Soroptimist International Founder Region Fellowship -- had the even more difficult task of deciding on the overall winners.

Dr. Aune emphasized that "graduate students and the research that they produce are exciting, innovative, and absolutely central to the mission of our research university." The Office of Graduate Education intends to continue to hold this competition annually. 

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