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USM Graduate School’s Three-Minute Thesis Competition Winners Announced

Mon, 11/22/2021 - 15:27pm | By: David Tisdale

The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) Graduate School held its eighth annual Three-Minute Thesis (3MT) competition Nov. 3-4 in a hybrid format, with participants making presentations both online and in-person.

Nearly 40 students, including four online students who competed virtually, showcased their work in this year’s competition to a live audience and panel of judges in three-minute presentations that captured the importance of their research in an engaging, easy to understand manner. The presentations spanned the spectrum of disciplines from mathematics to literature.

In the 3MT competition, participants explain their thesis or dissertation in a three-minute presentation, effectively communicating the significance of their topic and research to a non-academic audience. The competition provides an important opportunity for students to hone their communication skills by distilling the message and creating a presentation that engages everyday people, not just others in the same discipline -- a valuable skill to master because as future independent researchers they will need to “sell” their research to people outside their discipline on a regular basis. Another perk of the competition is students compete for very substantial monetary prizes.

A total of eight finalists from four categories were each awarded $250. They include:

Physical Sciences and Mathematics:

  • Sonia Stanciu of Indianapolis, Indiana, Polymer Science and Engineering “Upconversion: A Roller Coaster of Light”
  • Mark Robertson of Pensacola, Florida, Polymer Science and Engineering, “Finding Function in Discarded Masks Through Conversion to Carbon Materials”

Arts and Humanities

  • Rodrigo Lara Alonso of Mexico City, Mexico, Music Education, “Classical Guitar Players’ Perceptions of Community Cultural Wealth: Implications for Social Justice”
  • Kayla Schreiber of Scotland, Texas, English, “Deconstructing Fugitivity in Nineteenth Century Slave Narratives”

Social and Educational Sciences and Business

  • Joyee Washington of Jackson, Mississippi, Research, Evaluation, Statistics and Assessment, “Sex Education and Professional Development in Mississippi”
  • Wendi Lord of Colorado Springs, Colorado, Human Capital Development, “Flourishing at Work Using Technology-Assisted Visualization”

Life, Health and Environmental Sciences

  • Alexander Wright of St. Austell, England, Kinesiology (Exercise Science), “Reducing the Negative Vascular Changes of Prolonged Sitting: Are Standing Interruptions or Prior Walking Effective?”
  • Latoyia Downs of Tylertown, Mississippi, Biological Sciences, “Understanding the Functional Role of Selenoproteins and the Unfolded Response in the Black-Legged Tick (Ixodes Scapularis)”

Top 3MT competition winners received additional prize money and included the following students:

*Grand Champion: Sonia Stanciu ($1000 prize)

*Runner-Up: Joyee Washington ($750 prize)

*People’s Choice Award: Latoyia Downs ($500)

Stanciu will compete in the 3MT Competition at the Conference of Southern Graduate Schools annual meeting Feb. 17-19, 2022, in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Dr. Karen S. Coats, associate provost and dean of the USM Graduate School, said she was pleased the Three-Minute Thesis competition returned at least in part to a face-to-face format after the pandemic forced students across the country to compete exclusively via pre-recorded videos in 2020, and praised the participants for the quality and importance of their work, citing them as major contributors to the university’s R1 research status.

“I congratulate everyone who participated for the guts it took to give this competition a try, and especially to the winners whose presentations rose to the top of one of our most competitive 3MT events in the eight years we’ve hosted the competition at Southern Miss,” Dr. Coats said. “Their talent was evident during the competition. This is a really difficult, yet important, skill to master because researchers will likely talk about their work to people outside their discipline more often than to those in the same field.”

For more information about the 3MT competition, as well as the USM Graduate School, visit