Penn State Harrisburg holds first Three Minute Thesis competition

MIDDLETOWN, Pa. — For the first time, Penn State Harrisburg participated in the Three Minute Thesis competition, which celebrates research conducted by graduate students. Every year, more than 200 universities participate in the competition, which was developed by the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, to cultivate students’ academic, presentation and research communication skills. The competition supports students' capacity to effectively explain their research in three minutes, in a language appropriate to a nonspecialist audience.

Students who competed in the local competition were in their final stages of graduate school, and presented on a wide range of topics, including parental substance abuse’s effects on juvenile delinquents; biodiesel energy recycling; feminist discourse in China and the media; the deconstruction of cognitive bias of the Latino public opinion; and a novel protein classification method.

Kristen Marie Clemons, a graduate student in the applied clinical psychology program, received first place for “Post-traumatic growth, rumination, and biological sex.” Another applied clinical psychology student, Adrianna Richards, won second place for “An exploration of compounded and perceived experiences of discrimination, depression, and anxiety.” Luiza Printes, a communications student, presented “Travel for likes, likes for traveling,” which won her third place, and the People’s Choice award went to fellow communications student Uzma Safiya Naseeruddin for “The effects of anti-immigration rhetoric.”

Three Minute Thesis - First Place: Kristen Marie Clemons

Kristen Marie Clemons, a graduate student in the applied clinical psychology program, received first place in Penn State Harrisburg's Three Minute Thesis competition for “Post-traumatic growth, rumination, and biological sex.”

Credit: Penn State Harrisburg

Clemons said she chose to participate in the event to practice discussing her research concisely and in an accessible language, as well as to become more comfortable speaking publicly about her research with confidence.

“It enriched my graduate experience,” she said. “It provided structure for understanding my research focus in a way that can be shared with others, which is a skill required for proposing and defending my thesis. I genuinely enjoyed learning others’ research interests, as the competition included all schools of study.”

Clemons’ winning presentation video will be submitted to compete with other universities at the Northeastern Association of Graduate Schools annual meeting in April.

Event judges included Mike Folmer, state senator for District 48; Scott LaMar, the host of WITF’s “Smart Talk” radio show; and Jen Hirt, associate professor and English program coordinator at Penn State Harrisburg. Judging criteria included comprehension, content, engagement and communication. Russell Kirkscey, assistant professor of English at Penn State Harrisburg, served as host and contest adviser.

Peter Idowu, assistant dean for graduate studies, stressed the event’s role in helping students and raising awareness of the importance of making research accomplishments and results accessible to people outside of academia, to the public and private sectors, and others seeking partnership opportunities for commercialization.

“The Three Minute Thesis event motivates our graduate students to develop their research communication skills,” Idowu said. “We plan to see it grow annually as it becomes part of our graduate student professional development program at Penn State Harrisburg.”