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Senior Thesis...Bite Sized


The Oral Communication Center hosted the second annual Three Minute Thesis competition on April 30. Open to all members of the senior class, the competition offers cash prizes for the students who can most effectively summarize their senior projects in three minutes or less. This year’s competition hosted 15 students whose majors and interests ranged from post-colonial economics to concussion management for athletes.

Oral Communication Center Director James Helmer noted the herculean efforts the students went through in order to compete in this competition. With many theses consisting of over 50 pages of analysis, each student was expected to demonstrate their understanding and passion by condensing the most significant elements of their year- or semester-long research into a bite-sized presentation with minimal use of notes and visual aids.

To further up the ante, all presentations were judged by a panel of non-specialists. This year’s judges included actor, writer and producer Chub Bailly, retired medical technologist Robbie Dancy, Hamilton’s Student Fellowships Coordinator Virginia Dosch, Clinton School Superintendent Dr. Stephen Grimm, Senior Program Manager at Northrop Grumman Corporation Jim Muller, and Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute Museum Education Coordinator Kirsten Swartz ’12.

After the concise presentations, Michael Nelson was named winner. His talk, titled “People-Centered Growth: The Role of Corporate Social Responsibility in Employee Satisfaction and the Service-Profit Chain,” detailed his research on the importance of corporations’ behavior on both employee satisfaction and profit margins.

Nelson examined whether there truly was any connection between the behavior of a company, employee happiness, and stockholder gains. After analyzing more than  40,000 data points, Nelson was able to understand that these tenets of good business ownership were closely tied.

A close second was Elisabeth MacColl with her presentation “Ecoimmunology in Golden Eagles.” To examine the impact of different environments on the immune systems of these birds, MacColl worked with blood samples from specimens in different states. She then introduced pathogens into these samples and observed the results to begin to understand what environmental factors impact immunity in all types of communities.

The second runner-up Lindsay Arader presented her research “Peer Perceptions of Individuals with ASD: Reducing Stigmatization through Diagnostic Disclosure.” Arader emphasized the immediacy of her research with autism, noting the local efforts to increase awareness.

Arader used this anecdotal information to springboard into a discussion on the continued stigmatization of the growing number of individuals diagnosed with this disorder. Her research primarily focused on the impact that disclosing a diagnosis had on a group of impartial individuals. Arader was able to conclude that individuals are generally more understanding of behavioral differences when they are aware of a diagnosis.

The 15 seniors who presented their research represented a class of strong students quickly preparing to enter the post-undergraduate world with a firm understanding of exactly what they are capable of and are able to communicate effectively. In three minutes or less, that is.

According to its website, “Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) celebrates the exciting research conducted by Ph.D. students. Developed by The University of Queensland, the exercise cultivates students' academic, presentation, and research communication skills. The competition supports their capacity to effectively explain their research in three minutes, in a language appropriate to a non-specialist audience.”

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