Senior chemistry major Liz DaBramo was the champion and Sabrina Yurkofsky and M.E. Ficarra were first and second runners-up, respectively, in the inaugural Hamilton College Three Minute Thesis competition held May 2 in the Taylor Science Center’s Kennedy Auditorium.

DaBramo’s talk, “The Secret in Soap: The Comparative Quantitative Analysis of Triclosan and Triclocarban,” described her research on detecting levels of known endocrine disruptors and persistent environmental pollutants in personal care products and waste water treatment plant discharge (or effluent). DaBramo closed with a warning to avoid soaps and toothpastes that contain triclosan or triclocarban, which, when treated with chlorine, yield byproducts that can be carcinogenic.

Sabrina Yurkofsky, a psychology and communication double major, gave a talk titled “Beyond Bechdel: Evaluating Gender Representations in Television and Their Effects on Viewers.” She reported on three studies she conducted that led her to the general conclusion that “Television perpetuates stereotypes by adhering to them.”

A comparative literature and environmental studies major, M.E. Ficarra explored the intersection of presidential rhetoric and environmental issues in her talk, “What’s Lost in ‘Win-Win’: The Evolution of Barack Obama’s Climate Change Rhetoric, 2009-2015.” Her research led her to conclude that “‘Win-win’ rhetorical strategies designed to motivate environmental action don't work because they deviate from a persuasive narrative structure. This helps explain why Obama has used them sparingly later in his administration, and provides us with a framework for how we should explain climate change policies in the future.”

In all, 15 seniors representing disciplines across the Hamilton curriculum participated in the Three Minute Thesis competition, which challenged the students to describe their thesis research and explain its significance to a non-specialist audience in three minutes or less.

Competition judges were professionals from diverse sectors of the local community: Chub Bailly, actor, writer and producer; Robbie Dancy, medical technologist, recently retired from Bassett Healthcare; Stephen Grimm, superintendent of the Clinton Central School District; Stephen Lockwood, attorney; Jim Muller, senior program manager at Northrop Grumman Corporation; and April Oswald, museum education director at the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute.

The Three Minute Thesis competition was organized by the Hamilton College Oral Communication Center.

Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) is a research communication competition developed by the University of Queensland, Australia, which held the first 3MT in 2008. The UQ website describes 3MT as an exercise that “cultivates students' academic, presentation, and research communication skills. The competition supports their capacity to effectively explain their research in three minutes, in language appropriate to a non-specialist audience.” Three Minute Thesis competitions are now held at more than 200 universities around the world, including nearly 40 universities in the U.S.

Although 3MT was originally designed for PhD students and is conducted chiefly, if not exclusively, as a graduate student competition everywhere it has been adopted, the Oral Communication Center sought and received permission from UQ last fall to hold a 3MT competition at Hamilton. When asked recently whether there were other small, strictly undergraduate colleges holding 3MT competitions in the US, Samantha Rowell of the University of Queensland Graduate School, who handles 3MT permissions, replied, “I do not know of any undergraduate colleges in the U.S. that conduct a 3MT.” Except Hamilton, that is.

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