group photo of 3MT winners
Dr. Jon Hakkila, far left, dean of the Graduate School at Ƶ joins the three top winners on stage at the 2023 Three Minute Thesis competition presented by the Ƶ Graduate School: left to right, Wren Jenkins, first place; Boshra Rezvanian, second, and Purva Diwanji, third.
Takara Bullock | Ƶ

Cut the jargon, emphasize the big picture impact, and practice, practice, practice. That’s the strategy Wren Jenkins followed on her way to a first-place finish in the annual Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition presented by Ƶ (Ƶ) Graduate School on Oct. 30. Ƶ is part of the University of Alabama System.

Jenkins competed against 13 other Ƶ graduate students for the top prize of $250 plus the opportunity – expenses paid – to represent Ƶ at the regional 3MT Competition held by the Conference of Southern Graduate Schools at their annual spring meeting in 2024.

Developed by The University of Queensland in Australia, 3MT challenges students to effectively explain their research and its significance in three minutes using language appropriate to a non-specialist audience.

This year that audience included judges Chelsea Aaron, meteorologist, WAFF-TV Channel 48; David Cook, director of undergraduate research, Ƶ, and Michael Ward, vice president for government and public affairs, Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce.

Jenkins, who is pursuing an M.S. in biological sciences, presented her research on “Domestication: Traits that let crops be a salvation to the population.”

“I'm doing my thesis research with Dr. Kankshita Swaminathan at HudsonAlpha, whose lab focuses on investigating traits for the improvement of bioenergy feedstock crops,” Jenkins says.

Second place in 3MT and a prize of $200 went to Boshra Rezvanian, Ph.D. candidate in biotechnology science and engineering, for “An unnerving problem: Tyrosinemia disorder.”

Purva Diwanji, Ph.D. candidate in physics and astronomy, won third place and a prize of $100 as well as the People’s Choice award with another $100 for “Shocks and Cold Fronts in Merging Galaxy Clusters.”

The 2023 3MT competition was Jenkins’ fifth “flash talk” on her research. That experience plus feedback from 3MT in 2022 paid off.

“I feel more comfortable in giving an ‘elevator-pitch’ explanation of my work to people who don’t necessarily have much background on plant biology, bioenergy grasses, etc. I expect that having this tool in my skill set will be very beneficial for future networking opportunities.”

Participants in 3MT 2023 came from the Ƶ College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences; College of Engineering, and College of Science, as well as the interdisciplinary fields of materials science, and biotechnology science and engineering. This globally recognized competition is held at more than 900 universities in more than 85 countries.