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ISU Biology Student Wins Top Awards At Three Minute Thesis Competition

Biology master’s student Austin Calhoun and Psychology master's student Jennifer Woodrum placed first and second in the Three Minute Thesis Competition.";

Illinois State University graduate students do a lot of cool research the public might not readily understand. Enter: the annual Three Minute Thesis competition. Students compete to present the most engaging synopsis of their scholarship. It's like an elevator speech with teeth.

Biology master’s student Austin Calhoun won first prize and the People’s Choice award at the annual Illinois State University Graduate School Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition held at the Normal Theater.

Calhoun became the second competitor to sweep the top awards in the event’s four-year history. His two-and-a-half minute presentation was on the decline of native bumblebees due to pesticides that pose threat to climate change due to decrease in pollination. 

“Bumblebees, which are exposed to pesticides, suffer higher infections relative to bumblebees that remained unexposed to pesticides,” Calhoun said. 

Calhoun said the best part of the event was sharing ideas in research with the community.

“It’s an open invitation to not just ISU students, not just ISU faculty, but families, friends, lots of people who may not know what’s going on at ISU. I think the greatest benefit is that communication,” Calhoun said.

Calhoun received $750 for each award and now moves on to compete in the Midwest Region in April in Milwaukee. 

Jennifer Woodrum of the Department of Psychology in the College of Arts and Sciences received $500 for coming in second place. She presented on how perfectionists cope with failure. 

The Three Minute Thesis competition is sponsored each year by the ISU Graduate School. 

Interim Director of Graduate Studies Noelle Selkow said the competition showcases the wide range of research from students in all areas of study.

“I am impressed with all of the different types of research, how prepared the students were, how passionate they are about their topics,” Selkow said. “(3MT) is a way for us to really bring the University to the community and to really showcase what our graduate students are doing at the University.”

Ten finalists presented their thesis and research ideas to a panel of judges. The competitors were given only one slide, pushing them to present their ideas to the audience.

ISU Three Minute Thesis 2nd place went to Jennifer Woodrum of the Psychology Department in the College of Arts and Sciences.

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