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Practice makes perfect

Posted 8 a.m. Thursday, April 11, 2024

The 3 Minute Grad Project invites grad students to present their advanced research topics in a concise 3 minutes.

Grad students hone concise communication skills through 3 Minute Grad Project competition

Public speaking is a fear for many people. The annual 3 Minute Grad Project aims to create a space for UWL graduate students to practice sharing their advanced research topics in a concise way to a large audience with diverse perspectives. 

First place went to Brandon Thill, a second-year biology graduate student, who presented his research on brook trout habitats. 

Brandon Thill was awarded first place for his presentation about brook trout habitats.

“To prepare for this event, I took one portion of my research, the snorkel surveys, and worked off of that,” Thill shares. “There was much more associated with the gathering of different data points, such as habitat surveys, and electrofishing surveys;, however, the snorkel surveys are probably the most interesting and informative. I thought this topic would help draw the audience in and show them cool aspects of fish research.” 

Nik Carpenter, who was awarded second place, also focused on finding an aspect from his research to grab the audience's attention. Carpenter, a clinical exercise physiology student, presented his research involving the effect that cream containing capsaicin has on men’s versus women's blood pressure. 

“The time limit was daunting at first,” Carpenter says, “but after outlining what I wanted to say, finding the flow, and eliminating unnecessary fillers through much practice, it was possible.”

Nik Carpenter's presentation received second place and People's Choice.

Practicing was what helped competitor Maddie Graefe, a second-year Doctor of Physical Therapy student, calm her nerves about speaking in front of a large group. 

“I would recite my speech in the mirror while getting ready for the day, driving and running,” Graefe says. “I also practiced this speech in front of various people I knew who had different backgrounds that weren't medical. These different conditions helped me feel ready for anything come presentation day.”

Graef’s research explored which of the three exercises tested caused the greatest pelvic floor muscle activation. Medical topics can be hard for someone without a medical background to understand, so Graefe designed her project as if she were explaining the research to her parents, clients or friends. 

Maddie Graef's project explored exercises that caused the greatest pelvic floor activation.

Thill found the competition important for exactly that reason. 

“I believe this was a great way to work on effectively communicating my research goals to people who may not have any experience with the topic at all,” Thill says. “As I move into the next chapter of my life and become a professional, I now know that I have what it takes to present unknown information to people in a way that they can understand and appreciate.” 

Similarly, the 3 Minute Grad Project competition helped Carpenter reignite his motivation to continue working toward his future. 

“I believe my participation in this competition has emboldened my choice to pursue research and higher education as a career path,” Carpenter says. “The impact of an experience like this is immeasurable. There’s no better skill to practice than speaking to large groups of people with language that engages and information that can be easily understood.” 

To learn more about the 3 Minute Grad Competition, visit the Graduate and Extended Learning (GEL) webpage. 


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