Yale takes home top honor at 2021 Ivy+ Three-Minute Thesis Competition

Yale not only played virtual host for this year’s Ivy+ Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition on Nov. 18 — it’s also home to the winner.

Matthew Ellis, a Yale Ph.D. student in the Department of Cellular and Molecular Physiology, took top honors for his presentation on “Using Stem Cells to Model and Treat Cardiovascular Disease.” The prize comes with a $1,000 award.

Science communication is something I’m passionate about,” said Ellis. “This gave me a chance to take some time and distill my body of work in a meaningful way for a general audience.”

Ellis added that being able to concisely and compellingly talk about research is a key element in demystifying science for the public. “It’s an invaluable skill that I’ll continue to use,” he said.

Yale has won both Ivy+ 3MT events since the competition started in 2019, with a pause in 2020 due to the pandemic. During this year’s event, students from Yale, Cornell, Princeton, Columbia, the University of Pennsylvania, Dartmouth, the University of Chicago, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology presented their thesis research — in three minutes each — for the competition.

The Three-Minute Thesis is an incredible opportunity for graduate students to hone the communications skills they will need to share their ideas with decision-makers, potential employers, colleagues, and especially the general public,” said Lynn Cooley, dean of the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences. “It is crucial that the world knows more about the work graduate students do, how it helps solve the world’s problems, and adds to the sum of human knowledge.”

Second place this year went to Abigail Dutton of Dartmouth for her presentation, “Brain, Behavior, and Herpes?,” which demonstrated how viral infections such as herpes affect the brain. Bhargav Sanketi of Cornell took third place for “To Be or Knot to Be.” The audience choice award for the presentation that most delighted and inspired viewers went to Wei-li Lee of Columbia for “Fluorescent Chemicals to Image Serotonin Release.”

Each student in the competition condensed years of work done in laboratories, in the archives, and in the field into a three-minute summary for a general audience — presented with a single slide.

The ability to communicate complex research to diverse audiences beyond the subject matter experts is a skill that will serve our graduate students well, regardless of their chosen career path,” said Hyun Ja Shin, director of graduate and postdoctoral career services for the Office of Career Strategy at Yale. “This event is also a wonderful way to inform the public about the amazing, innovative work that our Ph.D. students are doing across our campuses.”

Judges for the event were Kobi Abayomi, senior vice president of research & analytics at Warner Music Group; Sourojit (Jit) Bhowmick, director of communications at Alkermes, Inc.; Julia Kent, vice president of best practices and strategic initiatives at the Council of Graduate Schools; and Peter Kurie, a cultural anthropologist at Intel and author of the book “In Chocolate We Trust: The Hershey Company Town Unwrapped.”

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