Chemistry PhD student wins first place at the Ontario Regionals Three Minute Thesis competition

June 8, 2023 by Mayuri Punithan - Department of Chemistry

We are proud to announce that our third-year Chemistry PhD student, Emily Majaesic, has won first place at the 2023 Ontario Regional Finals of the Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition. 

This competition was held on May 17th, 2023, at Queen’s University. Over 12 students from universities across Ontario partook in this event. This feat comes right after Majaesic won first place at the University of Toronto’s tenth 3MT competition in April.

The 3MT competition was formed in 2008 by the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia. Now, over 900 universities in 80 countries host this event. Every year, it challenges graduate students in thesis-based programs to present their research to a non-expert audience in under three minutes, using one static slide. The presentations are assessed for communication, comprehension, and engagement, rather than the quality of the student’s research.

For this achievement, Majaesic received a prize of $1,000. In November, she and the second-place winner will represent Ontario for the National 3MT Competition in Victoria, British Columbia. The winner of the Nationals round will receive a prize of $1,500 and a trip to the Canadian Association for Graduate Studies Conference. 

Majaesic’s presentation impressed many people at the event, including the host, Christopher DeLuca, the Associate Dean at Queen’s University’s School of Graduate Studies & Postdoctoral Affairs (SGSPA). “Emily took a complex concept – the early detection of leukemia through protein markers – and not only made it accessible but also humanized it. Through a personal narrative, humour, and clear communication, Emily’s 3MT talk made us understand the cutting-edge work she is pursuing, which has clear, life-saving potential through the early identification and treatment of diseases.”

The award-winning presentation, Catch A Protein By Its Tail, refers to Majaesic’s research on the latest application of the enzyme, ClpX. She plans to modify ClpX to develop single-molecule protein sequencing technology. This technology is similar to sequencers that can count nucleotides in DNA. One possible application of this technology is the detection of very low-level biomarker proteins. Detecting tiny amounts of these proteins would alert doctors to the onset of disease at very early stages.

Distilling a complex concept down to its essence, and then being able to communicate that, is a skill I am glad to have developed. It’s been very encouraging to know that I have some skill at this, especially when I consider pursuing a career outside of wet lab work.

This type of communication bridges researchers with the taxpayers that help fund their work. It also bridges research disciplines and allows for innovative cross-discipline collaborations. For me, the best part of this experience has been meeting all of the dedicated students from Ontario and learning about the incredible research they are doing.

- Emily Majaesic

Watch Emily Majaesic’s presentation