Biology PhD student wins national Three Minute Thesis competition

Monday, June 6, 2016

For the first time, a doctoral student from the University of Waterloo has won the national Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition, which sees graduate students from across the country communicate the breadth and significance of their research to a non-specialist audience in three minutes or less.

PhD student Gah-Jone Won in lab.

Gah-Jone Won is the first student from the University of Waterloo to win the national Three Minute Thesis competition.

Gah-Jone Won’s winning presentation features his research as a PhD student in both the Department of Biology and School of Optometry and Vision Science in Waterloo’s Faculty of Science. His presentation, “The Development of an Antibody-Drug Conjugate to Specifically Target and Soften the Crystalline Lens,” won first among more than 200 master’s and PhD students at the University of Waterloo 3MT competition. He won the provincial (Ontario) 3MT competition before taking the top spot as the national 3MT champion.

"The 3MT competition requires skill and an ability to boil down complicated data, which serves researchers well as they try to engage the public’s interest in their work,” said Jim Frank, associate provost, graduate studies at Waterloo. “Winning the national 3MT is a tremendous achievement, and we congratulate Gah-Jone Won for his compelling presentation and outstanding success."

Won’s research focuses on drug treatments for presbyopia, a condition that eventually affects everyone. With time, our eyes lose the ability to focus on nearby objects, leading to a need for bifocals, or reading glasses. Won’s research proposes a pharmaceutical eye drop that softens the eyes’ crystalline lens in order to restore near vision that would otherwise worsen as we age.

Three Minute Thesis is a friendly contest between graduate students, but above all else, it challenges young researchers to be clear, concise, and captivating about their work,” said Won. “I strongly encourage all graduate students to compete, regardless of the stage they’re at in their thesis.

Won acknowledges his supervisor in Optometry and Vision Science, Dr. Vivan Choh, for her encouragement and mentorship.

The Canadian Association for Graduate Studies (CAGS) organizes the annual 3MT competition. As national champion, Won receives a cash prize of $1,500 and an all-expense-paid trip to the annual CAGS conference in November.

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