How would you explain the entire breadth and significance of your life's work (or thesis) to people with no background in your work in 1 slide and 3 minutes? Earlier this month, PhD Candidate Percy Korsah won first place at the 3 Minute Thesis (3MT) Environment heat, with runners-up Victor Agbo and Tia Driver tying for second place. Each year 3MT provides a venue for graduate students to share their research with the community. The student who wins the university-wide competition will go on to present at the provincial and possibly national level.
Korsah will be defending his Environment title at the university-wide 3MT on March 21 3:00pm - 4:30pm in Modern Languages, Theatre of the Arts. The event is free so come out and show your support!
Korsah’s research assesses the effects of roads and other linear disruptions on how peatlands function. All across the globe, from the jungles of central Africa and south Asia, to the Amazon, and here at home, previously unknown peatlands are emerging as a new focus in the fight against climate change. Scientists have been telling us for years that protecting the planet’s climate will require conservation, but the extent and impact of these swampy, giant underground vaults of carbon is just beginning to emerge through research such as Korash’s. “Most disturbances of peatlands in Canada are by roads created to explore the Alberta oil sands,” Korsah says, “Currently there is as much as 350,000 km of road in this region, which is enough to go around the world nearly 9 times, but studies on their impact are limited.” The highlight of the event for Korsah was of course getting the results and finding out that he had won. His advice for students interested in 3MT is: “Try and there’s nothing to lose. You only lose when you don’t try.”
For runner-up Tia Driver the main challenge was “who cares?”. 3 minutes is such a short timeframe that there’s no chance to go into every detail or take a proper look at the nuances of the big picture. “My research ties into the Sustainable Development Goals, specifically SDG 11, and the issue of climate risk,” she explains, “but, instead of trying to integrate those more complex issues, I chose to focus on something that impacts everyone: money. I felt that I could better stress the importance of my research by incorporating something everyone cares about.”
Driver’s research looks at how financial policy tools, specifically taxes, user-fees and credit programs impact the flood risk of a city. Her goal is to provide objective insight into how financial policy tools are used and explore whether these tools have reduced flood risk and improved flood management. “For me, a highlight of this experience was being able to find a way to make my research more accessible and interesting to academics, as well as non-academics. If you think your research is important to having impact, and you want people to know about it, then you should enter 3MT.”
Victor Agbo saw the contest as a challenge, and an opportunity to be part of the Environment community, explaining: “There were equally great and knowledgeable grad students from across the Faculty who were part of the contest.” Agbo’s research aims to find out how community participation plays an important role in forest conservation. His research is helping to develop forest conservation strategies in Ghana using the Community-Based Ecotourism (CBE) approach. This approach is expected to reduce deforestation and increase livelihood security in communities.
Agbo says his primary motivation for participating was not to win, or even be a runner-up, but to use the opportunity to introduce himself to experts, faculty and other students and explore connected research interests. “3MT is an awesome platform to get a non-academic audience to understand your complex research. It’s also an opportunity to face your fears and to conquer them. I would do this again and again!”
Thanks also to the rest of this year's participants and the judges!