Our 3MT champion: PhD student took on Canada and brings back gold

GJ Won is the first UW student to with the 3MT competition With just 180 seconds on the clock, Gah-Jone Won, a PhD candidate at the School of Optometry and Vision Science, set out to distill his 200-page thesis. With six seconds to spare, Won became the first University of Waterloo student to walk away with the national 3-Minute Thesis title and $1,500 in prize money. 

In February, Gah-Jone wowed the Waterloo judges, outperforming over 200 grad students and advancing to the Ontario round of competition. After sweeping the provincial competition in March, Gah-Jone then steeled himself for the 3MT Finals run by the Canadian Association of Graduate Studies. Earlier this month, after careful consideration of 11 regional finalists’ presentations, a panel of judges crowned Gah-Jone as the winner of the national 3MT competition.

Gah-Jone’s presentation was titled “The Development of an Antibody-Drug Conjugate to Specifically Target and Soften the Crystalline Lens.” In it, he set out to simplify the science behind his research. With a single PowerPoint slide, Won explained a better way to deliver a drug into the eye to help combat presbyopia – age-onset near-sightedness that one day will affect us all.Stationary Slide from Gah-Jone's Presentation

Summarizing half a decade of his research is a challenge, but for Gah-Jone the hardest thing was was getting his nerves under control on game day.

You have to get up on stage, give your presentation charismatically without any blunders – in front of an audience and a panel of judges. Not to mention the three-minute timer that buzzes to disqualify you should you exceed the time. It's nerve-racking!

If you’re a grad student or might become one someday, Won urges you to partake in the 3MT competition:

It is a fantastic experience, and for me, it was absolutely life-changing. You get the chance to develop an invaluable skill, that is to communicate your work clearly and concisely, something that I find is sometimes lacking in researchers. What have you got to lose? It only takes three minutes!

In September, Gah-Jone will make his way to the Toronto Western Hospital. He will be pursuing a postdoctoral fellowship at the Krembil Research Institute along with other eye disorder specialists.

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