10 graduate student competitors
Top 10 finalists, from left, front row, Priscilla Seaborn, Yanxiazi Gao and back row, Robert Casale, Sterling Higa, Hannah Moon, Flora Samis, Ryan Jones, Anna Mendoza, Sabrina Diemert, Brooke Friswold. (Photo credit: Chase Nuuhiwa)

Nearly 50 graduate students representing more than 35 different majors/programs from across the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa competed in the Three Minute Thesis Competition on April 27.

The event, started in 2008 by The University of Queensland, is now held at more than 600 universities around the world in 65 countries. Dean of Graduate Division Krystyna Aune brought the competition to UH Mānoa to give graduate students an opportunity to further develop their communication skills and share their research with the campus and the public.

Graduate students must explain their master’s or doctoral research in three minutes or less, with the aid of only a single PowerPoint slide. This is quite a feat considering it often takes hours to read out loud the average master’s thesis or doctoral dissertation.

Participants were evaluated on their ability to convey the gist of their research questions and results in a manner that is understandable and engaging, while avoiding trivializing their research.

Finalists and winners

2 students holding hourglass trophy
Winners, from left, Sabrina Diemert and Brooke Friswold. (Photo credit: Chase Nuuhiwa)

The first-place and people’s choice winner (chosen by audience members) was Sabrina Diemert. She won over the judges and audience members with a summary of her research on how wastewater can be used to track food-borne illnesses, such as salmonellosis. She argued that this has the potential to help public health officials as many people with food poisoning do not visit a doctor or hospital, but they definitely visit their bathrooms.

The second-place winner was Brooke Friswold, who effectively explained how artificial light, especially in a small region on Oʻahu, negatively impacts sea birds during their fledgling season.

The competition finalists were:

  • Robert Casale, master’s student in communicology
  • Sabrina Diemert, doctoral student in civil and environmental engineering
  • Brooke Friswold, master’s student in natural resources and environmental management
  • Yanxiazi Gao, master’s student in music
  • Sterling Higa, doctoral student in education
  • Ryan Jones, doctoral student in zoology
  • Anna Mendoza, doctoral student in second language studies
  • Hannah Moon, master’s student in zoology
  • Flora Samis, master’s student in tropical plant pathology
  • Priscilla Seabourn, doctoral student in entomology

The Graduate Division intends to hold this competition annually. To support this event or graduate education in general, go to the Graduate Division website.