SOURCE: University of Calgary

University of Calgary

June 05, 2015 10:30 ET

Breast Cancer Research Earns National Award for University of Calgary Grad Student

Thesis explained in three minutes

CALGARY, AB--(Marketwired - June 05, 2015) - There are a lot of things that can be done in three minutes, but for most of us explaining the scope, significance and impact of a university research project to a general audience wouldn't come to mind.

That's exactly what University of Calgary graduate student Elizabeth Watt did to be named the winner of Canada's 3Minute Thesis (3MT) competition.

After successfully making it through two rounds of competitions and beating out nineteen competitors, Watt, a master's student specializing in radiation oncology physics, was chosen from eleven finalists for her explanation of how radioactive "seeds" can be used in breast cancer treatment as an alternative to external-beam radiation.

So how do you fit important information into a three minute time frame?

"One of the most important lessons that I've learned is to use simplified terms and explanations when describing my research," says Watt. "It is so easy to get caught up using jargon or abbreviations and we forget that not everyone is immersed in our research topic all day, every day."

The thought of packing countless hours of research into three minutes can be bewildering and was the very reason Watt decided to enter the competition.

"Generally speaking, physics is not thought of in the healthcare setting, so it's challenging to explain where my work fits in," explains Watt. "Summarizing my research in three minutes helped me focus on its important and most relevant components."

The thing that set Watt's presentation apart was emphasizing how her research benefits others and by revealing a surprising side of physics that people don't know about.

"Permanent Breast Seed Implant has the potential to play a significant role in the future of radiation therapy, meaning that such research is essential for continued progress and success of the treatment, and ultimately its ability to improve the lives of many women who bravely fight breast cancer every day," says Watt.

In preparation for the 3MT competition, Watt attended practice sessions offered through a program called My Grad Skills, which helped her realize that what she thought was clearly understandable, was actually quite confusing to people outside her department of Physics and Astronomy.

My GradSkills is a program that operates out of the Faculty of Graduate Studies (FGS) and is designed as a place for graduate students to hone their academic and professional skills.

"In life, being able to talk about things clearly is a great skill to have. From business leaders to scientists, the most influential also speak in clear, easy to understand language that gets their point across," says Tara Christie, My GradSkills Program Manager at University of Calgary.

Students' understanding of their own research and its purpose can vastly improve their ability to find funding, employment, and collaborate effectively with members of the community outside their field of research.

Still in disbelief but thrilled about her success, Watt is thankful that she had this opportunity and is thankful for the support from her supervisor, Dr. Tyler Meyer, the Department of Physics and Astronomy and the Faculty of Graduate Studies.

The 3MT is an academic challenge where participants have only three minutes to explain the scope, significance and impact of their research project to a general audience. Launched in 2008 at the University of Queensland, 3MT is now a global competition held at universities around the world.

About the University of Calgary
The University of Calgary is a leading Canadian university located in the nation's most enterprising city. The university has a clear strategic direction to become one of Canada's top five research universities by 2016, where research and innovative teaching go hand in hand, and where we fully engage the communities we both serve and lead. This strategy is called Eyes High, inspired by the university's Gaelic motto, which translates as 'I will lift up my eyes.'

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