The road to Western Regionals: USask 3MT champion reflects on success

“You have to take four years of work, thousands of pages, and boil it down for three minutes. You can’t go into the details at all. It forces you to look into the bigger picture,”.

By Kassidy Guy
CGPS Dean Debby Burshtyn presenting Narsimha Pujari with the first place prize at the USask 3MT Finals

On April 11th, 2023, the College of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies hosted the 2023 USask Three Minute Thesis (3MT) Finals, where Narsimha Pujari, a PhD student in the department of Veterinary Biomedical Sciences, was crowned the champion. Pujari will now compete against top 3MT competitors from across Western Canada this May at the Western Regional 3MT competition, hosted by USask later this May.

Between presenting at seminars, preparing for conferences, or applying for funding, grad students are expected to effectively describe the breadth and significance of their research for a broad variety of audiences. “Scientists used to be an elitist group and they wouldn’t share their research in a manner that everybody can understand,” explained Narsimha, “Today, things need to be more accessible to people and that’s why I was interested in the 3MT,”. Throughout Narsimha’s time in grad school, he’d noticed that the length of time allotted to students has been shortening and shortening, challenging students to find creative ways to summarize the significance of their research.

Once he made the decision to take part in the USask 3MT competition, Narsimha started to prepare. “I must have spent a few hundred hours on YouTube just watching past competitions, especially from Australia, where the [3MT] started,” shared Narsimha, “What really stood out was how some students take it to the next level and do something unexpected,”. He studied the University of Queensland’s 3MT resources to learn presentation tips, common mistakes, and strategies for creating his script, “You have to surprise your audience and learn from all the online tools that are available,”.

When asked about advice for grad students interested in the 3MT, Narsimha had three tips to offer. “The first thing is, pick the harshest group of friends,” says Narsimha, “Do not pick a group of friends that will just say that you’re doing a good job because they will not improve your speaking style. You need to present your work to an audience that doesn’t know anything about your research and can tell you if you’re doing something wrong,”. According to Narsimha, the best way to ensure you capture the attention of the 3MT judges and audience is by rehearsing your presentation in front of people from a diverse variety of specialties and experience levels. “When you are making groups of students and friends to practice things with, make it as diverse as possible,” he explained, “Keep an engineer friend, an engineering friend, a medical friend, an education friend, because you have no idea how these people have different perspectives on different projects.”

2023 USask 3MT Champion Narsimha Punjari presenting his 3MT talk at the GSA Commons

Narsimha’s second tip for 3MT success is simple: practice, practice, practice. “There is nothing more valuable than practice. Practice thousands of times,” he said. Creating an effective script for your 3MT presentation can help you tell a cohesive story to illustrate your research, “That being said, you should never memorize your script to the word because if you forget one word, you will lose your train of thought and not be able to come back,” advised Narsimha.  

The final piece of advice offered by Narsimha is to make time to read, “The whole reason people cannot describe something in a period of time is that they have not read enough,”. Making time to read academic articles in your field can help you develop confidence in your ability to summarize your research and stay on track during your presentation. According to Narsimha, grad students should aim to read at least two papers every week to stay on top of the research happening in their field. “You need to be up-to-date because when you’re not confident in your field, the audience will not be convinced you know your stuff.”

Narsimha will go on to present his 3MT talk, titled, ‘Flirty Flies to Funky Physiology: The Impact of Sex on Female Metabolism’, at the Western Regional 3MT competition hosted at the University of Saskatchewan on May 25th, 2023. Students, staff, and faculty are invited to gather at Quance Theatre for the opportunity to watch 3MT champions from across Western Canada take the stage to compete for the top spot.