BOONE, N.C. — Appalachian State University’s Cratis D. Williams School of Graduate Studies hosted its 2018 3 Minute Thesis (3MT) competition with a total of 32 campus participants. The three winners of the competition — Gita Gajjar, Arina Cotuna and Amanda Wilkinson — are all graduate students in Appalachian’s College of Arts and Sciences.
The 3MT is an international competition for graduate students to present their research and/or scholarly or creative projects in standard, nondisciplinary English to a general audience (the public) in three minutes with the help of only one static PowerPoint slide.
Gita Gajjar, a graduate student in the Department of Biology, earned first place with her presentation titled “Role of Thor in Drosophila Pain,” alongside faculty advisor Dr. Andrew Bellemer, assistant professor in the department.
The second place prize was awarded to Arina Cotuna, a graduate student in the Dr. Wiley F. Smith Department of Psychology, for her thesis “Using Wikiversity to Promote the Science of Suicide Prevention: Helping Give Away Psychological Science (HGAPS).” Her faculty advisor is Dr. Kurt Michael, the Aeschleman Distinguished Professor of Psychology and assistant chair of the Department of Psychology.
And in third place, Amanda Wilkinson, a graduate student in the Department of Biology, received the People’s Choice Award for her presentation titled “Snail Phylogenetics,” with faculty advisor Dr. Matt C. Estep, assistant professor in the department.
Gajjar received a $750 award for research or travel and an all-expenses-paid trip to Knoxville, Tennessee, to compete in the Southeast Regional 3MT competition at the annual Conference of Southern Graduate Schools in February. The second place recipient, Cotuna, received a $500 award, and the People’s Choice Award winner, Wilkinson, was awarded $250 — both awards are for research and/or travel.
Cotuna is a second-year student in Appalachian’s clinical psychology master’s program working with Michael. She is from Winston-Salem and holds a Bachelor of Science in psychology and a Bachelor of Arts in Hispanic linguistics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Cotuna’s clinical interests include working with kids who struggle with depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts.
Gajjar, of Kenya, is a graduate student in the Department of Biology majoring in cellular and molecular biology. She works with Bellemer and studies nociception in neurons causing states of chronic pain. After completing her studies, she wishes to go on to further her education by joining a Ph.D. program.
Wilkinson is a graduate student in Appalachian’s biology program, working in Estep’s lab to improve modern understandings of relatedness within the snail Neohelix genus.
Wilkinson, of Denver, Colorado, earned her bachelor’s from Appalachian in 2017. After graduation, Wilkinson worked as a laboratory technician at Environmental Consulting Services (ECS) in Charlotte before rejoining Appalachian in fall 2018 to begin her Master of Science.
She hopes to pursue a Ph.D. focusing on phylogenetics — the study of evolutionary relationships among biological entities — of native U.S. land snails, revolutionizing the way others view these significant contributors to the Earth’s understory community.
Graduate students who are in good standing are eligible to compete in the annual 3MT competition. Each year, a panel of community, industry and alumni representatives judge the competition.
To learn more about Appalachian’s 3MT competition, click here.
About 3 Minute Thesis
Three Minute Thesis (3MT) celebrates the exciting research conducted by Ph.D. students around the world. Developed by the University of Queensland, the competition cultivates students’ academic, presentation and research communication skills. Presenting in a 3MT competition increases their capacity to effectively explain their research in three minutes, in a language appropriate to a nonspecialist audience. Competitors are allowed one PowerPoint slide, but no other resources or props. Learn more at https://threeminutethesis.uq.edu.au.
About the Department of Biology
The Department of Biology is a community of teacher-scholars, with faculty representing the full breadth of biological specializations — from molecular genetics to landscape/ecosystem ecology. The department seeks to produce graduates with sound scientific knowledge, the skills to create new knowledge, and the excitement and appreciation of scientific discovery. Learn more at https://biology.appstate.edu.
About the Dr. Wiley F. Smith Department of Psychology
Appalachian’s Dr. Wiley F. Smith Department of Psychology serves more than 1,000 undergraduate majors seeking the Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science degree in psychology, as well as 80 graduate students in the master’s degree programs in clinical psychology, experimental psychology, school psychology, and industrial-organizational psychology and human resource management. Its new Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) program began admitting students in fall 2019. Learn more at https://psych.appstate.edu.
About the College of Arts and Sciences
The College of Arts and Sciences is home to 16 academic departments, one stand-alone academic program, two centers and one residential college. These units span the humanities and the social, mathematical and natural sciences. The College of Arts and Sciences aims to develop a distinctive identity built upon our university's strengths, traditions and unique location. The college’s values lie not only in service to the university and local community, but through inspiring, training, educating and sustaining the development of its students as global citizens. There are approximately 6,100 student majors in the college. As the college is also largely responsible for implementing Appalachian's general education curriculum, it is heavily involved in the education of all students at the university, including those pursuing majors in other colleges. Learn more at https://cas.appstate.edu.
About graduate education at Appalachian
Appalachian State University’s Cratis D. Williams School of Graduate Studies helps individuals reach the next level in their career advancement and preparedness. The school offers 70 graduate degree and certificate programs in a range of disciplines, including doctoral programs in education (Ed.D.) and psychology (Psy.D.). Classes are offered at the main campus in Boone as well as online and face-to-face at locations around northwestern North Carolina. The graduate school enrolls nearly 1,800 students. Learn more at https://graduate.appstate.edu.
About Appalachian State University
As the premier public undergraduate institution in the state of North Carolina, Appalachian State University prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The Appalachian Experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and to embrace diversity and difference. Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Appalachian is one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina System. Appalachian enrolls more than 19,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.
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