Student News

UK Graduate School student finishes as finalist in regional competition

Jovita Daraezinwa
Morris Grubbs and Jovita Daraezinwa

LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 3, 2024) — The Graduate School at the University of Kentucky celebrated a big victory during a recent regional competition. Graduate student Jovita Daraezinwa traveled to Greenville, South Carolina, to represent UK at the regional 3-Minute Thesis (3MT) competition at the Conference of Southern Graduate Schools (CSGS).

“Intrigued by the opportunity to showcase my research in a new format and build upon my existing public speaking skills, I eagerly embraced the challenge,” said Daraezinwa, who is a doctoral student in the UK Department of Chemistry.

The 3MT is a competition designed for graduate students to condense their research into a concise and engaging three-minute presentation for a non-specialist audience aided by one static slide.

“Jovita's success in presenting the 3-Minute Thesis can be attributed to her exceptional oratory skills, evident from her first presentation in our lab group meeting,” said Samuel Awuah, Ph.D., associate professor of chemistry in the College of Arts and Sciences.

For Daraezinwa, the path to 3MT was challenging. She first tested her skills through UK GradResearch Live (3MT) in Fall 2021 and again in Fall 2022. She didn’t make it through the first round either time. But Daraezinwa’s determination would not let her give up.

“Over the years, her skills have improved as she continues to grow as a scientist,” Awuah said. “Noteworthy is her tenacity in pursuing opportunities like 3MT, challenging herself to keep growing and honing her presentation abilities.”

So, in Fall 2023, after some hesitation, Daraezinwa would try again. Support from friends and family gave Daraezinwa the encouragement she needed to get to the next level. She was also able to practice with her Toastmasters group.

“This time it was different, I practiced my speech severally with different groups of non-specialist audiences starting from my graduate writing group, friends and Dr. Patti Meyer, who became my 3MT coach all the way to regionals,” said Daraezinwa.

Fifty-five universities were represented at the regional tournament. The preliminary rounds were in four separate heat groups of about 14 students, all 3MT winners at their universities. Daraezinwa earned first place in her heat group and made it to the top 13 finalists.

“The ability to frame one’s research into an engaging story, understandable and memorable to a public audience, is a critical skill across doctoral careers,” said Morris Grubbs, assistant dean at the Graduate School, whose office sponsors the 3MT competition. “I watched in awe at the regional competition as Jovita held the audience of about 300 people in her hands.”

As for Daraezinwa’s future, she plans to focus on completing her doctoral studies in medicinal chemistry and cancer research in the College of Arts and Science.

“Inspired by my positive experience with science communication during 3MT, I am considering a career path that merges my scientific expertise with my passion for public speaking,” said Daraezinwa.

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