Two UK Students Bring Home Gold Following Research Competitions

Finalists presenting their research in the 5-Minute Fast Track Competition.

Finalists of the 3-Minute Thesis Competition presenting their research. Videos by UK Research Communications.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Nov. 14, 2018) — Last week, University of Kentucky graduate and undergraduate students competed in the final rounds of the 5-Minute Fast Track Research Competition and the 3-Minute Thesis Competition (3MT). While two final winners prevailed, research also came out ahead.

Research is one of the foundations of the university — creating solutions to some of the world's most pressing issues. Research is also one of the great opportunities provided to students at UK. 

Often, when we think of research, a scientist with smoking beakers comes to mind, but that does not always have to be the case. The 5-Minute Fast Track Research Competition, for undergraduate students, and 3MT, for graduate students, aim to change the stereotype surrounding research, while also providing students with an opportunity to present their research to an audience in a way that is brief and engaging, which is no easy feat. 

Anna Bedsole and Christopher Kositzke rose to the occasion and proved research can be exciting and appealing for any intelligent audience, no matter their educational background.

"In graduate education, the most important skill complementing a mastery of content knowledge is clear, concise, engaging communication," Morris Grubbs, assistant dean of the Graduate School, said. "As intellectual storytellers, graduate students and postdocs hold the power to spark interest and effect change. 3MT provides the opportunity to test and hone these skills in a competitive forum."  

The Graduate School and Graduate Student Congress at UK have been hosting the 3MT competition since 2013; UK is one of nine Southeastern Conference schools to hold the competition. The Graduate School is constantly working to remain competitive with conference counterparts by recruiting the best minds at UK.

"I think 3MT is important because it forces graduate students to step back and think about how our research benefits others; it's easy to become isolated in your office or lab. Preparing a 3MT presentation prompts you to think about the social benefits of your research," said Bedsole, whose presentation was titled "Gothic Heroines and #MeToo." 

While the Graduate School and Student Congress have hosted 3MT for several years, the Office of Undergraduate Research recognized that undergraduate students did not have a platform to share their research with the student body. The Office of Undergraduate Research saw a need for a forum or competition that would allow undergraduate researchers to present their research in a way that cultivates students’ presentation and research communication skills, while also allowing them to showcase their work in a captivating way. This need sparked the creation of the 5-Minute Fast Track Competition.   

Evie Russell, assistant director of the Office of Undergraduate Research, believes the 5-Minute Fast Track Competition can increase students' skill levels in networking, job interviews and also help students talk about their research with family and friends. 

Christopher Kositzke, winner of the inaugural 5-Minute Fast Track Competition with the presentation "Build a Better Beetle Trap," believes the skills learned while preparing and competing in the competition play an integral role in seeing his research succeed.

"For science to be effective, it must be understood. One of the main benefits of this competition was forcing me to reframe my research into something a nontechnical audience could understand in five minutes," Kositzke said. "That really helped me distill my work into its key components, and since my project is ultimately focused on benefiting the public, having a way to quickly and easily get the main points across makes what I do accessible."

The students who participate in these research competitions take away valuable, pertinent skills that can be used to propel their research and careers. Now that undergraduate students have this opportunity, the possibilities for success for UK students are endless. 

The 3-Minute Thesis Competition finalists were: 

First Place: Anna Bedsole (English) 

Second Place: Daniel Chavez (marketing)

Third Place: Melissa Cantor (animal and food sciences)              

People’s Choice: Melissa Cantor

The 5-Minute Fast Track Competition finalists:

First Place: Christopher Kositzke (biology major; research focus: entomology)

Second Place: Alyssa Mertka (English major; research focus: manuscript studies)

Third Place: Natalie Hawes (nursing major; research focus: rural health)

First and second place winners of the 3MT Competition will advance to one of the regional affiliate competitions of the Council of Graduate Schools.

View the videos above for presentations from the winners of the competitions. Also, all finalists of the 5-Minute Fast Track Competition can be viewed here:

photo of student researcher presenting to audience in Worsham Cinema
photo of three student winners with trophies and faculty and administrators at 5-Minute Fast Track Research Competition