Speech competition pushes graduate students’ boundaries

By: Gerry Rucchin
March 17, 2020

Education graduate students Li Li and Fengchenzi Zhao competed in the Three Minute Thesis competition.

Education graduate students Li Li and Fengchenzi Zhao competed in the Three Minute Thesis competition.

Stepping out on stage to speak in front of family and friends can be nerve wracking. Add to this nervousness by trying to explain your graduate work in only 180 seconds. This sums up the Three Minute Thesis competition.

Two Education graduate students, Fengchenzi Zhao and Li Li, stepped into the spotlight at the London Public Library’s Wolf Performance Hall and competed in the finals.

What’s more impressive is English is a second language for Li and Zhao.

“I participated in these types of competitions in China but this one is different because I’m competing against native speakers,” said Li.

The Three Minute Thesis is a research communication competition where graduate students present their research and its impact to a panel of non-specialist judges and peers.

The contest develops students’ academic, presentation and research communication skills.

Students also learn networking skills and develop confidence in their communication skills that can help them when they enter the workforce.

Li’s speech was about artificial intelligence education and its impact on society while Zhao spoke to the audience about gender and higher education in China.

“The tricky part is not to be greedy,” said Zhao. “I had so many ideas because I am almost finished writing my thesis. I realized I didn’t have to put everything from my thesis into my speech, I just needed to emphasis one aspect of it.”

In February, the university hosted Faculty qualification heats. Twenty competitors qualified for the finals and Taryn Fournie from Civil and Environmental Engineering won the competition.  

Zhao and Li enjoyed their experience and they recommend their graduate student colleagues participate in the competition.

“It’s exciting,” said Li. “It’s fabulous to share with other people your thesis work and learn from others.”

The University of Queensland, Australia created the competition. The first one was held in 2008 and the first international competition began in 2010. Western University hosted its first competition in April 2012.

Read more about the 3 Minute Thesis Competition.