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Annual 3-minute thesis competition packs a lot of science into a short time

BOONE—Could you explain your master’s level thesis or research in just three minutes? That’s what 16 students in Appalachian State University’s Cratis D. Williams School of Graduate Studies each did recently.

View larger imageWinners of a 3-minute thesis competition are Laura Ellis, Reed Gurchiek and Stephanie Lichiello. They are graduate students at Appalachian State University.

The students in academic disciplines ranging from geography, business, clinical psychology to engineering physics, had just three minutes to explain their research or scholarly/creative projects to a general audience.

“It’s important for graduate students, as well as researchers, to be able to explain or pitch their ideas and research to a lay audience in a short period of time,” said Max Poole, dean of the graduate school. “Sometimes all you have are three minutes. It must be precise and in layman’s terms because your audience might be individuals from other walks of life and unfamiliar with the jargon of your profession.”

Reed Gurchiek, a graduate student in exercise science, won first place and a $750 travel/research award for his presentation on developing and implementing technology to improve the evaluation of human performance.

He also will receive full travel support to compete at the regional three-minute research competition hosted by the Conference of Southern Graduate Schools in Charlotte. Gurchiek also will be honored at the spring Graduate Student Awards reception and will travel in May to represent Appalachian at Graduate Education Day held in the capital in Raleigh.

Following graduation, Gurchiek plans to pursue a Ph.D. in a biomechanics-related field or work in a lab. Gurchiek is from Cottontown, Tennessee. His faculty mentor is Assistant Professor Herman van Werkhoven.

Second place was awarded to Stephanie Lichiello, a graduate student in clinical psychology from Forest, Virginia. She received a $500 travel/research award. Lichiello talked about her research focused on an assessment model that the Assessment, Support, and Counseling (ASC) Center created in 2012. The ASC Center is a school-mental health partnership that was established in three western North Carolina school districts. The protocol developed has been used with more than 150 students who have indicated they have had suicidal or homicidal thoughts. None of the students included in a research sample related to the assessment model have died by suicide or homicide.

Lichiello’s faculty advisor is Professor Kurt Michael. Following graduation from Appalachian, she hopes to work in a hospital setting conducting research and providing therapeutic services to children and adolescents and later pursue a Ph.D. in clinical psychology.

The People’s Choice Award went to Laura Ellis, a graduate student in biology from Swannanoa. Ellis spoke of research she is conducting to better understand how marine fishes eliminate nitrogenous waste. “My work is important in understanding how fish can adapt to our ever-changing oceans,” she said. “Due to climate change, fish have to adapt to new changes in the oceans, including the increase of oceanic carbon dioxide. My work is the foundation upon which future ecological studies can be built.”

Ellis’ faculty mentor is Professor Sue Edwards. Ellis received a $250 award to support travel to an academic conference or assist with research expenses. She plans to pursue a Ph.D. following graduation from Appalachian.

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