Graduate Student Meghan Yip Wins Three Minute Thesis Competition

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Three minutes. That’s all the time you have to explain your complex research in plain language to an audience not in your field. Could you do it?

Meghan Yip can. She was one of 14 University of Guelph graduate students who recently competed in the annual Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition.

The contest gives graduate students just three minutes and a single PowerPoint slide to present their research to a panel of non-expert judges, who evaluate how effectively the students communicate their research. The panel selected Yip’s presentation — titled “Can we use the skin of our feet to balance better?” — as the winner of the $1,000 prize. Yip advances to the provincial championships on April 23 at Western University.

“I signed up to enter just as a challenge to myself,” says Yip. “I do enjoy talking about my research, but I was shocked when I won.”

Yip recently defended her master’s thesis in human health and nutritional science. She worked with Prof. Leah Bent to study the sensory contributions to human balance. In particular, Yip studied how an area of skin on top of the foot helps people maintain their balance.

“It seems counter-intuitive,” says Yip. “The skin on the bottom of our feet touches the ground, so we can see how that would be involved. But people are surprised to learn that the skin on the top of our feet is important for balance, too.” She explains that the receptors on the skin on top of our feet transmit information about where the foot is in space and how the body is balanced. The skin stretches and compresses as the foot moves and sends signals to the brain to maintain a balanced position.

“In one part of my research, I applied topical anesthetic to that area of skin and saw how it disturbed the person’s balance,” she says.

The competition’s judges were Charles Cunningham, assistant vice-president, Communications and Public Affairs at U of G; Charles Whittaker, business and community leader; Mary Murphy, legal counsel at U of G; Kithio Mwanzia, CEO of the Guelph Chamber of Commerce; Rob O’Flanagan, journalist with the Guelph Mercury; and Rebecca Graham, chief information officer and chief librarian at U of G.

Videos of the finalists’ presentations will be available soon. For more information about the 3MT at U of G, visit www.uoguelph.ca/graduatestudies/3mt.