A University of Guelph master’s student won the provincial 3 Minute Thesis (3MT) competition this week with her thesis on skin receptors and feet.

Meghan Yip beat out 19 entrants from universities across Ontario for this competition, in which grad students have up to three minutes to explain their research project in an engaging and accessible way. The provincial competition took place at Western University on April 23.

The contest began in Canada in 2011. Entrants are judged on communication skills, audience engagement and mastery of their topic.

Yip’s presentation – titled “Can we use the skin of our feet to balance better?” – focused on her recently defended master’s thesis.

“I signed up to enter just as a challenge to myself,” said Yip.

“My emotions all day fluctuated between being nervous, excited, anxious and calm. I do enjoy talking about my research, and afterwards, I felt as though those 3 minutes zoomed by. I thought that I didn’t deliver a few of my statements as I had hoped, so I was very surprised that I won. ”

Along with Prof. Leah Bent, Department of Human Health and Nutritional Sciences, she studied how skin on the top of the foot helps us to keep our balance.

“It seems counterintuitive: the skin on the bottom of our feet touches the ground, so we can see how that would be involved,” Yip said.

“But 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.”

Anthony Clarke, assistant vice-president of graduate studies and program quality assurance, said, “Meghan truly impressed the audience and judges with the presentation of her M.Sc. research so succinctly and clearly. We were all intrigued by her research findings and their potential application.”

Yip will take part in the national 3MT competition; winners will be announced in early June.