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Watch a 3-minute thesis

“Microbes surround our lives,” began Ph.D. student FoSheng Hsu in his Three Minute Thesis presentation on his research into Legionella, a “bad” bacteria that is able to disguise itself in the human body.

The reaction from the crowd in the Biotechnology Building April 23 and the combined scores of four judges signaled Hsu’s success, and he was awarded first place ($1,500) in the Cornell Graduate School's first annual Three Minute Thesis, or 3MT, competition. Hsu also received the People's Choice Award ($500) by vote of the 100 people in the audience.

3MT was developed by the University of Queensland in 2008. It challenges graduate students to present their research in three minutes to a nonspecialist audience. Prior to the event, the Graduate School hosts "how to" skill development sessions. Competitors are scored based on audience engagement, audience comprehension and their own communication skills.

From three preliminary rounds held in March and April, eight finalists with research interests ranging from imaging nanomagnets with heat to ethical behavior and misreporting.

Hsu’s research into bacteria seeks to find out why some lipids in Legionella can disguise themselves in the human body. The answers have the potential to cure Legionnaires' disease.