The College of Applied Science and Technology (CAST) recently hosted its Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition, in which seven graduate students from the Department of Agriculture, School of Kinesiology and Recreation, and Department of Technology competed to move on to a university-wide level of competition.

In the 3MT competition, graduate students compete to present their thesis research projects to a general audience in the time frame of three minutes. Students have an opportunity to showcase their academic, communication, and presentation skills and explain the significance of the projects they are working on. The competition allows students to use just one static slide to showcase their research message and talking points, and judges follow a list of criteria to determine the winner.

Each college within the university either nominates a student or holds their own preliminary round to decide who moves on to the university-wide 3MT competition.

Jessica Barrack, a graduate student in the School of Kinesiology and Recreation, was selected as the winner of CAST’s 3MT competition, presenting her thesis titled “Sleep Quality and Prevalence of Anxiety and Depression in Young Adults with Concussion History.”

Barrack’s research focuses on examining the relationships between sleep quality and prevalence of anxiety and depression in healthy young adults, both with and without histories of concussions. She mentioned that anxiety, depression, and sleep disturbances can occur immediately after a concussion, but can also persist and linger several years after recovery.

“This is a major concern, as suffering from sleep disturbances, anxiety, and depression can negatively impact an individual’s quality of life,” said Barrack.

Part of Barrack’s success in her presentation and research work comes from her passion for the topic.

“I have always been interested in science, anatomy, and how the body works. I have suffered many athletic injuries myself and went through rehabilitation. I chose this field because I want to help others get back to doing what they love and help prevent injuries and conditions from happening in the first place,” she said.

As an athletic trainer, Barrack has seen many concussions, and understands the importance of studying how injuries affect patients in short and long-term situations. She hopes that her thesis work can help clinicians gain a better understanding of relationships between emotional symptoms and concussions, and the long-term effects that follow.

Raeann Huffman, a graduate student in the Department of Agriculture, was selected as CAST’s runner-up in the competition for her thesis titled “Corn and Soybean Cropping Systems: Profitability of Different Agronomic Management Techniques.”

Huffman’s research compares different cropping systems to examine any profits that might exist in different treatment options. She used various monoculture systems (the cultivation of a single crop within a given area) and compared them to an intercropping system (the cultivation of two or more crops within a given area) and found significant data that she is interested in analyzing further.

“I always knew that I wanted to be involved in the agriculture industry as a child, but never knew where and how. I love plants, especially corn and soybeans and I knew I wanted to work with those types of crops,” said Huffman.

Both students put in a significant amount of time and effort preparing for the 3MT presentations but felt rewarded when their hard work paid off.

Barrack said that preparing for the competition took dedication, especially when it came to organizing all of her research information into a single slide that could be presented in such a short time frame.

“I am honored that the judges chose me as the winner. It is a very rewarding feeling to know that my hard work paid off and I am definitely looking forward to the finalist competition coming in February,” she said.

Huffman noted that the challenge of this year’s learning environment played a role in her preparation for the competition. She not only focused on preparing her slide and talking points, but thoroughly testing the technology to be sure everything would run smoothly when needed.

“I feel very honored to have been selected as the runner-up,” she said, “I am very excited to be able to compete in the overall competition this spring, because not only do I get to represent CAST and the Agriculture Department, but I also get to expose my project even more throughout the university. I’m excited to be able to share my passion with others throughout this amazing experience.”

Want to learn more?

Illinois State University’s 3MT finals are set to be held on February 25, 2021, at 6 p.m. via Zoom. Check out the 3MT web page for more information.