In a vastly different delivery method than normal, Ashley Vu has won this year’s Three Minute Thesis (3MT) event.

Vu is a mechanical engineering doctoral student in the Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture. Her presentation was titled “Essential Elements, Vitamins, and Natural Medicinal Additives in Calcium Phosphate Ceramics for Bone Tissue Engineering.”

This is the sixth year 3MT has taken place at the university level. Each competitor must present their research in no more than three minutes. Judges rate their performance on ability to connect with the audience, as well as present the technical details of their research in a way non-specialized audiences can understand.

Traditionally, each college hosts its own in-person event. The winner of each meets up in the university’s final. This year, things initially moved along as normal. Colleges hosted their respective events. But when the novel coronavirus altered in-person meetings, all competitors had to adapt and record their presentation on Zoom with the 3MT administrator. They each still only got one take. They each still only got three minutes.

Judges then received a copy of each person’s video and had about a week to watch them and judge them in a closed ballot online form.

Thought the judging was very close, in the end, with a presentation one judge deemed “excellent and critical work to the future of medical materials science,” it was Vu whom stood out the most.

Another judge: “(Ashley) did a wonderful job at connecting the project to a purpose and did well at convincing the audience that this topic is important and that we need to know more about it. Additionally, the speaker was able to present the information in a way that was digestible to a lay audience. I do appreciate how the student is able to pinpoint how interdisciplinary research can be used to tackle a problem from all angles and it evident in the way that this information was presented.

Closeup of Ashley Vu.
Ashley Vu

“It was like listening to a speaker at a TED Talk. Great job.”

President Kirk Schulz, who was a judge for the third year in a row, said he appreciated each of the competitors being willing to adapt.

“The WSU community has demonstrated its resilience over and over again during this pandemic,” Schulz said, “and the students competing in 3MT were no exception. They adapted to the circumstances and did an outstanding job of presenting their research.”

Winners receive travel grants, sponsored by the Office of the Provost. Vu’s award is $3,000. Second place, won by Dan Edwards from the College of Nursing, is $1,500. Third place, won by Robyn Reeve from the College of Arts and Sciences, is $500.

Once again, the College of Education administered the competition. More information can found at WSU’s 3MT website.