PhD student selected to talk to Congress about science funding

Closeup of Milica Radanovic
Milica Radanovic

A doctoral candidate in the School of Biological Sciences at Washington State University, Milica Radanovic is among 23 graduate students selected nationwide by the Ecological Society of America (ESA) to speak with Congress about the importance of funding scientific research.

As a winner of ESA’s Katherine S. McCarter Graduate Student Policy Award, Radanovic will attend virtual training to learn about the federal legislative process and science funding, hear from ecologists working in federal agencies, and review policy and communication best practices before she meets with lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

“We are living during a time of global change, and scientists have a social responsibility to push for positive change,” she said. “This will be achieved when scientists learn to effectively communicate with policymakers and the public. Voices in policy need to be diversified, barriers keeping people from science need to be torn down, and we need to work together for the greater good.”

Early-career scientists “who are passionate about understanding and contributing to the world of policy are needed now more than ever,” said ESA President Kathleen Weathers.

Radanovic’s interest in sharing insights from her research and effective communication style recently won her first place and People’s Choice honors in a semi-final round of WSU’s Three Minute Thesis contest in which she delivered a compelling, three-minute overview of her complex, years-long biological research project.

Closeup of Milica Radanovic
Milica Radanovic

As winner of the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) Pullman Three Minute Thesis contest, she will compete in the university finals to be broadcast and streamed online by Northwest Public Broadcasting on Wednesday, March 24, at 7 p.m.

For her college-level win, Radanovic quickly and clearly described her investigation of the ways human activities drive changes in diverse ecosystems, including microbial communities in soil, that can increase greenhouse gas emissions and negatively impact global food production. Her research is supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program.

Radanovic was among five doctoral students who vied for the CAS Pullman Three Minute Thesis competition’s $1,000 top prize and a chance to compete in the university-wide event. Contestants were tasked with presenting their multi-year research projects in three short minutes, using language a general audience could understand, and each using only one visual slide.

CAS-Pullman runner-up honors went to Priyanka Rao, a doctoral candidate in mathematics and statistics, for her concise description of her research using mathematical modeling to help understand transport of contaminants in rivers and streams. Rao’s award and Radanovic’s People’s Choice Award each carried a $500 purse.

The three additional CAS Pullman contestants presented succinct descriptions of their research projects: the effects of ventilation as it relates to inter-age mingling and propagation of disease, particularly COVID-19; identifying the locations and sources of atmospheric nitrogen deposits in the North Cascades; and the ways many 21st-century writers have reimagined gender and sexuality in their literary work.

Brief descriptions of all the fascinating research projects by CAS 3MT contestants since 2015 are available online.

The international 3MT research communication competition challenges PhD students to present a compelling oration on their thesis and its significance in just three minutes and using just one visual slide. Participants hone their academic, presentation and research communication skills by effectively explaining their research in language appropriate to a non-specialist audience.

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