Thesis competition winners present at TEDxNovaScotia

Jacob Cookey and Babak Razaghi won the chance to speak at a TEDx event at Dalhousie University.

By Keili Bartlett

Timing is everything. Especially when you only have three minutes.

Three Minute Thesis runner-up Babak Razaghi at TEDxNovascotia (Keili Bartlett photo).

That’s the idea behind Dalhousie University’s new Three Minute Thesis competition. Graduate students have three minutes to explain their thesis and research.

Jacob Cookey won the first Three Minute Thesis competition, for his research on the link between cannabis and schizophrenia. Babak Razaghi, who researched free radicals and the heart, was named runner-up and awarded the People’s Choice Award.

“It’s a good opportunity to introduce your research in easy words and also make it funny and exciting for new people to get involved,” Razaghi said, “I also had the chance to talk to more people, especially when they were interested to ask more specific questions.”

Aside from a $1,000 scholarship for Cookey and $750 for  Razaghi, both won a chance to speak at TEDxNovaScotia.

Thesis meets TEDx

On March 10, for the third time in a week, Cookey and Razaghi presented their theses and research, this time on a red, black and white TEDx stage in front of more than 300 people.

TEDxNovaScotia hosted by Dalhousie University March 10 (Keili Bartlett photo)

TEDx events are a lot like TEDTalks – where people get on stage and talk, usually based on a theme – and are organized by someone in the community.

“It turned out that the theme of TEDx this year had to do with education, said Katelynn Northam, who works in the Faculty of Graduate Studies at Dalhousie.

“The competition itself was really about interdisciplinary collaboration and just sort of thinking outside of the box, bringing research that often isn’t shared very widely to a wider audience, so it kind of fit in with the theme.”

Stephen Thomas, who nominated the host for TEDxNovaScotia, said he was glad to see Cookey and Razaghi speak.

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Katelynn Northam on the Three Minute Thesis competition at Dalhousie
Katelynn Northam on Three Minute Thesis

“I think that it’s also a really great forum to have them in the TEDTalks because of all the things that I find TEDTalks valuable for: Extremely intensive, in most times 15 or 17-minute talks on just such complicated issues.

“To boil that down in a way that is really relatable and is really understandable for most people is, of course, very true of TEDTalks.”

The Three Minute Thesis competition started in 2008 at the University of Queensland in Australia. In Canada, the University of British Columbia, Concordia University and Western University also host the competition.

Northam said Dalhousie will host the competition again.

“It was really well accepted by the entire community. Everyone got really excited about it.”