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The Three-Minute Thesis

Students vie to condense years of research into an elevator pitch and win $1,000

PhD candidate Daiva Nielsen won $1,000 in the provincial three-minute thesis competition, condensing years of nutritional science research into an elevator pitch.

The PhD candidate in nutritional sciences won first place and $1,000 at the Three Minute Thesis Provincial Championship, in which doctoral students condense years of dissertation work into a compelling 180-second presentation. Nielsen’s winning talk, which allowed U of T to defend its 2013 championship title, focused on whether genetic-based dietary recommendationschange eating behaviour.

Her year-long, randomized controlled trial involved about 150 participants split into two groups that each received instructions regarding salt, sugar, caffeine and vitamin C consumption – but one group’s advice was according to members’ genetics, while the other’s was generic. Those who received DNA-based dietary advice were more likely to follow it than those who received one-size-fits-all dietary advice. As Nielsen said in her talk, this suggests genetic-based dietary recommendations have a greater impact, and can be used by health practitioners to motivate patients to change their eating habits.

Nielsen’s first crack at the provincial contest was at the U of T competition in March, where she beat 15 finalists for the $1,000 university prize, and qualified for the April provincial competition at McMaster University. At the standing-room-only public event, 19 competitors did short-but-sweet talks on topics such as novel high blood pressure treatments, tea’s benefits for bone health, and former prime minister John Diefenbaker’s role in Canadian- Soviet relations.

“I saw it as an opportunity to speak about my work in a new, more accessible way,” says Nielsen, who was slated to compete in the first-ever national Three Minute Thesis competition in late May.

Watch U of T PhD candidate Daiva Nielsen’s prize-winning three-minute thesis presentation, delivered at McMaster University

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