July 25, 2017  

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Winners Announced in USM’s Annual Three-Minute Thesis Competition

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From left to right: Dawn Klos (Runner-up), Maria Zapetis (Peoples’ Choice), Dr. Karen Coats (Dean of Graduate School) and Ecaterina Stepaniuc (Grand Champion).

University of Southern Mississippi doctoral student Ecaterina Stepaniuc walked away with the grand prize in the annual Three-Minute Thesis (3MT) Competition held earlier this month on the Hattiesburg campus. The competition is coordinated through the USM Graduate School.

Stepaniuc, a native of the Republic of Moldova, won for her presentation titled, “Moldova’s Democracy: Between Opposing Ideologies.” The Grand Champion award came with a $1,250 cash prize and a chance to compete in the Conference of Southern Graduate Schools regional Three-Minute Thesis Competition March 2-7 in Annapolis, Md.

“Participating in the Three-Minute Thesis Competition has been an amazing experience,” said Stepaniuc. “Probably the greatest benefit would be that I managed to share the importance of my research in three minutes to an unknown audience. Overcoming the fear of public speaking was another benefit I gained by competing in the contest.”

“As a student, I follow a life principle in all I do,” added Stepaniuc. “My purpose is to always do my best. Obviously, you compete to win. However, I compete to win over my inner fears and limits. If I manage to overcome these obstacles, then I consider myself a winner.”

The Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition invites graduate students to describe the significance of his/her thesis or dissertation to a general audience in three minutes or less.

Thirty students took part in the competition that was open to any active master’s, specialist or doctoral student who had not graduated prior to Fall 2016. They were required to present current work. Students competed in one of the following four categories: 1) arts and humanities; 2) life, health and environmental sciences; 3) physical sciences and mathematics; 4) social and educational sciences and business.

Participants were required to follow a spoken word format (no poems, raps, or songs permitted). A single static PowerPoint slide was permitted, but no additional electronic media or props were allowed.

Stepaniuc’s dissertation study analyzes how government and independently owned news media have framed vacillating and competing ideas of democracy over the past 24 years in the Republic of Moldova, a former Soviet republic. Due to conflicting messages in the media on democracy, Moldova’s population has been divided between opposite ideologies.

Waveland, Miss., native and master’s student Dawn Klos took home the Runner-Up award for her presentation: “When We Were Monsters: A Study of Ethnogenesis in Medieval Ireland.” Her award included a $1,000 cash prize.

“I learned how to make my research relatable and interesting to a wide audience,” said Klos. “This exercise helped build my confidence as a researcher and a public speaker. I truly enjoyed introducing the world to Isolde Bisset. She deserves recognition for her achievements.”

The People’s Choice Award went to master’s student Maria Zapetis, a Miami native, who presented: “How Boats Affect Bottlenose Dolphin Behavior.” Her award included a $750 cash prize.

“I enjoyed listening to the many interesting research topics at USM that I would not have otherwise heard about,” said Zapetis. “The competition also gave me the opportunity to analyze the characteristics and behaviors of many different styles of other strong public speakers.”