Ten graduate students sat in the front row of the audience, awaiting their turns for Graduate School’s Three Minute Thesis (3MT) challenge Thursday evening. 

One by one, nine of the 10 finalists gave a simplified version of their graduate research in front of a single, static powerpoint slide. Then it was biology student Kirsten Vacura’s turn. 

They saved the best for last. 

Vacura took home the $1,000 first place prize, which she plans on saving.

Her thesis focused on how anglers, fishermen, spread invasive aquatic species, water creatures that when introduced to new areas eliminate the native specie, between bodies of water across the United States. 

She tracks this by utilizing information from a phone app that anglers use across the country when they fish. 

“It was my advisor’s idea,” Vacura said about assistant professor of fisheries Paul Venturelli. “He’s the one who brought me here. He had the app data that I’m using and he had a few questions so we just sat down and brainstormed some questions together and over two years, it’s become what it’s become.” 

Counseling psychology student Byron Long won second place and chemistry student Dayna Arnett placed third. 

Arnett also won the audience’s choice award for her thesis about the studies of mitoNEET, a chemical related to insulin that affects how diabetes progresses. She took home a combined total of $1,500. 

Graduate School Dean Adam Beach, one of the three judges, said the competition was really close. 

“It came down to really minute differences between the top candidates,” Beach said. “We were looking at the overall significance of the research study, how well did they present the study, how they did the study, what the results were and what the significance was. And on the other hand you had the performance aspect.” 

Vacura will go on to represent Ball State at the 2019 Annual Meeting of the Midwestern Association of Graduate Schools March 20-22, in St. Louis, Missouri.

“I’m very excited to go to that to compete again,” Vacura said. “There’s a lot of really cool research being done so we’ll see.” 

Event coordinator Nathan Hitchens said that 3MT will be an annual event and encouraged graduate students to try out for it next year. 

Contact Hannah Gunnell with comments hrgunnell@bsu.edu or on Twitter @hagunnellNEWS.