CLEMSON — Two College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences graduate students fast-talked their way into winning awards and cash. Nathan Redding won $400 for first place and Francesca Stubbins won $200 for third place in the Clemson University Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) research communications competition.

The event challenges graduate students to deliver compelling presentations on their thesis and its significance in just three minutes using nontechnical terms to reach general audience. The contest was part of the the annual Graduate Research and Discovery Symposium, showcasing innovative and outstanding works by Clemson’s graduate students in the arts, humanities, sciences, business and engineering.

3 Minute Thesis winner Nathan Redding works on nematode research.

3 Minute Thesis winner Nathan Redding specializes roundworm research.

Nathan Redding talked about a particular microscopic roundworm that feed on hundreds of plant species, many of which are major food crops. A master’s candidate in plant and environment sciences department, Redding’s research focuses on the plant genes involved in how the roundworm infects the plant roots. Identifying the genes could keep the pest from robbing nutrients and weakening the plant. Redding’s co-authors on the study findings are faculty members Paula Agudelo and Christina Wells.

“The contest is a great exercise for all graduate students because it forces us to take a step back and distill our work down,” said Redding. “For me the work is about understanding how roundworms infect roots, research I believe can impact many worldwide.  As a scientist I recognize the importance of effectively communicating my results in order to make that change possible.”

Redding is from Greenville. He earned his bachelor’s degree at Wofford College and is to receive a master’s this month. His plans are to stay at Clemson to pursue a PhD.

Francesca Stubbins works on her nematode research.

Francesca Stubbins works on her nematode research.

A bug bearing a notorious name is the research focus of a third-place winner. Francesca Stubbins, working on a PhD in entomology, explained her research on ways to control the kudzu bug, an invasive insect that damages soybeans — as well as eats kudzu — spreading across southeastern United States.

Insecticides are being used, but the search continues for control alternatives, including non-native and native kudzu bug enemies. Stubbins, along with faculty members Paula Agudelo, Francis Reay-Jones and Jeremy Greene, have observed a nematode that infects kudzu bugs. The discovery lays the groundwork for research on the nematode’s potential to reduce kudzu bug populations

“I loved being able to present my nematode discovery within the allotted three minutes as it made me focus on the bigger picture of my research,” said Stubbins. “Hopefully my enthusiasm and passion for entomology and my research came across during my presentation.”

3 Minute Thesis third place winner Francesca Stubbins.

3 Minute Thesis third place winner Francesca Stubbins.

From York, England, Stubbins will finish her graduate work next summer and plans on looking for work in the U.S.

“Learning to talk about science so people will listen is a vital skill as research reshapes our lives and world,” said Joe Culin, associate dean for research and graduate studies in the College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences. “It’s great that the college fielded 10 Three Minute Thesis competitors, coming from so many departments — biological sciences, entomology, environmental toxicology, food technology, forest resources, microbiology, plant and environmental sciences and wildlife and fisheries biology.”

University-wide, graduate research presentations ranged from the shape of supernova explosions in space to ways of making sure older South Carolinians get nutritious meals.

In an unusually close contest, judges awarded no second place honors, declaring ties for first and third instead.

The winners
 were:

First place (tie): Nathan Redding, plant and environmental sciences

First place (tie): Kellie Walters, parks, recreation and tourism management

Third place (tie): Vipul Pai Raikar, bioengineering

Third place (tie): Francesca Stubbins, entomology.

Photos of winners receiving their prizes can be found on the second screen load of photos at https://www.flickr.com/photos/95527896@N07/sets/72157651859443002