UW Three Minute Thesis

This year the we held our first 3MT competition! It focused on professional development and celebrated exciting capstone and research experiences of Master’s and Doctoral students at the University of Washington from all three campuses.

Congratulations to first-prize winner Molly Grear (Civil & Environmental Engineering), second-prize winner Gabby Barsh (Molecular & Cellular Biology) and People’s Choice Award-winner Zheng Li (Bioengineering).

(left to right): Sally James (judge), A. Bruce Montgomery (judge), Molly Grear, Gabby Barsh, Zheng Li, Dave Eaton (judge), Betsy Wilson (judge)

The competition supports graduate students’ capacity to effectively explain their research or capstone project in three minutes, in a language appropriate to a public audience.  This event is a partnership between Core Programs in the Graduate School and the UW Libraries Research Commons.

Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) is an academic research communication competition originally developed by the University of Queensland (UQ), Australia.

Spotlight on: Rachel Blakeslee & Drinking Water

“You’re coming here and you are this young white girl from this whatever college in the United States, coming here to learn about our water problems, and then what are you going to do about it? You’re going to take all the information that you’ve learned and you’re going to go back to the United States and maybe you’ll write about it, maybe you’ll tell your friends, who knows, but all that information you are gathering about where I live will never actually benefit my people.” This is what Rachel Blakeslee heard from an Ecuadorian tribal leader; now she is gaining a Master’s degree in Marine and Environmental Affairs so that she can do more than tell her friends.

After teaching in public schools in her native Texas and traveling, Rachel noticed that there is a “pattern of water problems that transcended boundaries and were prevalent in developing and developed countries alike.” Rachel is looking specifically at issues surrounding drinking water in public schools, compiling information about the amount of lead in Seattle Public School’s (SPS) drinking water. Her data shows that drinking water in schools serving disadvantaged populations contain more lead.

The problem? Lead is extremely harmful and can lead to severe cognitive and behavioral effects. Rachel’s research demonstrates the SPS drinking water inequity and the sad truth that “money follows white kids.” Rachel hopes to use open access, making her research accessible to those who need to know about the water they consume.


Spotlight: Matthew Howard on Race and Mobility

Growing up in Houston, Matthew Howard saw cars everywhere. What do cars give people? Mobility. As he gains a PhD in English, Matthew wonders: “can we consider mobility a human right?” and moreover, if mobility is tied to American identity, “what does that mean for people of color?”

Matthew is using the Negro Motorist Green Book, a map and guide published from the 1930s through the 1960s listing areas of safety for African American travelers. According to Matthew’s research, the automobile is an integral part of the American fabric; when African Americans began purchasing more cars they increased their ability to move through previously restricted spaces. Based on this societal shift, Matthew is asking “How much do we consider people of color part of the American fabric?”

Ultimately, Matthew is planning to build a digital tool with the Green Book map, demonstrating what it means to be American, mobile and a person of color. He is drawing out a narrative from the Green Book, which will highlight the implications and applications of this piece of history.

Spotlight on: Annie Spencer Ross and Smartphone Accessibility

“Button unlabeled.” When developers don’t make apps accessible, screen reader users hear this phrase. Did you open email? Instagram? NPR News? Unlabeled equals unclear.

Annie Spencer Ross is working towards her PhD. in Computer Science & Engineering, focusing on “different technologies and different ways that people think of to start using these technologies.” Specifically, her research is about accessible smartphone applications. Screen readers and gestural cues make smartphones easily usable for differently-abled persons  – except when an app isn’t coded with accessibility features. Educating app developers, integrating company cooperation, and utilizing volunteers is necessary for, as Annie puts it, “getting technology to people who need it.”

Annie’s next step engages in a large-scale analysis looking at major accessibility problems with apps. Rather than correcting individual apps one-by-one, a holistic view incorporating accessibility is necessary to make apps available for everyone.

Lineup: Scholars’ Studio ADVOCACY

The Research Commons and The Graduate School CORE programs present:

Verletta Kern: Advocacy Through Digital Scholarship

Francis Kairu: Spreading the Bug – Promoting Community Level Advocacy in Africa

Julian Barr: Digitizing and Queering the  Historical LGBT Seattle Walking Tour

Chang Dou: From Tree to Biofuel

Carla Lopez-Wilkerson: How Language Blurs Our Response to Sexual Violence

Rachael Tatman: Advocating for Neglected Voices: Addressing Bias in Automatic Speech Recognition

Giuliana Conti: Diversifying Music Education

Nate TeBlunthuis: Performing Organization: How Personal Narratives can Function in Recruitment to Grassroots Social Movement Organizations

Caroline F.D. Black: Are Early Childhood and Family Support Programs Effective for Teenage Parents? A Meta-Analysis

Scholars’ Studio is Thursday, February 16, 4 – 6 pm in the Research Commons!


Spotlight on: Roger Chao and the Pool of Knowledge

Reflection – how do we make it meaningful? As students and people, we are often reflecting and responding in our daily lives. Roger Chao looks at how to make reflection mean something.

Roger has spent the last five years gaining a PhD in English and teaching. Roger is an instructor for English composition classes, but Roger assigns no ordinary composition; he incorporates service learning into curriculum and asks his students to write about the work. While learning about the structure and mechanics of writing, Roger’s students simultaneously write and reflect on their experience working and engaging with the community. Roger explains that when his students bring their service learning experience triumphs and failures into the classroom, they write to, “integrate and synthesize it with theory and concepts that you read about – it enriches the overall learning process.”

Through his research and teaching, Roger has found that reflection can serve as a socially constructed act; when students share their challenges and the solutions they have found, it builds a communal pool of knowledge. Meaningful reflection becomes tangible when stored together as an archive of shared experience.

Q&A: Citation Managers


I am starting to collect information for my thesis and I am looking for a way to keep everything organized and in safe place. I think that a citation manager might help, but I don’t really know how to get started. Can you offer any guidance?


A citation manager will make thesis-writing easier! It will allow you to easily collect, store, and organize your citations while you prepare to write. It also works with a variety of word processors to integrate your citations into a document and generate a bibliography. We support four different citation managers at UW: Zotero, Mendeley, RefWorks, and EndNote Basic. Make an appointment today with the citation team.

-From Alex Pantazes, Research Commons Graduate Assistant, Citation Management

Spotlight on: Lise Lalonde and the Color of French Identity


How can you talk about racism without the words to describe it? Lise Lalonde, PhD student in French and Italian Studies, explains that her native French lacks the vocabulary we use in the United States to discuss racism; thus, the issue is pushed aside, forgotten.

Growing up, Lise heard a distorted version of history; years later, she asks herself: “What are we not told?” She explains that the French educational system only presents history and memories which will not threaten national unity, begging the question: who and what are excluded?

Lise’s research is centered around the question: “What is the role of race in the construction of French identity?” To study this topic, Lise is not only looking at race, she is looking at gender, community, whiteness, educational curriculum and power structure. Lise is not content to leave things as they are; she wants to know “why things are the way they are” – why people of color are left out of the fabric of French identity. In the spirit of inclusion, Lise hopes to publish her work through public scholarship; her research question compels any reader to think about the color of identity.


Q&A: Graduate Funding


I’d really like to attend one of the major conferences in my field this year.  However, none of them are in Seattle, so I’d have to pay for a plane ticket and hotel room,  and they all charge expensive registration fees.  How can I find funding that will help me afford to go? 


The University of Washington offers graduate students two major sources of funding for travel to conferences at which they will present or speak:

  • The Graduate & Professional Student Senate Travel Grants award up to $300 for domestic conference travel or up to $500 for international conference travel.  Students may only receive these awards once every three years, with a maximum of two awards throughout their UW career.  Applications for these grants are made directly by the student – make sure to carefully review the application instructions and deadlines at the link above.
  • The Graduate School Fund for Excellence & Innovation also awards up to $300 for domestic conference travel or up to $500 for international conference travel.  Students may receive this award only once every other year, and priority is given to students who have not previously received the award.  Students cannot apply directly for these grants – an application must be made by your department on your behalf, and each department may have internal policies and procedures governing when and for whom they will request an award.

Postdoctoral researchers are eligible to apply for similar conference travel awards from the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs, which offer $300 for regional travel or $600 for national or international travel.

If you are planning to attend a conference but are not a presenter or invited speaker, locating funding opportunities will require a more extensive search.  Many UW departments and graduate programs have funding options for their students that sponsor conference attendance without regard to whether you are presenting, so begin your search by checking with your department.  Next, look into whether the conference itself offers scholarships for which students can apply or waivers of conference fees for first-time attendees.  Some conferences may even permit students to attend free of charge in exchange for a commitment to volunteer during the event.

You can also search more broadly for external (non-UW) awards that pay conference fees and travel costs through thefunding databases recommended in the GFIS guide.  Most funding databases include a category dedicated to conference-related awards – for instance, Grant Forward, a large, subscription database available to the UW community, allows you to target this type of award by filtering your results by “Type” for “Workshop/Conference.”  Examples of the conference-related opportunities you might find in these databases include awards related to specific events, such as this award for students to attend the Grace Hopper Women in Computing Conference, this award for travel to the National Council on Public History conference, or this award for students to attend the American Statistical Association conference , and grants that can be used more broadly to support professional development, such as this award from the Institute for Humane Studies, which provides doctoral students with a set amount for use toward conference attendance, manuscript submission, or career-related travel.

-From Rochelle Lundy, Graduate Funding Information Service

5 Reasons to Attend Scholars’ Studio!

5 Reasons to Attend Scholars’ Studio! equity

  1. Network with students, staff, and faculty – in and outside your field
  2. Hear about exciting research happening at UW
  3. See examples of rapid-fire research presentations
  4. Come out and support peer presenters from your department
  5. Engage in cross-disciplinary conversations

Scholars’ Studio: EQUITY is Thursday, November 17th

Research Commons Presentation Place, 4 – 6 pm