Student wins second prize in Three-Minute Thesis competition

November 2, 2017

Nicole Kahn, MEd, doctoral student in maternal and child health at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, won second place in the UNC Graduate School’s third annual Three-Minute Thesis (3MT®) competition, held Nov. 1 on the UNC campus.

Nicole Kahn (left) poses in the winner's circle at the Three-Minute Thesis competition. With her are pharmacy students Aaron Devanathan (People's Choice awardee) and Katelyn Arnold (first place). Photo courtesy of the UNC Graduate School.

Nicole Kahn (left) poses in the winner’s circle at the Three-Minute Thesis competition. With her are pharmacy students Aaron Devanathan (People’s Choice awardee) and Katelyn Arnold (first place). Photo courtesy of the UNC Graduate School.

The academic competition, developed in 2008 by The University of Queensland (Australia), assists graduate students with cultivating effective presentation and communication skills. Participants have only three minutes to explain the scope and significance of a research project to a general audience. More than 600 universities in 59 countries hold 3MT® competitions.

Kahn, one of ten finalists from across campus, spoke about “Sexual Health and Sex Education in Populations with Disabilities.” In her three years at the Gillings School, Kahn discovered that people with disabilities often were excluded from studies about adolescent sexuality and health outcomes. The omission inspired her dissertation project.

Her preliminary results show that the majority of people with physical disabilities become sexually active at about the same age as other adolescents but are more likely to be diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection or disease in their lifetime.

“This work has critical implications for how we design sex education policies and programs, in terms of what is age- and developmentally appropriate,” Kahn said.

Kahn found the competition challenging but extremely rewarding.

“I was so impressed with the presenters and the diversity of research conducted here at Carolina,” she said, “and I am so grateful for the support I received from my School and department. My maternal and child health family was there for me throughout the process.”

Carolyn Halpern, PhD, professor and chair of maternal and child health and Kahn’s mentor, said she is proud of Kahn and of her success.

“Nicole is not only an exceptional scientist,” Halpern said, “but as this achievement makes clear, she is a truly gifted educator and communicator.”

Steve Matson, PhD, dean of the UNC Graduate School, said judges and audience members were impressed with the participants’ level of confidence, the strength of their research findings and poise on stage.

“We’re grateful to all graduate students who participated,” Matson said. “We always have a strong field of presenters, and the diversity of research and the three-minute limit help create a thrilling experience.”


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Gillings School of Global Public Health contact: David Pesci, director of communications, (919) 962-2600 or dpesci@unc.edu