John Carroll hosts its second annual three minute thesis, essay and creative project competition


Aiden Keenan

John Carroll’s three minute thesis, essay, and creative project competition is a highlight for many in the community.

Kathryn Wiley, The Carroll News

Research ranging from tough plants to poison frogs and the women disciples of Jesus was presented at John Carroll University’s 2nd Annual Three Minute Thesis, Essay, and Creative Project competition on Thursday Feb. 24th. Three of John Carroll University’s graduate students had the opportunity to showcase their work: 

  • Becca Reicholf (biology) – Glucosinolate Accumulation in Response to Water Availability in Wildland Mustard Species 
  • Emily Staufer (biology) – Toxic Toads: Characterizing Chemical Defenses in Understudied Poison Frogs 
  • Susan Russell (theology) – Women Disciples Discover the Empty Tomb 

The competition has participants condense many hours of work into a three minute presentation for a non-specialized audience. Staufer won both the judges’ award as well as the Peer Choice Award. Each year the winner has the option to move along in the competition and represent John Carroll University at the Midwestern Association of Graduate Students.

Within her presentation, Staufer excitedly talked about how, of the 11 species she was able to study, eight of them had never been studied before; she was also able to increase the percentage of studied species within that genus from 29% to 55%. 

Emily Staufer ’23 won the contest with her project on toads and poisonous frogs. (Emily Staufer)

During a discussion session after the presentations, the presenters were asked if they found summarizing their research difficult and said it was because of the extent of their research. Staufer joked about how it was both painful and relieving to condense the work that had occurred over the summer, nine hours a day and six days a week into “chemical analysis.” Russell also expressed how it [presenting] is “always a growth experience.” It was also discussed how there is a difference between telling the story of your research and giving the details because telling the story makes it easier for wider audiences to understand. 

The competition is designed in part to improve an individual’s presentation and communication skills. Skills which are more important than ever, according to the participants. The competition also presents the opportunity to make international connections. Also, it builds community, a goal of the graduate school, according to Rebecca Drenovsky, dean of the graduate school. This sentiment was also expressed in the opening remarks by Al Miciak, president of the university. 

After the competition, Staufer talked about how her educational and research paths were both non-linear. After all her previous attempts at research were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she was offered 10-year-old frog samples that had been collected and then shuffled around until they had lost hope of being involved in research. 

Staufer advised younger students “to follow the things that make you excited and challenge you because it also helps you grow as a person.” 

Lisa Shoaf, associate dean of the School of Professional Studies and one of the competition judges, stated that they [the school] were glad to host the event and to support the graduate student’s research and hoped that it would help foster the growth of the program. 

Natia McKnight, graduate student experience advisor, excitedly stated how this was the first year with a non-science major in the event and how the competition may be opened up to undergraduate students as well in future years. Molly McCann, master of ceremonies and fellow graduate student, said how the hybrid format presented an interesting challenge as this was the first year with both in-person and online participation. 

If you would like to watch a recording of the event one will be uploaded to the JCU graduate school YouTube account or follow the link For more information on the Midwestern Association of Graduate Schools follow the link