West Carolina University graduate Emily Deem won first place and a $1,000 cash prize in a three-minute Tar Heel thesis event hosted online this summer by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School.
The Effective Communication Competition gave Deem and nine other graduate students from North Carolina universities exactly three minutes each to present their research and its impact to a panel of lay people.
Deem has a bachelor’s degree in forensic anthropology from WCU and received his master’s degree in biology last May. His presentation was entitled “Chilled to the Bone: Comparing Four DNA Extraction Methods for Solving Cold Cases”.
Deem studied the effectiveness of DNA extraction methods, including three used for modern materials and one used for ancient materials, and how the methods can complement each other to help solve crimes and identify the remains of missing people. .
“It was a really good communication exercise for me,” Deem said of the competition. “Describing DNA to a layman is difficult. It helped me get back to basics and reconnect with it. It was definitely a challenge and a positive experience.
Deem recently started working in the lab at Bode Technology, a Virginia-based company that provides DNA testing, consulting, training, and validation services worldwide.
Three Minute Thesis was established by the University of Queensland, Austria in 2008 to help doctoral students develop and showcase their communication skills. Such events are now organized by more than 900 universities in 85 countries. This was Tar Heel’s second annual three-minute thesis, launched with financial support from the nonprofit Burroughs Wellcome Fund and organized by the UNC-Chapel Hill Graduate School with additional assistance from North Carolina Council of Graduate Schools.