Things get easier with time – just ask Food Science Ph.D. student Conner McDaniel.
The Ardmore native won the 2019 Oklahoma State University 3-Minute Thesis® Finals, sponsored by Halliburton, in her third year of participating.
As she walked out of the Student Union Theater with $1000, McDaniel took her final steps in an eye opening OSU 3MT® journey.
“You might not recognize it now, but three years ago I was deathly terrified of public speaking - a nervous wreck,” she said. “And this just really opened my eyes and [has] given me so much confidence in the ability to talk about what I do in front of people I don’t know.”
Now, McDaniel is quick to tell her fellow graduate students to take advantage of opportunities like 3MT® competitions in order to develop their public speaking skills.
“That’s something I think a lot of people coming into graduate school maybe don’t have as much experience in as other things,” McDaniel said. “So, [3MT®] is a great way to expand on your knowledge of public speaking and to gain confidence in it. And it’s only three minutes long – you can do anything for three minutes.”
In her three minutes, she questioned “Does an Apple a Day Really Keep the Doctor Away?” by confidently introducing the audience to sodium acid sulfate, an antimicrobial her research has shown is more effective in reducing listeria in produce compared to the chlorine the food industry currently uses.
She explained that more than half of foodborne illness is caused by produce contamination – causing 25 million illnesses a year and that this new antimicrobial could reduce these numbers.
“An effective antimicrobial wash solution used during produce processing is the key in reducing foodborne illnesses caused by fresh produce every year.
I believe this novel antimicrobial is going to increase the chances of an apple a day actually keeping the doctor away.”
McDaniel was accompanied in the top three by Nutritional Sciences Masters student Laurie Thompson and Veterinary Pathobiology Ph.D. student Sai Narayanan, who placed second and third respectively. The night’s People’s Choice award, which is voted by the audience, went to Experimental Psychology Ph.D. student Erin Wood.
For their efforts, Thompson was awarded $750, Narayanan received $500, and Wood was given $1000.
The competitors weren’t the only ones to receive checks, however.
Veterinary Biomedical Sciences Masters student Lulu Guo held a raffle ticket that won her a $250 travel award and Chemical Engineering Ph.D. student Ted Sperry possessed the ticket that won the Chemical Engineering program $2000.
The competition was emceed by the 14th and first female president of the Oklahoma State University Alumni Association, Blaire Atkinson and Stillwater Mayor Will Joyce, Payne and Logan Counties District Attorney Laura Austin Thomas, OSU Police Chief Leon Jones, Stillwater Public Schools Superintendent Mark Moore, Academic Services for Student Athletes Director Marilyn Middlebrook, and Halliburton Chief Technical Advisor Tim Hunter served as the event’s judges.
As the first place winner, McDaniel will now be headed to the regional 3MT competition at the Conference of Southern Graduate Schools annual meeting in Birmingham, Alabama in March 2020.
“I’m excited to see things from other universities and the research that goes on at them as well,” she said. “Being a part of this competition lets me see Oklahoma State [University] wide, but being able to see across the country the type of research that is going on is really going to be something I’m looking forward to.”