What a Three Minute Thesis finalist is doing one year later. A conversation with Baillie Redfern Genome Science and Technology Program, under the supervision of Dr. Jörg Bohlmann
Since participating in UBC’s 2012 Three Minute Thesis competition—an annual event where grad students boil down their research into a three-minute talk—Baillie Redfern has embraced public speaking. Her thesis, on cloning a gene in balsam fir trees that could replace a substance derived from whale barf for perfumes, was selected for animation by renowned cartoonist Jorge Cham after a competition called PHD Comics. In April, she travels to Albuquerque to be the first Métis woman to compete in the Miss Indian World Pageant and has selected storytelling as her traditional talent.
UBC’s 3MT competition
I’m among the first generation to go to university in my family. I have a lot of aunties and uncles so I have had plenty of practice explaining my research and why it is important. If I said my thesis was about trying to clone some genes, no one would care about that. To make it interesting, you have to make your work relevant to everyday life.
I practiced my 3MT talk so many times and I knew it so well. During the finals, I stumbled over some words and repeated a sentence. When you only get three minutes if you mess up once, its tough to redeem yourself.
The animated thesis
The PHD Comics competition was based on fan votes and I didn’t get enough votes to win. But then I got an e-mail from Jorge Cham saying that he wanted to make my thesis into a cartoon. We only had three weeks to work on the video but it was fun. I asked Jorge to draw me wearing cowboy boots and with feathers in my hair because of my Métis identity.
The importance of communicating your work
If you want people to be interested in what you’re doing, you have to be vocal. That’s why I’ve picked public speaking as my talent for the Miss Indian World Pageant. It’s not a beauty contest but we do show off our cultural talents, traditional knowledge and express our identity through powwow dancing. To demonstrate my traditional talent I have chosen to share a story my grandmother told me about traditional medicinal plants.
Watch the animated video of Baillie Redfern’s thesis: