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Impassioned physics grad student heads to 3-minute thesis western finals

Cast your People’s Choice Award ballot on Thursday in support of Elizabeth Watt's presentation
April 29, 2015

Elizabeth Watt, an MSc student specializing in radiation oncology physics, competes in the Western Canadian finals of the Three Minute Thesis competition Thursday. Photos by Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

University of Calgary finalists, from left: Hasti Farrokhzadeh, Srimal Ranasinghe, Crystal Kwan, Elizabeth Watt, David Guzzardi, David Adair, Kimberley Holmes. Absent from the photo are Haether Leduc-Pessah, Brandon Koger, and Eliana Elkhoury.

University of Calgary finalists, from left: Hasti Farrokhzadeh, Srimal Ranasinghe, Crystal Kwan, Elizabeth Watt, David Guzzardi, David Adair, Kimberley Holmes. Absent from the photo are Haether Leduc-Pessah, Brandon Koger, and Eliana Elkhoury. 

Elizabeth Watt, MSc student, has three minutes to make University of Calgary history. You can help her do so in less than 10 seconds.

Watt, specializing in radiation oncology physics in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, is competing at the live-streamed Three Minute Thesis (3MT) Western Canadian finals April 30 at 3 p.m. (MST).

Her journey to the regional competition has been marked by her perseverance. She competed against more than 60 other University of Calgary students before emerging victorious in a field of 10 finalists — videos of their presentations are available online.

“All the presentations, both in the heats and the finals at the University of Calgary, were fantastic,” said Watt, the kind of person who is always eager to share her discoveries with family and friends. “It is so interesting to learn about the breadth of research being undertaken at the university.”

Cast ballot for People’s Choice Award

University community members can cast a live ballot for Watt to win the People’s Choice award as they get a fun, informative glimpse into some of the most interesting research taking place at universities in Canada.

While the online voting for the People’s Choice Award is not part of selecting a winner for the national competition, it’s a visible show of support for the University of Calgary and Watt. She’d be the first University of Calgary student to win the award. Voting closes after the presentations are done.

On Thursday, cast your ballot!

Graduate students must summarize their thesis research in three minutes, using one slide before a live audience. The University of Calgary hosted the first Western Canada 3MT competition last year.

Driven to improve breast cancer patients’ experience

Watt’s talk is entitled, Permanent Breast Seed Implant: Improving Patient Experience in Early-Stage Breast Cancer. Her strong desire to help make a difference in health care helped her craft a sharp three-minute message that speaks to both heart and mind.

“I think it’s helpful to be able to show how your research benefits others,” she said. “As soon as people think about physics, they assume I’m working in a dark lab all by myself. Showing a side of physics that can truly benefit the lives of those battling with cancer is a unique advantage.”

Watt will be the second University of Calgary student to compete in the 3MT westerns and if she advances, the first to represent the university in the national finals. The western finals are being held at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, B.C.

3MT Competition hones speaking skills

Watt worked hard to ensure her message would be clear and forceful. She attended the My GradSkills workshop, which helped her make complex physics research understandable to those outside her field, she said.

“I really enjoyed seeing the different successful public speaking strategies employed by different competitors,” she said. “People managed to convey very complex topics by using metaphors, personal stories and real-life examples.”

Watt’s research focuses on identifying and quantifying the uncertainties involved in the modality of Permanent Breast Seed Implant (PBSI). Her investigation will ultimately result in recommendations surrounding training, planning and performance of the technique used in partial breast irradiation.