Wednesday, Jul 23, 2014 04:07 pm est

GSAS hosts thesis challenge

Posted on April 14, 2014 | by Scott Mullen

Shawn Paik/WSN

Twelve graduate students from NYU’s Graduate College of Arts and Science presented their theses to an audience and a panel of faculty judges on April 12, each in less than three minutes.

Competing in the Threesis Academic Challenge, the students had to present in language that is accessible to a layperson and only use one presentation slide. The challenge took place in the Eisner & Lubin Auditorium at the Kimmel Center for University Life.

Director of the Master’s College at GSAS and one of the organizers of the event David Giovanella commended the students for their bravery.

“There’s no way, when I was doing my graduate work, would I have done this,” Giovanella said. “So my heart and soul goes out to them.”

The competition is organized into stages that narrow the field to 12 finalists who each receive $300 from their department or program. This year, the challenge drew 164 applicants from almost all of the departments and programs at GSAS. Of these, 84 moved into to the mentoring stage, 67 continued into the next round and 56 participated in the semifinal round, which took place on April 11. The finalists were selected from this group based on three criteria: expertise in their respective fields, the ability to communicate clearly in accessible language and the ability to give an engaging presentation.

The presentations given at the event covered a wide range of research subjects, including dental implants, workplace discrimination against lesbians, the effects of World War II on modern literature and DNA alteration. The 12 finalists were Allison Collins and Elizabeth Crawford from the Draper Interdisciplinary Program in Humanities and Social Thought, Shashank Gandhi and Sara Storer from the biology department, Sarah Harris from the German department, Emma Mishel from the applied quantitative research program, Grace Pan from the environmental health sciences program, Hannah Puckett from the European and Mediterranean studies department, Jennifer Scofield from the museum studies department, Tom Sercu from the data science program, Caroline Song from the bioethics department and Zhiyang Yu from the mathematics in finance program.

After the presentations, awards were given for first place, second place and audience choice. The second place prize of $750 was awarded to Yu for his presentation on trends in the stock market. The first place prize and the audience choice award both went to Harris for her presentation on automatons in literature. She received $750 for audience choice and $1000 for first place from GSAS.

Harris said she plans to use the money to fund her continuing studies in Germany this summer.

“This is amazing,” Harris said at a reception held after the event. “I got to participate, I got to talk about something that I really enjoy talking about, that normally people don’t want to listen to.”

Marit Coyman-Mykelbust, a museum studies master’s student who participated in the early stages of the competition said the skills students learn from this competition are beneficial.

“To condense it into three minutes is really hard, but it makes you think of your research in a really different way,” Coyman-Mykelbust said. “Making you use language that anyone can understand was a really great exercise.”

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, April 14 print edition. Scott Mullen is a deputy news editor. Email him at


profile portrait
Felipe De La Hoz

Multimedia Editor | Felipe De La Hoz is a Colombian national studying journalism at the College of Arts and Sciences. Having been born in Colombia and raised in the United States, Mexico and Brazil, Felipe is a trilingual travel aficionado and enjoys working in varied and difficult environments. Apart from his photography, Felipe enjoys investigative reporting and interviews, interviewing the likes of Colombian ex-M-19 guerrilla fighters and controversial politician Jimmy McMillan. He has covered everything from governmental conferences to full-blown riots, as well as portraiture shoots and dining photography. Having worked under Brazilian photojournalists for Reuters and AFP, Felipe hopes to one day work on demanding journalistic projects and contribute to the global news cycle.

Ann Schmidt

News Editor | Ann is a liberal studies sophomore who lived in Florence during her freshman year. She plans on double-majoring in journalism and political science and is always busy. She is constantly making lists and she loves to laugh.


Daniel Yeom

Daniel started at the Features desk of WSN last Spring, writing restaurant reviews whilst indulging on free food and consequently getting fat. Last Fall, he was the dining editor, and he this semester he is senior editor. Daniel is in Gallatin (living the dream) studying Food & Travel Narratives, incorporating aspects of Food Studies, Journalism, and Media, Culture, and Communication. He loves food more than life itself.

Hannah Luu

Deputy Multimedia Editor | Hannah Luu is a ridiculously great Deputy Multimedia Editor. She is a sophomore from Northern California. If you think Northern California means San Francisco you might need to closely examine a map. She is passionate about NPR and being half Asian.

  • How to join:

    The Washington Square News holds open weekly budget meetings at its office located at 838 Broadway every Sunday. All are welcome to attend, no matter your background in journalism, writing, or reporting. Specific times for meetings by desk are listed below. If you wish to talk to an editor before you attend, feel free to check out the Staff page.

    5 P.M. 6 P.M. 6 P.M. 6:30 P.M. 6:30 P.M. 7 P.M.

    Applying for an editor position: Applications for editor positions during the fall or spring semesters are available twice each academic year and can be found here when posted. Applications for the Fall 2012 semester are closed, but check back for Spring 2013. Those who wish to apply are urged to publish pieces in the newspaper and contact current editors for shadowing.

    History of the Washington Square News:

    The Washington Square News is the official daily student newspaper of New York University and serves the NYU, Greenwich Village, and East Village communities. Founded as an independent newspaper in 1973, the WSN allows its undergraduate writers and photographers to cover campus and city news and continues to grow its strong body of award-winning journalists and photographers.

  • The WSN has a circulation of about 60,000 and can be found in over a hundred purple bins distributed throughout campus. It is published Monday through Thursday during the fall and spring semesters and online on Friday, with additional special issues published in the summer. The newspaper recently revamped its website during the Fall 2012 semester.

    Like few campus newspapers in the country, the paper is editorially and financially independent from the university and is solely responsible for selling advertisements to fund its production. The WSN, including its senior staff, is run solely by current undergraduate students and the business-division is largely student-operated as well.

    A Board of Directors comprised of alumni, NYU professors and working news media professionals serves as advisors to the paper. Board members have no control in the WSN's editorial policy or newsroom operations. Alumni of the newspaper are established and leading journalists in such news organizations as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, NBC news, ABC news, Fox News, and USA Today.