Aimee’s prize-winning three minutes on the podium

Published 06 September 2012

Aimee Grace’s three minutes on the lecturer’s podium have won her the opportunity to represent the University of New England at an international competition in Brisbane next month.

In three minutes, Aimee clearly and concisely outlined her postgraduate research project at UNE, in which she is experimenting with a laboratory stem-cell culture process that could be of great benefit to a range of livestock industries.

As the winner of this year’s Three Minute Thesis competition at UNE, Aimee will travel – all expenses paid – to Brisbane for the Trans Tasman Semi-final and Final of the competition on Thursday 11 October. There she will pit her presentation skills against competitors from universities around Australia, and from New Zealand, Hong Kong and the South Pacific.

The Three Minute Thesis competition requires postgraduate research students to engage an audience and a panel of judges in the lucid presentation of an informative three-minute talk about their work and its significance.

The UNE final of the competition on Monday 3 September saw presentations by seven research students from three of UNE’s academic Schools. The wide variety of topics included thermal regulation in fat-tailed dunnarts, using video game technology to model livestock disease and insect pest threats, the creation of aquatic habitats by placing large pieces of wood in rivers, the three-dimensional remote sensing of vegetation, and visual feedback from mental activity.

Aimee’s project is part of research conducted at CSIRO on the culture of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells) from bovine skin cells. The skin cells, cultured under specific conditions, are reverted back to a stem-cell-like state, after which they are able to be differentiated into any other type of cell in the body. Her project is aimed at differentiating these cells into testicular cells for use in breeding technologies to improve the genetics of cattle herds in northern Australia.

As well as the trip to Brisbane, her prize included a $400 gift voucher from Dymocks bookshop. She also won the “People’s Choice Award”, based on the votes of people in the audience.

The runner-up in the UNE final was Mariette van den Berg, who is conducting research on the possible benefits for the health and wellbeing of horses of browsing on a range of trees, shrubs, herbaceous plants, roots and mosses.