Competition celebrates postdocs, research

Western’s first postdoctoral 3 Minute Research Competition, held last week in the Great Hall, saw more than 30 scholars sharing their research with the campus community. The research communication exercise – modeled after the Three Minute Thesis Competition (3MT), which features graduate students and was held at Western for the first time this spring – gives scholars the opportunity to share their work and its impact with a diverse, interdisciplinary audience, in three minutes or less. The competition strengthens communication skills, encouraging scholars to explain their research in an accessible manner and engage a wider audience.

The winners at the competition last week were:


Katrina Laurent
The Great Lakes Futures Project

First prize ($1,000)

By way of scenario analysis, Laurent’s project examines the possibilities in store for the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin, over the next 50 years. Scenario analysis is a structured approach to envision alternate futures that could unfold; it provides a context for evaluating the consequences of current and future management and policy decisions. By envisioning alternate futures for the basin, Laurent and her research team will be able to look at current policy and suggest recommendations to get the basin on a trajectory that will lead to a desirable future. The aim is to provide input to the revised Canada/U.S. Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement by suggesting areas of governance and policy reform and strategic research frameworks.


Shelley Sandiford
The Effects of Free Radical Production on Skeletal Muscle Development
Second prize ($500)

Growing muscle cells in a dish, Sandiford’s research looks at what can be done to improve the growth and development of muscle tissue. Muscles deteriorate as we age, and if research can show what is happening to muscle tissue – which can, and does, dramatically shrink – over time, a possibility of designing therapies emerges. Sandiford is looking at NIP1, a naturally occurring protein in muscles, that when found in high levels causes a multitude of problems in muscle cells, preventing them from growing or developing properly. Sandiford’s research is looking toward therapeutically targeting this protein in order to address muscle degeneration, part of the aging process.


Catherine Martel
Inter-Species Chemical Warfare

Third prize ($250)

Martel’s research focuses on the interaction between spider mites – a herbivore that eats a variety of crop species – and the tomato plant. Spider mites, damaging Ontario’s agriculture, particularly its greenhouse production of tomatoes, take a big bite out of the local economy and Martel and her research team are trying to understand how tomato plants respond to and defend themselves against spider mites, while also looking at ways the pest manages to evade the plant’s defenses. By understanding these processes on a molecular level, the hope is to generate plants more resistant to spider mites. Now that the genome of both the tomato and the spider mite has been sequenced (the latter by Western’s own Miodrag Grbic), the approach to dealing with the pest is easier. The ultimate goal is to design new strategies to improve resistance to spider mites in agriculture.