Charles E. Schmidt College of Science Ph.D. candidate in Mathematics, Amish Mishra, took home the Runner-Up award from FAU's 6th annual Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) Championship this year for his presentation, "Seeing data: For now we see dimly, but soon we will see shape to shape." Mishra works with faculty advisor, Assistant Professor, Francis Motta, Ph.D.
The Graduate College hosts the competition in which any active FAU graduate student in good academic standing can compete. It provides all participants with an invaluable professional development experience, and championship winners are awarded research scholarships and awards up to $2,500, with the possibility to win up to $5,500 to support one's graduate research. FAU's 3MT® Championship Award is generously sponsored through the Dr. Eric H. Shaw 3MT® Championship Award Endowment Fund.
What area of research are you studying for your Ph.D.?
I am studying Topological Data Analysis, specifically Persistent Homology. I enjoy how this field synthesizes Algebraic Topology with Computer Science for the purpose of data analysis.
How difficult (or easy) was it for you to translate this area of study in math, which may seem difficult to share with a general audience, into a winning 3MT ® talk?
It's always a challenge communicating both the clarity and relevance of mathematics research to a general audience. I worked backwards from the audience's perspective by asking questions like, "What depth of understanding do I want to have about Amish's research? What math applications am I familiar with? What technical words would I be/not be familiar with?’ Asking good questions are the mark of an effective researcher.
How did you prepare?
I competed in the 3MT® Competition last year, and I really struggled to condense my research into three minutes. I learned a lot from my mistakes last year: what technical words to omit, what substitute words would convey the same ideas, how much time to spend on the different sections of the talk and how to best manage my visual aid. I also practiced and received insightful feedback on my talk from my advisor and friends.
What did you like best about the competition?
I really enjoyed the challenge of accomplishing something meaningful under constraints. Having to communicate my work in three minutes with one static visual drove me to be creative. By the end, I not only had a submission for the competition, but also something short I could share with my family to explain my research.
How did the math department help you prepare? Advisor, faculty, fellow students?
My department has allowed me to teach math courses and do presentations in class. Practicing my public speaking skills and math skills in front of others trained me to keep a clear narrative as I speak. My advisor, Francis Motta, Ph.D., is one of the greatest mathematical and academic inspirations of my life. Taking his courses and my weekly meetings with him challenged me to carefully think about why and what I wanted to study. All of this helped as I outlined and recorded my talk.
What did you learn through this process?
I learned the importance of understanding my audience. A great talk is not just a great talk in a vacuum: it requires the presenter to sew into the fabric of his/her content an understanding of the extent of knowledge of those listening. Although this is Public Speaking 101 core concept, putting it into practice was a whole other challenge.
What would you do differently? Do you have any advice for others competing next year?
My advice is to be passionate about your work. Learning to be passionate about your research for technical, practical, professional, artistic, historic and philosophical reasons will help you connect with almost any type of listener!
View all of the 3MT Championship winners here.