The winning institution in the 2018 Midwestern Association of Graduate Schools (MAGS) Three-Minute Thesis (3-MT) competition on April 6 was Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, represented by Gabriel Martínez-Gálvez, a fourth-year Ph.D. candidate at Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences.
3-MT presentations describe Ph.D. thesis work with one visual element and a compelling description in lay terms and lasting less than three minutes. Martínez-Gálvez had advanced to the regional competition by winning Mayo Graduate School’s inaugural 3-MT competition in September 2017.
With a combination of humor, storytelling and simple comparisons in his presentation, Martínez-Gálvez confessed to a boyhood obsession with superpowers and a grad-school obsession with the potential for enhanced abilities through genetic engineering. Gene editing could be used to achieve countless benefits, such as accelerated healing, HIV resistance and cancer therapy, said Martínez-Gálvez, who is pursuing a doctorate in biomedical engineering and physiology under the mentorship of Stephen Ekker, Ph.D.
Comparing genetic information to a Word document, Martínez-Gálvez said he wants to prevent genetic typos that increase the chance of disease when modifying organisms. To develop a more accurate and dependable “keyboard” for gene editing, he programmed a computer to read gene editing data, learn from it, and identify the underlying reasons behind genetic typos. By automating the processing of massive amounts of data, he hopes to speed engineering of a keyboard that can predict and auto-correct genetic typos.
Before entering the competition, Martínez-Gálvez was already a believer in the value of communicating research.
“There is a disconnect now between the public and the scientific community,” he says. “It’s important to get your message across. Communicating using the right language for the right people can move your ideas forward. Science is cool, and we have to able to talk about how things work.”
Martínez-Gálvez says the enthusiastic response to his presentation makes him want to complete his research more quickly and pursue a career that takes advantage of his ability to captivate an audience.
“I’ve always thought of myself as more of a communicator or teacher than a scientist,” he says. “I’m more motivated when I have to deliver information, especially for the lay person or a student.”
MAGS sponsored the 3-MT competition at its 2018 annual meeting. The competition featured 36 students as representatives of Midwestern graduate schools. In a preliminary round, judges selected the top two from three groups to present again in a final round.
As the winner, Martínez-Gálvez received a $750 check and an invitation to the 2018 annual meeting of the Council of Graduate Schools, Dec. 5–8 in Washington, D.C.
Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences is one of five schools in Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science. These are: