Three Minute Thesis Winners for Fall 2022

UNCW held its first Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition in December during the Graduate Student Research and Creativity Showcase.  The Graduate School sponsored the event, and prizes were funded via the Dr. Ralph W. Brauer Fellowship. 

The 3MT is an international competition that began at the University of Queensland Australia in 2008 to help graduate students learn to talk succinctly about their research to a non-specialist audience.  This competition is now held at over 900 universities in more than 85 countries worldwide.   The graduate school hopes to make the 3MT a tradition at UNCW. 

Ten graduate students competed in the virtual competition. 

First Place (tie): Lauren Olinger from Marine Biology for “Sponge uptake of dissolved organic matter produced by benthic cyanobacterial mats” and Hawken Hass from Psychology for “Episodic Remembering in Rats.” 

The audience voted Tiffany Hoefler of Psychology as the “Crowd Favorite.” 


Lauren Olinger, Marine Biology

Lauren Olinger

I am in the marine biology PhD program in Dr. Pawlik’s lab. My doctoral research broadly looks at how sponges retain carbon on coral reefs, which they achieve by pumping lots of seawater through their bodies while consuming the molecules dissolved in it that are collectively known as dissolved organic matter, or DOM. My three-minute thesis summarized the research from one of my dissertation chapters where I found that sponges consumed DOM produced by slimy, mat-forming benthic cyanobacteria, which may represent a significant exchange on the many degraded Caribbean reefs where these two groups thrive. After graduating this semester (Fall 2022), I will be moving to the US Virgin Islands in 2023 to begin as a postdoc. I look forward to doing more field research and joining a collaborative effort to better understand the response of these fragile ecosystems to ongoing stresses caused by climate change and other human impacts.


Hawken Hass, Psychology

Hawken Hass

My name is Hawken Hass, and I am a second-year Psychological Science student here at UNCW.  I work in the ABC lab with Dr. Katherine Bruce and Dr. Mark Galizio. The project I presented for the three-minute thesis presentation is my master’s thesis. I became interested in behavioral psychology during my undergraduate experience, where I studied operant variability and emergent stimulus relations. I joined the ABC lab with research interests in animal learning, comparative cognition, and symbolic behavior. I hope to continue researching how animals learn and how we can use this information to improve the lives of domestic and captive animals.


Tiffany Hoefler, Psychology

Tiffany Hoefler

Hi, I am Tiffany Hoefler! I completed my undergraduate degree at Appalachian State University in psychology with a minor in chemistry. I am a currently in the Psychology program with a concentration in neuroscience and behavior.  For the 3 Minute Thesis competition, I presented my work focusing on the sex differences in associative learning after an inflammatory event.  I hope to be involved in the research of Alzheimer’s disease due to the impact my grandma having the disease had on me.