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10th Annual Three-Minute Thesis Competition

Fifteen graduate students from across seven graduate programs participated in the 10th Annual University of Winnipeg Three Minute Thesis Competition, 3MT X!

Michelle Beltran (MSc in Bioscience, Technology, and Public Policy) received the First-Place prize for "Oh my gut: Effects of short chain fatty acids on enteric glial cells." Michelle is moving forward to the Western Regional Three-Minute Thesis Competition at the University of Saskatchewan on May 25, 2023!

Sage Broomfield (Master's in Develop Practice: Indigenous Development) took home the Second-Place prize for "Towards intergenerational energy solutions: A comprehensive review of Indigenous youth-focused participatory research with applications in alternative energy research."

The audience selected Jasmyne Storm (MSc in Bioscience, Technology, and Public Policy) as the People's Choice recipient for "It's getting hot in here: It’s getting hot in here: milk nanovesicles promote heat shock response and reduce neuroinflammation."

Learn more about the participants and watch their presentations below!

Meet the Contestants

Michelle Beltran - First Place

Bio: Michelle completed her Bachelor of Science (Honours) in Biochemistry at the University of Winnipeg in 2021. She is now pursuing a Master of Science in Bioscience, Technology and Public Policy under the supervision of Dr. Danielle Defries. Her research interest includes understanding how short chain fatty acids (SCFAs) modify properties of enteric glial cells (EGCs), and if they may act as a potential therapeutic strategy for the attenuation of intestinal inflammation and intestinal barrier disruption.

Three-Minute Thesis: "Oh my gut: Effects of short chain fatty acids on enteric glial cells"

The intestinal epithelial barrier (IEB) helps digest food, absorb nutrients, and prevents entry of harmful bacteria, pathogens, and toxins into our bloodstream. Located beneath the IEB is a unique group of cells known as enteric glial cells (EGCs). In healthy states, EGCs produce factors that make the IEB stronger, but overexposure to pathogenic bacteria or toxins leads to breakdown of the IEB, which exposes EGCs to these agents. In response, EGCs produce factors that further damage the IEB. Diet is emerging as one of the leading influencers of a healthy gut. Dietary fibres from foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, and whole grains are fermented by our gut bacteria to produce nutrients such as short chain fatty acids (SCFAs) which reinforce the gut barrier. However, how SCFAs affect EGCs, and the resulting indirect effects on the IEB, remain unknown. This study will elucidate how SCFAs, by modifying EGC activity, attenuate IEB disruption. Overall, this will provide insight of EGCs physiological roles, and their potential use for preventing chronic diseases associated with IEB dysfunction.

Watch Michelle's Presentation

Sage Broomfield - Second Place

Bio: Sage is of mixed Neyihaw (Cree), English, and Irish descent. She has worked in and researched Indigenous youth education, as well as energy and environmental decision-making in various capacities. Her responsibility to this thesis has been established through existing and growing relationships with the youth-peers, communities, and territories that she has learned with. This research, in part, builds on Sage’s time as a ‘youth energy research program coordinator’ in Inuvik, Northwest Territories. This role supported the partnership between the Gwich’in Tribal Council and the University of Saskatchewan’s Community Appropriate Sustainable Energy Solutions (CASES) Project. Sage holds a BA in International Relations from the University of British Columbia where she focused on policy and technology. She is grateful to have further explored her interests through the Masters of Development Practice in Indigenous Development. Particularly for this research, she would like to acknowledge the support and guidance of Dr. Patricia Fitzpatrick and the CASES Project Team.

Three-Minute Thesis: “Towards intergenerational energy solutions: A comprehensive review of Indigenous youth-focused participatory research with applications in alternative energy research”

Indigenous youth are a powerful group of change-makers, integral to knowledge-making and community development. However, in academic research Indigenous youth have not always been valued collaborators. As well, there is a specific lack of youth-based participatory research in the field of alternative energy. This paper explores better practices for Indigenous youth-focused participatory-research with applications in alternative energy. And asks the following: how can we practice reciprocal research that honours Indigenous youth knowledge as we seek environmental solutions? The main method of data collection is a systematic literature review of Indigenous-authored articles which use Indigenous youth-focused participatory research methods. Findings and recommendations are then discussed within the context of alternative energy and environmental research. This research creates a dialogue of Indigenous youth-focused participatory research methodologies and looks towards inter-generational solutions-making within alternative energy research.

Watch Sage's Presentation

Jasmyne Storm - People's Choice

Bio: My name is Jasmyne Storm, I am a first year M.Sc student in Bioscience, Technology and Public Policy at the University of Winnipeg. I am interested in uncovering the therapeutic potential of milk nanovesicles (specifically, milk-derived exosomes) and milk miRNA in the context of improving neonatal health. Originally from Victoria, B.C., I completed my B.Sc in Biology from the University of Victoria in 2021. After graduation, I worked for a year in the education sector both in an administrative capacity for the University of British Columbia Island Medical Program and as a laboratory teaching assistant in the UVic Department of Biology. Outside of work and academia, I love spending my time in the outdoors or curled up with a cup of tea and a good book.

Three-Minute Thesis: “It’s getting hot in here: milk nanovesicles promote heat shock response and reduce neuroinflammation”

Milk is not just food; it contains molecules with biological function. Milk nanovesicles are small, fat-based molecules found only in mammalian milk that carry genetic information from mother to child. Maternal obesity is an inflammatory stress that affects both mother and child. Children born to mothers with obesity tend to have metabolic problems (type II diabetes) and irregular brain growth resulting from neuroinflammation. Milk nanovesicles are postulated to have anti-inflammatory properties, however, there are gaps in our knowledge about how milk nanovesicles interact with other biological pathways in the body to provide protection. I will investigate whether milk nanovesicles promote the heat shock response (chaperones responsible for refolding misfolded proteins) to reduce neuroinflammation, specifically in microglial cells (the immune regulators of the brain). Understanding the protective mechanisms of milk nanovesicles may lead to future therapeutics for children affected by neuroinflammation by supplementing breastmilk or infant formula with enriched milk nanovesicles.

Watch Jasymyne's Presentation

Amber Balan

Bio: Amber Balan was born and raised in the inner city of Winnipeg (Treaty 1 Territory). Amber is a citizen of the Red River Metis Nation and holds relations to ancestors from Romania. Amber is a proud mother to six amazing children and holds a degree in nursing from the University of Manitoba. Amber is a second year Master’s in Development: Indigenous Development student. Amber hopes to become a strong advocate for systems change by looking for solutions to address barriers that Indigenous women and children face when accessing western medical care. Amber has been working under Dr. Jaime Cidro on the CIHR funded project: Urban Indigenous Doula Project since 2021. The Doula project aims to redress colonial harms by establishing a holistic model for urban Indigenous Doula services that will benefit Indigenous women and their children by supplying culturally appropriate supports throughout their pregnancies.

Three-Minute Thesis: “Addressing barriers to the sustainability of Indigenous Doula practice: gaps in mainstream training”

Indigenous Doulas offer support for birthing mothers and families which contribute to overall improved birth outcomes and experiences. Indigenous Doulas are highly valued and flexible birth helpers working closely with birthing families and advocating for their clients across a multitude of colonial systems. Previous research done on Indigenous Doula collectives has explored their role and practice and has highlighted the fact that the demand for Indigenous Doulas and Doula training exceeds availability. Our research seeks to identify several key areas that affect the sustainability of the profession including gaps in mainstream doula training and an even larger gap in Indigenous specific Doula training. Some of the main barriers to accessing training are, geographical location, access to funding to support training and available trainers. Therefore, this research is important for addressing the barriers that Indigenous Doulas face when seeking training, and to ensure the safety of Indigenous women and their families when seeking culturally safe care birthing care.

Watch Amber's Presentation

Bilguundari Enkhtugs

Bio: Bilguundari is a graduate student in the Criminal Justice program under the supervision of Drs. Walby and Maier. With her interdisciplinary background in Criminal Justice and Psychology, she is interested in exploring what online victimization and misbehavior mean for young adults in the context of online bullying. Her SSHRC-funded thesis work offers a qualitative study, via interview and creative visual methods, into how undergraduate students with lived experiences of cyberbullying (re)construct themselves in the virtual world. Bilguundari aims to find out how young adults cope with the consequences of cyberbullying and what kinds of support are needed for these individuals. While e-criminology is her primary area of research interest, she is equally interested in examining the lived experiences of criminalized populations in various criminal justice contexts and the sociology of emotional labor of inner-city youth workers.

Three-Minute Thesis: “Experiences of cyberbullying through the presentation of self: health consequences and needs ”

Using Goffman’s (1959) influential concept of the presentation of self in everyday life, my thesis explores how university students with past cyberbullying experiences define and (re)construct their selves in the virtual world. This project aims to understand how victims of cyberbullying cope with their stress through photo-elicitation and drawing creative visual methods, in addition to traditional interviews. The preliminary results indicate that both victims and bullies represent individuals from marginalized communities, including LGBTQ2S members and girls, who are disproportionately at risk of being a target of cyberbullying. Adding to the existing literature, cyberbullying survivors advocate for the need for formal support in the form of therapy or counseling. It is recommended that cyberbullying prevention/awareness programming, as well as mentorship support, are needed as early as middle school years for youths’ mental and physical well-being to prevent self-harming behaviors, including suicide attempts, and depression as ways of coping with the experience of online bullying.

Watch Bilguundari's Presentation

Apoorva Gangwani

Bio: My name is Apoorva Gangwani, and I am a graduate student in the University of Winnipeg’s department of economics. My present research interests are mostly in the subject of labour economics, with sub-fields in development and behavioural economics. I earned my undergraduate degree in economics from the University of Delhi in India. In addition to economics, data science fascinates me, and I firmly believe that economists can successfully implement several policies and address a variety of pressing economic issues by using the vast datasets that are at their disposal.

Three-Minute Thesis: “Assessing the impact of minimum wages on crime severity index across Canadian provinces”

The goal of all nations is to decrease crime, as it has both social and economic benefits. Although there has been a significant amount of research on the correlation between crime rates and minimum wages in other countries, there is a limited amount of information available for Canada. This study aims to fill the gap in the existing research by examining the relationship between the crime severity index and minimum wages in Canadian provinces. Unlike other countries, which only consider the crime index, Canada also takes into account the crime severity index, which places more emphasis on serious offenses.
The hypothesis of this study is that there is a negative relationship between the crime severity index and minimum wages after accounting for other factors such as unemployment, income inequality, and education level. The study uses various econometric methods, such as fixed effects, pooled OLS, and correlated random effects, to check for the validation of the hypothesis. It aims on exploring the possibility of increasing minimum wages as a policy option. The findings of this study have important implications for policy makers and suggest various strategies for improving the crime severity index in Canadian provinces.

Watch Apoorva's Presentation

Rushil Goomer

Bio: I am Rushil Goomer, a research assistant at the University of Winnipeg in Canada where I am pursuing a Master of Science in Applied Computer Science & Society. My research is focused on post-processing of numerical weather prediction models using statistics and machine learning. In addition to my research in weather prediction, I have experience in various other areas of machine learning, including medical named entity recognition (NLP), cuda optimization, and more. Moreover I have a Bachelor of Technology in Computer Science from Bennett University in India and hold certifications in deep learning and advanced learning algorithms. My technical skills include programming languages such as Python and CUDA C++ and machine learning libraries such as Tensorflow, Keras and Scikit-Learn. With a passion for machine learning and its applications, I am eager to continue to expand my knowledge and experience in this field.

Three-Minute Thesis: “Examining machine learning approaches to improve precipitation forecasting”

The task of numerical weather prediction (NWP) poses significant challenges as it requires dealing with micro and macro-scale spatiotemporal parameters that are susceptible to biases and accuracy issues. In light of this, machine learning has gained popularity as a means to improve the accuracy of weather predictions. In my study, we employed eight numeric weather prediction models and combined them to create ensemble models using six different machine learning techniques, such as the Input Means Model, Multiple Linear Regression, Gradient Boosting Regression, Random Forest Regression, Feedforward Neural Networks, and Convolutional Neural Networks. The experiments conducted in this work demonstrate that machine-learning approaches can enhance the results obtained from individual input models.

Watch Rushil's Presentation

Joe Hrzich

Bio: Joe Hrzich is a dedicated professional with extensive experience in computer vision, machine learning, and computational physics. Born and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Joe earned a Bachelor of Science degree with Honours in Physics and is currently pursuing a Master's in Applied Computer Science at the University of Winnipeg. His research focuses on the 3D reconstruction, phenomics and image processing of crops in digital agriculture. His work will provide farmers with a way to monitor the growth and health of their crops with remote sensors, making it easier for them to make better and informed breeding decisions.

With a passion for cutting-edge technology and a drive for positive impact, Joe is exploring entrepreneurship opportunities. He is constantly seeking new challenges and growth opportunities in his field. Committed to delivering exceptional results, Joe is dedicated to making a difference and advancing his field through his research and entrepreneurial pursuits.

Three-Minute Thesis: “Low-cost photogrammetry rig for 3D plant phenotyping”

Photogrammetry is the science of obtaining a 3D scan of an object. Through this process, reliable information about the physical object's complex structure can be obtained, studied and analyzed. A low-cost Structure from Motion (SfM) technique can be used to create 3D models using multiple 2D images from different viewpoints. A point cloud is a widely used 3D data form, which can be produced by depth sensors, such as LIDARs and RGB-D cameras.
A low-cost close-range photogrammetry rig could be a beneficial tool for agronomists, plant scientists, and breeders. The imaging system utilizes the Raspberry Pi to capture images with multiple cameras, and a commercial rotatory table to get images from different viewpoints. The idea is to use the photogrammetry rig for a variety of applications such as growth monitoring and extracting plant traits such as number of leaves, stem height, leaf length, leaf width, leaf area, and canopy volume.

Watch Joe's Presentation

Amandeep Kaur

Bio: Amandeep Kaur is a first-year master’s student in the Bioscience, Technology, and Policy program. She is a part of Doctor Anurag Shrivastava’s biomarkers and cancer lab. Her current research is encompassed around expression patterns of biomarkers and their role in identifying and differentiating between different types of thyroid cancer. She completed her Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry at the University of Winnipeg in 2022. Her passions involve dancing, music, makeup and serving the community. 

Three-Minute Thesis: "Developing simple tests to triage thyroid cancer patients for surgery."

The number of Canadians dead due to cancer every day is 233 and 2 in 5 Canadians are expected to develop cancer at some point in their life, making cancer the leading cause of death amongst Canadians. Most patients that have follicular thyroid tumors must undergo invasive medical procedures that cost time and money. However, 80-90% of tumors are benign, and all patients are expected to follow this protocol since no other effective methods are available to differentiate between follicular thyroid cancer, follicular thyroid adenoma and parathyroid cancer. Our lab has discovered a panel of genes that could help in triaging thyroid cancer patients for invasive procedures. My research would provide necessary tools to diagnose patients that have benign or malignant tumors. This would also save healthcare costs, physicians’ time, and prevent possible physical harm and suffering associated with contemporary methods of certain thyroid cancer screenings.

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Mohammad Anas Shoebullah Khan

Bio: My name is Anas! I am originally from a small coastal town in Gujarat, India. My undergraduate degree is in Law, and I also hold a diploma in Human Rights. I have previously worked as a Senior Associate (Policy Training & Outreach) with the Centre for Civil Society, India – a New Delhi based public policy think tank. My work primarily included policy advocacy, training and outreach on key environmental policy projects focusing on forest rights in India, and on making a case for rights-based regulatory governance of small-scale fisheries. I am currently part of the Masters in Environmental and Social Change program, working with Dr Alan Diduck and Dr Kirit Patel. My research thesis will identify and document human rights issues in Gujarat’s dried fish economy. In many ways, the thesis is a reflection of my values of seeing human rights and agency as important for inclusive development.

Three-Minute Thesis: “Fishing for human rights: Perspective from India’s dried fish economy”

In India, which is the world's third largest producer of fish, 17% of total fish catch is dried. Because of its relatively inexpensive processing, dried fish provides cheap nutrition to some of the world's poorest and vulnerable people. It also provides livelihoods to millions of women engaged in processing, drying and selling fish. Almost two to thirds of all fish consumed in South and Southeast Asia is dried yet very little is known about this small-scale economy which provides food security, livelihood, and financial stability to marginalised communities. Exploitation of labour, unequal wages between men and women, unhealthy working conditions, industrialisation, and institutional discrimination are some of the issues plaguing this economy. Through my research, my aim is to demystify human rights issues through a gender-based lens in an effort to inform public policy on this crucial yet ignored sector.

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Aimee Louis

Bio: Aimee Rodriguez Louis is an educator, mother and friend who currently resides in Winnipeg Manitoba. She is a registered member of Wuskwi Sipihk First Nation and is completing her final year of the Master of Arts Indigenous Governance program at the University of Winnipeg.

Three-Minute Thesis: Miyo pimātisiwin opikināwasowin (Self-determination in child-rearing)”

Opikināwasowin is the Cree word for the lifelong process of growing children. Indigenous child rearing practices adopt a holistic approach while being inclusive of the family unit and the community. The tipi is used as the conceptual framework for this mixed methods Indigenous research study. I use the tipi because each pole represents a specific child rearing teaching corresponding to one of four inter-related life stages: child, adolescent, adult and Elder. All teachings associated with the tipi help us understand the spiritual aspect of miyo-pimātisiwin opikināwasowin. To be eligible for the Tipi Teachings online study, Indigenous participants were over the age of consent and reside on Turtle Island.

The findings provide a Turtle Islander perspective on Indigenous child rearing teachings, philosophies and practices associated with the tipi. Given that Indigenous are children are disproportionately overrepresented in the Child Welfare system, this research is imperative in moving forward in times of reconciliation for Indigenous communities.

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Isabella Lu

Bio: Isabella is a graduate student under Dr. Wijenayake at the University of Winnipeg. She is excited to continue her study in cell biology and biotechnology and perform a project under the topic of milk-derived exosomes and its pro-survival effect on inflammatory pathway. Isabella’s aspiration in the future is to be able to transfer her scientific knowledge to public policy to benefit the society. During her spare time, Isabella enjoys spending time by herself, she likes to cook and watch movies with her miniature schnauzer Wolfgang. 

Three-Minute Thesis: “Milk nanovesicles: a savior for neuroinflammation”

Exposure to maternal obesity (MO) during pregnancy and lactation leads to brain inflammation in offspring. One solution to combat negative health outcomes of MO in offspring is maternal milk feeding. Maternal milk contains more than just nutrients, it contains anti-inflammatory molecules. One of these molecules is milk-derived exosomes (MDEs). MDEs are small fat droplets that carry inflammation suppressing substances from mothers to their children. Nuclear factor kappa B (NF-κB) is a central cell signaling pathway that regulates inflammation and lead to cell death under stress. My project involves investigating MDEs interaction with NF-κB pathway and its anti-inflammatory ability in offspring with MO. Prior to using MDEs as therapeutics to treat inflammatory diseases, we need to understand different ways in which MDEs provide protection. This knowledge can be applied to different industries such as formula manufacturing so that formulas with better quality is available when maternal milk is unavailable.

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Kevin Parsons

Bio: Kevin is a current Master of Arts in Applied Economics (MAE) student, Policy Analysis stream. A part-time student, Kevin is also currently employed at The Winnipeg Foundation (TWF), Canada’s oldest and largest community foundation. He decided to pursue a MAE after recognizing the opportunities the tools of economics can provide to funding distributors such as TWF, as well as the charitable industry more broadly.

Prior to joining TWF and enrolling in the MAE, Kevin received a Bachelor of Commerce (Honours) from the University of Manitoba, and has worked in a number of industries including marketing, technology, startups, and not-for-profits.

Along with work and school, Kevin enjoys staying active through playing sports with friends, running, riding his bike, and trying to keep up with his two young sons. 

Three-Minute Thesis: “The effects of economic recession on charitable giving”

I’m examining the effect of economic recession on household charitable donations using the Survey of Household Expenses conducted by Statistics Canada, with the hypothesis that economic recession has an outsized negative effect on charitable giving.

Comparing data from 2007 (baseline) and 2009 (recession), charitable donations decreased both in average amount, as well as percentage of households that report donating to charity. However, there was a marginal increase in average household income, indicating that there is the possibility that financial wellbeing of the household may not be the only consideration when donating to charity.

I further back up this claim by showing that an increase in provincial unemployment has an outsized negative effect on charitable donations. This relates to previous studies which have shown how recessions change consumer behaviour, finding that they cause consumers to reevaluate their habits and create changes that last beyond the end of the recession.

Watch Kevin's Presentation

Okemamaka Ukasoanya

Bio: My name is Okemamaka Ukasoanya. I am a criminal justice master's student passionate about understanding police processes in intimate partner violence research. I aspire to work with a police gender-based violence unit. My undergraduate degree and work with women in domestic violence relationships ignited my passion for understanding patterns of intimate partner violence and the response by service providers and the criminal justice system. In my free time, I enjoy crocheting and painting.

Three-Minute Thesis: “What is going on here? Police framing, misframing, and reframing of criminal responsibility in intimate partner violence cases”

Police decision-making in intimate partner violence cases impacts the victim, the offender and the community. It is thus justified to better understand how officers conceptualize criminal responsibility to get to a place of decision-making. To do so, I will use Goffman's frame analysis to analyze how police answer the question, " what is going on here?". I will discuss police personal framework(s) and organizational frameworks and how these interact with each other and with the framework of the victim and offender. Human beings are storytellers; like any story, each person tells it differently. If life is a mixture of play and reality as Goffman proposes, how can one decipher which element is which during an intimate partner violence response with the police?

Stacey Woods

Bio: Stacey was born and raised on Treaty 1 territory in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Stacey enrolled at the University of Winnipeg in 2015 to pursue a Bachelor of Arts Honours Degree majoring in Sociology, accompanied by a minor in Political Science. Stacey graduated as an alumnus from the University of Winnipeg in June 2022. Stacey is currently enrolled in the Master's in Development Practice, Indigenous Development Program. Stacey’s journey into this particular Master's program stemmed from her interests and specialization in the Sociological discipline, specifically, Political Sociology. Stacey’s academic background has been comprised of varying intersecting subjects under the purview of Political Sociology. The few subjects that she has incorporated in her work regularly has taken on perspectives from areas such as international relations, social policy, as well as development and underdevelopment. Stacey hopes to always widen her learning repertoire and to serve the community through an Indigenous lens, while at the same time recognizing her position as a settler of this land. The MDP Program has challenged Stacey in many ways to adhere to both learning and unlearning in academia or otherwise.

Three-Minute Thesis: "Privacy and security as a false dichotomy: Weaponizing information and Big Data"

Pro-security discourse has been a prominent feature of contemporary society in the reigning technological age and data dependency. Pro-security discourse for this matter is and has been a topic of great contention in terms of its operations and juxtaposition with privacy. Including but not limited to 'The War on Terror' rhetoric and narrative construction for example. From a human security perspective, this research will argue that in Canada, pro-security trends on the international level are placing a strain on privacy at the individual level in terms of data distribution, collection, and interest. The importance of information systems and data collection are highlighted within the context of international relations and global security contentions, therein, emphasizing human relations and security resistance as key components to the technological age and globalization. The framework of data monitoring and human security are effectively at the forefront of creating new challenges to late-stage capitalism. Why? Because the system that is currently in place is built on incentives for not only capitalist gain, but data collection on an ever growing and expanding scale for critical institutions like banks, government bodies, and other agencies. Illustrating that interest-driven changes are essentially a new addition to the cost of living and ultimately sustaining dominant discourse. The main problem is that privacy and security cannot be maintained simultaneously and the solution from government entities is constricting information and digital autonomy.

Watch Stacey's Presentation