CFANS Science in Seconds

October 19, 3 PM - 5 PM
Maroon background with the words "Science in Seconds" next to a beaker.

Could you explain a 50,000 word thesis in three minutes? They are going to try.

This event is typically co-hosted in St. Paul on the Twin Cities campus by the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences (CFANS), the College of Biological Sciences (CBS) and the College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM). Because of COVID-19, each college will be hosting their own virtual event instead. 

Based on the Three Minute Thesis competition or 3MT, an annual competition held in over 200 universities worldwide, Science in Seconds provides graduate students in CFANS an opportunity to present their research in 180 seconds. Their presentations must be delivered in an engaging way that can be understood by an audience with no background in the research area. This exercise develops presentation, research and academic communication skills and supports the development of research students' capacity to explain their work effectively. Students who succeed at this event will go on to compete with others at the University and beyond. 


3:00 Welcome & Introduction of Judges

3:15 Introduction of Participants & Presentations

4:15 Voting for People’s Choice Award

4:45 Winners Announced

View the program PDF

Participants have been announced! See below.


Presenters will have three minutes and one slide to explain their research. Presentations will be scored based on three criteria: comprehension, engagement and communication.


Ruben Echeverria `88, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)

Dr. Andres Gomez, Assistant Professor, Animal Science

Tim Loesch, CFANS Director of Communications

Joana Montenegro `01, Land O' Lakes

Margaret Wagner `09, Minnesota Department of Agriculture


  • First place — $500
  • Viewer's choice — $250


Vincenzo Averello

Vincenzo Averello is a Ph.D. candidate in the Applied Plant Sciences graduate program in the Department of Horticultural Science. His research involves understanding cholesterol production in tomato to generate vitamin D. His hobbies include cooking, baking, and playing board games




Baishali Bakshi

Baishali Bakshi is a 10th year PhD candidate in the Wildlife Ecology Track of the Natural Resources Science and Management program. Baishali also works full-time at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. Her research examines links between climate change, forest composition and ecosystem services such as outdoor recreation. It also includes methods to evaluate changes in ecosystem services. In her spare time, Baishali enjoys hiking, reading detective fiction, and spending time with her cats.



Mathia Colwell

Mathia (Tia) Colwell is a 4th year PhD candidate in Christopher Faulk’s lab studying epigenetics in the Animal Science program. Her current research focus is on how environmental exposures, such as arsenic exposure during pregnancy, can affect the long-term health on subsequent generations. She aims to identify epigenetic markers that are inherited through generations, leaving permanent molecular scars on the DNA, resulting in late life disease of mice exposed to arsenic during pregnancy.



Austin Lien

Austin Lien is a first-year PhD student in the Plant Pathology program. Austin’s research focuses on the identification of fungicide interactions that impact disease control, relative root yield, and sugar quality for future recommendations in fungicide management strategies. Austin’s research aims to provide insights on epidemiology, population biology, aerobiology, and disease prediction of the fungus Cercospora beticola. In Austin’s spare time, Austin enjoys outdoor activities like hiking, camping, golf, mountain biking, snowboarding, and surfing.



Bri Loeks-Johnson

Bri Loeks-Johnson is a PhD candidate in the Water Resources Science program. She studies how microbes manipulate nutrients in lake ecosystems with a focus on nitrogen.





Persephone Ma

Persephone Ma is a 5th year PhD candidate in the Department of Soil, Water, and Climate.  She is researching the viability and safety of recycling phosphorus from sewage sludge incineration ash in agriculture. Outside of soils, Persephone is a member of Pacific Midwest Ballet and a former zombie bride.




Natalia Ordaz Reynoso

Natalia Ordaz Reynoso is a native of Mexico City. She is a PhD candidate in the Applied Economics department at the University of Minnesota. Her research interests fall within the fields of development economics, behavioral economics, and their intersection. The topics that she studies are diverse, but they always relate to frictions and barriers that underprivileged populations face across the world. From food security in Mexico to HIV testing in Malawi, or maternity leave in California. Outside of work, Natalia enjoys baking and cooking, and likes to run trails with her dog.



Anh Tran

Anh Tran is a Ph.D. candidate in the Entomology Department. Anh is investigating two competing hypotheses on how the invasive fly, spotted-wing drosophila, survives in areas that experience seasonal climate changes – overwintering or migration. Anh is a runner and enjoys volunteering with Miles in My Shoes, a non-profit organization that brings the power of running to people experiencing homelessness or exiting incarceration.




Michael Verhoeven

Michael Verhoeven is a Ph.D. candidate in the Fisheries and Aquatic Biology track of the Conservation Sciences Graduate Program. His research integrates manipulative in-lake experiments with synthesis of large-scale monitoring datasets to investigate ecological mechanisms influencing aquatic plant invasions and refine strategies for invasive species control and post-control plant community restoration.