University of Iowa

In the news: Language acquisition research earns PhD student top Three Minute Thesis prize

November 29th, 2018

Tianlu Zhang, a PhD student in second-language acquisition, was named the winner of the 2018 3MT contest.

By Lee Hermiston, Iowa Now

When Tianlu Zhang read about the requirements of the University of Iowa’s annual Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition, she felt compelled to participate.

“I just had a strong feeling this was something I could do,” says Zhang, a native of Beijing and graduate student pursuing a PhD in second-language acquisition. “I could imagine myself doing this public speech, even though I had never done it before.”

Judges agreed, naming her the winner of this year’s competition for her presentation titled “Frenemy: A Relationship Between Native Language and Second Language.” Zhang—who says she was not always confident speaking English, her second language—admits that initially she could not believe she won. But, as feedback and congratulations poured in from her friends and colleagues, the self-doubt evaporated.

“I tried my best and I got rewarded,” Zhang says.

The Three Minute Thesis competition, known as 3MT, is an annual contest open to master’s and doctoral students and hosted by the UI Graduate College. Competitors are asked to explain their research to nonscientist audiences in three minutes or less, and are allowed to use only one PowerPoint slide as a visual aid.

Zhang came to the UI in 2012 to obtain a master’s degree in teaching Chinese as a foreign language. At the end of the two-year master’s program, Zhang entered the PhD program to study second-language acquisition. She also is a teaching assistant in the Division of World Languages, Literatures, and Cultures.

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