PhDs On the Go

Graduate Studies, CBC Radio bring doctoral research to public airwaves


Katherine Morton’s work is on analyzing the buildings
of residential schools and what social meaning they hold.
Submitted Photo

March 22, 2017

Completing a PhD takes years, but some Memorial doctoral students will be presenting their research in just three minutes.

Through a partnership with the School of Graduate Studies and CBC Radio, 10 PhD students will be featured on CBC’s On the Go program at the end of March and beginning of April.

A pilot project, PhDs On the Go is designed to bring PhD research to the broader public. It is based on similar projects such as the Three Minute Thesis competition, UBC’s Public Scholar initiative and CBC Radio’s Ideas from the Trenches.

Research passion

PhDs On the Go was developed by Dr. Danine Farquharson, associate dean, School of Graduate Studies, and Ted Blades, host of On the Go.

Dr. Farquharson says the motivation behind the project is simple.

“Graduate students at Memorial are passionate about their research, committed to their local and global communities, and devoted to a better future,” she said. “We simply wanted more people to know about their work and their ideas.”

PhD students at Memorial were invited to submit a pitch. A committee hen selected 20 to audition for the 10 broadcast spots.

On the Go listeners will have the chance to hear about research in medicine, sociology, engineering, biology, ethnomusicology, business, history and interdisciplinary fields.

Diverse disciplines

Meet all 10 PhDs On the Go participants in alphabetical order in the photo essay below.


Vashti Campbell is a PhD student in the Division of
Community Health and Humanities, Faculty of Medicine.
Photo: Chris Hammond

Their research includes cultural narratives in psychiatry, reverse engineering an important immune system enzyme, and mapping the underside of icebergs using an autonomous underwater vehicle.

Amanda Hancock, a PhD student in business administration, looks at how leadership styles affect costly employee behaviours, such as sick leave and quitting, and examines if and how managers should treat some employees differently than others.

She says sharing her work with diverse audiences helps her think about the topic in different ways and enhances her own understanding.

“I think every time you are presented with an opportunity to talk about or get feedback on your research, you should take it,” she said.

Ms. Hancock says rewriting her grant application into a three-minute, plain language summary was “a challenge.”

‘Quick glance’

Marc Gruell, a PhD student in biology who studies bacterial genetics, agrees.

“So much research is being conducted in so many different fields that we are often not aware of. Talking about what we do in three minutes gives everybody a quick glance of what kind of research is out there.”


Marc Gruell’s work is on bacterial genetics.
Submitted Photo

Mr. Gruell’s work uses next-generation sequencing to identify all ribonucleic acid molecules that are produced by a marine bacterium in order to find out what they do and how they affect the organism. He says PhDs On the Go was a great opportunity to share the work he is doing.

Opeyemi Jaunty-Aidamenbor, an interdisciplinary PhD student at Memorial, investigates the socio-economic effects of preferential immigration among skilled workers.

She says she wanted to do the project to add to existing knowledge on the subject she studies.

“It has been fun meeting other PhD students from different fields who are carrying out various kinds of outstanding research,” she said.

“It made me realize how much great work is going on at our university in different areas,” Ms. Hancock added.

Media training

As part of the project, the students have had the opportunity to work with Mr. Blades to refine their scripts and record their research presentations in the CBC studio.

pullquote-phds-on-the-goThe students thanked the School of Graduate Studies and CBC Radio for making it possible for students to get in-studio media experience.

Dr. Farquharson says the 10 students challenge established ideas while creating new opportunities.

“The School of Graduate Studies hopes this program will offer our province a better understanding of the research our students are doing and celebrate with them.”

Tune in

PhDs On the Go will run on CBC’s On the Go (640 AM and 88.5 FM) every weekday evening from Wednesday, March 22, into early April at 5 p.m. (N.L. time) after the news and weather.

Eight PhD students will also present their research in person as part of MUNbuttoned, the Harris Centre’s festival of research. The event is on Friday, March 31, at 7 p.m. at the Rocket Room, 272 Water St. in St. John’s. Admission is free; the event is open to everyone. Find out more by visiting the MUNbuttoned website.

For more information about PhDs On the Go, visit the CBC website.

Zaren Healey White