Can you pitch a thesis in three minutes? Honors College at Georgia State presents the Fall 2019 Honors Thesis Pitch

Senior biology student Jonassie Zamor wins the Honors Thesis Pitch. Photo by Shel Levy | The Signal

On Dec. 5, 11 students competed to make their mark in an academic competition that not only sets them apart from their peers in the classroom but comes with a cash prize. What student wouldn’t want to give it a try? Here’s the catch: They have to present a thesis in three minutes.

The Honors College has introduced an initiative for students to present high academic caliber and enhance their marketability to future employers. The Honors Thesis Pitch allows students to research the topic of their choice, then compete in an opportunity that offers scholarships and professional interaction with Georgia State faculty members.

There were three awards presented at this year’s event in Centennial Hall. First place included a monetary award of $150, second place at $75 and the People’s Choice Award funded by the Center for the Advancement of Students and Alumni (CASA) had an award of $50.

For the fall 2019 competition, senior Jonassie Zamor, an undergraduate biology student, won first place with her project on “Brain mechanisms that influence the ability of morphine to reduce pain in the elderly.”

More than 60% of the elderly population experiences some level of chronic pain that can be caused by the lack of morphine receptors in their body, which can ease the pain. Zamor’s research led her to explore the mu-opioid receptor — a receptor that morphine can bind to — in the elderly experiencing body pain. 

Zamor’s grandmother was diagnosed with dementia, and for almost a year, Zamor had been researching morphine’s effects on the elderly. 

She learned about the reaction of high morphine levels in 18-month-old rats by checking their mu-opioid density. Realizing their reactions towards the drug is similar to that of an aged human with the use of advanced chemical techniques, Zamor began to draw her conclusion.

Her faculty sponsor and mentor, Anne Murphy, an associate professor in the Neuroscience Institute at the College of Arts and Sciences, commented on her student’s dedication and passion towards her field of study. In fact, she was one of the first students to be recruited into her lab program. 

“I noticed just how special Jonassie was after I saw her work ethic in one of my honors courses,” Murphy said. “She had this curiosity and fascination towards what she does and it enabled me to recommend her to my lab program.”

Zamor noted just how important her professor’s role played in the process. 

“Dr. Murphy gave me so much freedom to fully immerse myself in my research and encouraged me to look at the topic from different perspectives to have a more comprehensive view,” Zamor said.

In the Honors College, the Honors Thesis Pitch is a well known competition. The award-winning student gave some advice for those who are interested in participating in the future. 

“Start early and practice,” she said. “I practiced in front of the members of my lab as well as my family members. I also recited the pitch whenever I could — while walking to class, in the bathroom mirror, etc.”

The runner-up award for the thesis pitch was awarded to Savannah Renee Setter. Her project titled, “I wear makeup for me: Interpreting and internalizing feminist makeup narratives,” focused on the reason why women choose to wear makeup. 

It emphasized the history of makeup, its nuanced intersections, its play on femininity as well as modern-day interpretations concerned with women’s empowerment. 

Setter chose this specific topic to highlight the cultural phenomenon of the beauty trend and its implications on empowerment and liberation. As something she encounters on a day to day basis, the student decided to blend the topic with her anthropology major and discuss its societal implications. 

The People’s Choice Award-winning thesis was presented to Bianca Taylor Robinson. Her thesis, titled “You’re stressing me out. Measuring the stress response in convict cichlid fish,” discussed the stress response of the animal using an unconventional tool: a windshield wiper. 

This novel idea came from her endocrinology lab with her professor Ed Rodger where she researched how stress can affect social behavior. The windshield wiper technique would put a normal amount of pressure onto the fish to provide data on effective strategies on stress. 

In order for students to get involved with the competition in the future, the Honors College recommends a review of the thesis guidelines, requirements and deadlines as well as finding a mentor for the program to qualify for the project.


Editor’s Note:

A previous version of this article said the competitors had two minutes to present. The competitors had three minutes to present. The previous also incorrectly identified CASA, the Center for the Advancement of Students and Alumni, as Court Appointed Special Advocate.