Osric Forrest wins 3MT Verbal Competition

Osric Forrest (right) with Dean Lisa Tedesco (left)

Every spring, the Laney Graduate School hosts the Three Minute Thesis or 3MT Competition. 3MT challenges Laney students to present their work to non-specialist judging panels in one of two ways: verbally, in three minutes or less, or in an abstract of 350 words or less. The competition also features a “People’s Choice” winner selected by the verbal competition’s audience.

The winners of the 2018 3MT competition were Immunology and Molecular Pathogenesis student Osric Forrest (Verbal Competition), Behavioral Sciences and Health Education student Rebecca Woodruff (Abstract Competition) and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies student Samantha Van Horn (People’s Choice).

We recently caught up with verbal competition winner Osric Forrest who completed his degree this spring and was also selected to receive the 2018 Eleanor Main Graduate Student Mentor Award.

You have a lot to celebrate! Congratulations on your graduation, on your selection as the recipient of this year’s Eleanor Main Graduate Student Mentor Award and, of course, on your victory in the 2018 3MT verbal competition. At the 3MT competition, you presented your research to judges in less than three minutes. Can you tell me about your research in 100 words or less?

My work as a PhD student in the Tirouvanziam lab focused on studying the development of inflammation in Cystic Fibrosis (CF), a fatal genetic airway disease. We did this by developing a new, non-animal model system to study an immune cell called a neutrophil that is the major driver of inflammation in the lungs of CF patients. Using this model system, we began to uncover new insights that allowed us to develop better therapeutics to target inflammation in CF and other airway diseases such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD.

Why is this research important? 

While animal models are an important tool in biomedical science for studying human disease and identifying new treatments, they are poor at reproducing all aspects of human airway inflammation in CF. Our work is important because the non-animal model system we have developed in our lab more closely reproduces some of the key aspects of airway diseases in humans. This will improve our ability to screen and identify new breakthrough therapeutics and increase our understanding of how and why inflammation develops in the CF lung.

As the winner of this year’s 3MT verbal competition, why do you think is it important for graduate students to be able to communicate their research to broad, diverse audiences?

Great communication skills are highly transferable and valued in both academic and non-academic careers. The 3MT competition presented an amazing opportunity for me to present my work to an interdisciplinary audience and to do so in a succinct way. One of the responsibilities of being a scientist is to ensure that we make our work accessible to the community, especially non-scientific audiences. I have found that that sharing my work in interdisciplinary spaces not only sparks interesting discussions, but also enriches my own work with new perspectives and ideas. 

Last question. You've just graduated. What’s next for you?

I hope to continue to work in biomedical science by helping to revolutionize how we develop new drugs in the pharmaceutical industry.