Brandon University science student heads to Western Regionals with Three-Minute Thesis on microplastics

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Brandon University’s Laura Janiaski is headed to Western Regionals with her Three-Minute Thesis.

Janiaski, a graduate student in the department of Biology at BU, presented her research on microplastics in a virtual showcase earlier this month, and was selected by community judges as having the best presentation.

In a nutshell, the Three-Minute Thesis, or 3MT, is a format for exhibiting research in a three-minute presentation, sharing the intent and aspirations behind the findings in a compelling way that can be understood by any member of the public, outside the field. The focus is on the presenter. No props are allowed, and only one static slide may be displayed.

Janiaski’s research looks at the emerging problem of microplastics, which are extremely tiny particles of plastic created by the breakdown of old, brittle plastics, and which are now found around the world — including remote areas.

“What if I told you that you shouldn’t only be worried about the plastic bag you saw in the street on the way home, but also about the plastic you ate this morning, or the plastic you’re breathing right now?” she asked in her presentation. “Researchers have found microplastics in seafood, in tap water, and in beers.”

Using mice as stand-ins for humans, her research investigates what happens when microplastics are consumed in food. She found that the microplastics eaten by the mice were able to be absorbed into the blood and were found in organs like their livers and spleens. There, they triggered a type of inflammation that is linked to serious illnesses like cancer.

“The good news is… the mice were able to recover,” she said, once the microplastics were removed from their diet. “This can help us find solutions, think of ways to avoid exposure, or maybe alleviate the symptoms.”

Two other 3MT presenters were featured in BU’s online showcase. Wade Houle from the Faculty of Education and Jillian Thomas from Health Studies were named best from their faculties.

Brandon University thanks the community judges: Cheryl Fleming from BU, Jim Mihaly from the Brandon Sun, Ana Camelo from the Art Gallery of Southwestern Manitoba, and Ty Williams from Pure Country 101.

All three presentations can be viewed online at

The Western 3MT Regionals will be hosted virtually on May 13. From regionals, Janiaski will have the chance to advance to the national showcase, scheduled for November.


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