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Sunday, September 25, 2011

Insulin Resistance and Equine Laminitis Research: Australia's Melody De Laat's Academic Elevator Video

Imagine the challenge laid down by the University of Queensland to its graduate researchers: give a three-minute presentation encapsulating your doctoral work. Tell an audience of everyday people from all walks of life why it matters, what it's all about. But keep it short. Can an Australian laminitis researcher describe equine metabolic syndrome in that short amount of time--using only one slide?!

What's your elevator speech?

You have to have one.

If you're an entrepreneur, a job seeker, self-employed or just someone who doesn't want to be left in the dust of this ever-changing world, you have to have to an elevator speech. Once all you needed was a firm handshake, and a spare business card in your wallet for when you met someone. Now you need to be able to tell him or her what you do with your life and why you do it in just a few words.

You need to be able to get the message across that you're special and you're interesting and you're worth knowing/hiring/considering, and you need to say exactly why--all in the time it would take to ride a couple of floors on the elevator of a hotel or office building.

When that elevator door opens, your speech is over.

Yes, you're saying...But then there are academics. And forget engineers. Have you ever asked a researcher or engineer what he or she actually does? I know what you're thinking: Maybe there are some elevators in some coal mines in some Third World countries that would take long enough for a researcher's speech to get to the point--if there is one, that is.

But things are changing. We live in an age of pecha-kucha, the PowerPoint challenge to present your idea in 20 slides that change every 20 seconds, whether you're ready or not. It's the age of the "unconference". And the two-minute video rules, thanks to the way that YouTube has reset our attention spans.

So imagine the challenge laid down by the University of Queensland to its graduate research community: give a three-minute presentation encapsulating your doctoral work. Tell an audience of everyday people from all walks of life why it matters, what it's all about. But keep it short.

And if you get your message across? You could be the winner.

Last year, Melody De Laat answered the UQ Three Minute Thesis competition challenge with a topic related to her thesis: The Investigation of Insulin-Induced Laminitis in Horses. Her research at the Australian Equine Laminitis Research Unit (AELRU) focused on how elevated insulin levels, which occur as a result of insulin resistance, damage the sensitive lamellar (laminar) structures of the horse's foot.

And she had to do it on a huge stage, in an even bigger theater, in front of people who knew nothing about horses' feet, let alone about laminitis or insulin resistance.

“Insulin resistance is an increasingly common problem in horses. The lamellar failure, which is known as laminitis, that results as a consequence of the elevated insulin levels in the body is a painful and debilitating condition,” Melody said confidently.

“By uncovering the mechanisms involved in insulin-induced laminitis it is hoped that we will be able to reduce the morbidity and mortality rates associated with this disease.”
The Queensland competition was so well-received that it has been extended to other national and international universities in Australia and beyond. Master of Ceremonies for the event is the award-winning science writer and broadcaster with ABC Science Online, and regular judge on Australian ABC TV's The New Inventors, Bernie Hobbs.

I hope you enjoyed Melody's equivalent of her elevator speech. She advanced to the finals, and there are a lot more people in Australia who know a little bit about laminitis thanks to this competition and Melody's PhD.

And--Oh! Is this your floor?

One of Melody De Laat's research breakthroughs on metabolic laminitis was featured on The Hoof Blog on July 1, 2011. If you'd like to learn more, Melody De Laat will be one of four doctoral and post-doctoral researchers from the Australian Equine Laminitis Research Unit (Simon Collins, Melody De Laat, Brian Hampson and Andrew Van Eps are the team) who will accompany AELRU director Chris Pollitt to speak at the 6th International Equine Conference on Laminitis and Diseases of the Foot in West Palm Beach, Florida October 29-31. 

© Fran Jurga and Hoofcare Publishing; Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog is a between-issues news service for subscribers to Hoofcare and Lameness Journal. Please, no use without permission. You only need to ask. This blog may be read online at the blog page, checked via RSS feed, or received via a digest-type email (requires signup in box at top right of blog page). To subscribe to Hoofcare and Lameness (the journal), please visit the main site,, where many educational products and media related to equine lameness and hoof science can be found. Questions or problems with this blog? Send email to  
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1 comment:

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