3-Minute Thesis Contest

The challenge? Clearly present your doctoral thesis to a nontechnical lay audience in three minutes or less.

Vancouver's top two finishers will each receive $500. The overall winner will compete with the WSU finalists at 1 p.m. March 29 in the Spark Atrium in Pullman. See complete rules.

The top three winners from the Pullman finals will receive money toward travel to a research conference of their choice:

  • First place: $3,000
  • Second place: $1,500
  • Third place: $500

To register for the competition, email Holly Davis at holly.davis@wsu.edu. Include your full name and presentation title. Registration is due 9 a.m. Monday, Feb. 13.

2023 Vancouver Awardee

Elizabeth Thompson

First Place – Vancouver campus
Second Place overall Campus-wide contest

Elizabeth Thompson, Ph.D. student in mathematics

Presentation: “What Can Topology Tell You About Your Complex Data?”


Topology is the study of how a surface is connected. For instance, think of a donut versus a donut hole. From a topologist's perspective, although the two are both donuts, their surfaces are very different. The donut has a big hole in the middle and is shaped like a handle, while the latter has no holes and is shaped like a golf ball. Complex data can also have different shapes and sizes in space, and topologists are interested in studying the structure of these surfaces to reveal useful insights and relationships.

My thesis aims to use topology to study which factors impact the outcomes of police-community interactions. I begin by collecting annotated body-worn camera footage and using topology to analyze its structure. I then use this analysis to answer insightful questions such as, "which factors in these social encounters impact the amount of times force is applied by an officer to a suspect?" With the results and insights from my work, I plan to inform police education programs about potential modifications they can make to their curriculum to foster improvements.


Thompson is a teaching and research assistant in the mathematics Ph.D. program. She has taught trigonometry and calculus for life scientists lab. Her research interests focus on topological data analysis and machine learning. Prior to beginning her graduate journey, she received her Bachelors of Science in Mathematics and Secondary Education with licensure from Linfield University in hopes of teaching high school mathematics. Her love for teaching combined with her passion for more research opportunities are what led her to apply to WSU for graduate school.