Six FSU graduate students spotlight research from across disciplines at annual Master’s in Four competition  

Six Florida State University master’s students rose to the challenge of making intricate research ideas accessible and intriguing — in less than four minutes — at the fifth annual Master’s in Four competition Wednesday, April 3.

This year’s competitors showcased topics ranging from the effects of helicopter parenting on college students’ relationship with social media to a discussion of the possibility of eutrophication in Apalachicola Bay to the prospect of using the brown seaweed sargassum as a food additive.

“One of the hardest skills to learn in graduate school is how to quickly explain your research to people who aren’t specialists in your same field, people who don’t speak the same technical language or jargon that you do,” said Keith McCall, assistant director for the Office of Graduate Fellowships and Awards. “This is really an opportunity for students to develop their professional and scholarly skills of learning how to quickly say why what they do matters, and to say that in language that is suitable for a broad audience.”

Mark Riley, dean of The Graduate School, welcomed the audience to the College of Medicine Auditorium and explained the origins of FSU’s Master’s in Four competition.


“This came about after we had been doing the Three Minute Thesis competition for doctoral candidates for some time, and we said, ‘Well, what about master’s students?’” Riley said. “And now we have this wonderful event.”

Ultimately, it was Korrin Sheahan who took home the $1,000 first prize. Sheahan is a graduate student in the School of Communication Science & Disorders who presented her research on developing strategies, techniques and goals to help young adults with augmentative and alternative communication needs transition out of the traditional education system.

“Being able to have the opportunity to come present my research in four minutes really means the world to me,” Sheahan said “I’ve been working on this project for the past two years as part of my master’s thesis, so being able to showcase that to a group of people that might not be familiar with augmentative and alternative communication is great, just to be able to provide that awareness of what communication devices are out there for people with disabilities.”


The other finalists at the 2024 Master’s in Four competition were:


Joshua Burns (Educational Leadership & Policy Studies): Caring More for Our First-Year, First-Generation, and Low-Income Students: Perceptions of Barriers and Transitional Success


Ta’lia Gordon (Higher Education): Black Students, white spaces: Perspectives of Black Student Leaders at Predominantly White Institutions (PWIs)
Aravind Kumar Bingi (Health, Nutrition, & Food Sciences): Is Golden (Sargassum) Tide a Real Golden Opportunity?


Kevin Engelbert (Earth, Ocean, & Atmospheric Sciences): Stuck in the Mud: Eutrophic Conditions in Apalachicola Bay


Celia Tseyen Lee (Human Development & Family Science): How Does Helicopter Parenting Impact College Students’ Social Media Addiction?


This year’s judging panel included Cassandra Brown, chief financial officer for the Office of the Vice President of Student Affairs; Mike Mitchell, senior director of funding and incentives for GNA Clean Transportation & Energy Consultants; Ana Goni-Lessan, state watchdog reporter for USA Today-Florida; Stephen McDowell, assistant provost and John H. Phipps Professor of Communication; and Debi Fadool, senior associate dean and director of the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs at The Graduate School. Adrienne Stephenson, associate dean of The Graduate School, serves as lead for the Three Minute Thesis and Master’s in Four Competitions.

To learn more about The Graduate School and the Master’s in Four competition, visit