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collage of student finalists

Biology graduate student among finalists for Graduate School Three Minute Thesis competition

Event will be live-streamed and in person; free and open to the public with advance registration
12 March 2024
collage of student finalists
Credit: The Graduate School/Provided

Eleven graduate students—including one from the Department of Biology—have been selected for the final round of the inaugural Penn State Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition. The final in-person round will be held at 10 a.m. on Saturday, March 23, both live-streamed online and in person at the Penn Stater Hotel & Conference Center. The event is free and open to the public, and advance registration is required.  

3MT is an academic research communication competition developed by the University of Queensland (UQ), Australia, that is now hosted at more than 100 universities worldwide. The Graduate School is hosting Penn State’s 3MT competition in partnership with the Graduate and Professional Student Association and the Graduate School Alumni Society. 3MT offers graduate students the opportunity to hone their academic and research presentation skills and their ability to effectively explain their research to a general audience while competing for prize money. Each student is allowed three minutes and one presentation slide to convey their work.

Sixty students from 42 graduate programs submitted videos as part of the first round of the competition, and a group of volunteer community judges evaluated the video presentations.  

The first-place prize for Penn State’s 3MT competition is $1,000, and the second-place prize is $500. A third prize, People’s Choice, is $500 and is sponsored by the Graduate and Professional Student Association. The People’s Choice Award will be selected by in-person and virtual attendees at the end of the final round.  

Final-round participants include:  

  • Deepit Bhatia, doctoral student in biology, Eberly College of Science, “What do we need to know to eliminate infectious diseases?”  
  • Auja Bywater, doctoral student in food science and technology, College of Agricultural Sciences, “Improving Food Safety: Exploring Bacterial Diversity in Hydroponic Farming”  
  • Jorge Diaz-Gutierrez, doctoral student in civil and environmental Engineering, College of Engineering, “Evaluating the Impacts of Variable Message Signs on Airport Curbside Performance Using Microsimulation”  
  • Paul DiStefano, doctoral student in cognitive psychology, College of the Liberal Arts, “Is a Hotdog a Sandwich?: Measuring Overinclusive Thinking and Creativity”  
  • Abigail Gancz, doctoral student in anthropology, College of the Liberal Arts, “Ancient Oral Microbiome Insights into Health & Disease”  
  • Kaléi Kowalchik, doctoral student in nursing, Nese College of Nursing, “’It takes a special person’: Exploring Undergraduate Nursing Students - Emotional Needs while Providing End-of-Life Care”  
  • Makenna Lenover, doctoral student in anthropology, College of the Liberal Arts, “Irritable Bowel Syndrome: An Evolutionary Medicine Approach”
  • Shabnam Rahimnezhad, doctoral student in mechanical engineering, College of Engineering, “NMES for Achilles Tendon Rupture (ATR)”
  • Aditya Sapre, doctoral student in chemical engineering, College of Engineering, “High Throughput and Cost-Effective Ways of Protein Identification”
  • Tahiya Tarannum, doctoral student in civil and environmental engineering, College of Engineering, “Leveraging duckweed as a fertilizer”
  • Yue Yan, doctoral student in biomedical engineering, College of Engineering, “NEW Personalized Immunotherapy for Bladder Cancer: Microbial Product Cocktails (MPC)”

The final-round judges include:  

  • Bimal Balakrishnan, professor and associate dean for research, College of Arts and Architecture, Mississippi State University, and Penn State alumnus
  • Kathy Drager, associate dean for research and graduate education, College of Health and Human Development, and professor of communication sciences and disorders  
  • Esther Obonyo, associate professor of architectural engineering and director of Penn State’s Global Building Network  
  • Priyanka Paul, doctoral student in human development and family studies

More information about the Three Minute Thesis competition can be found on the Graduate School website.