For the third consecutive year, NC State’s Graduate School held the Three Minute Thesis competition, which challenges graduate students to present their research in a concise and engaging way to an audience that includes faculty and students from across the university. Two students from the Department of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering were among the ten finalists who presented on October 31, 2017 in Hunt Library.
CCEE Ph.D. student David Wang is developing an improved method to design asphalt mixtures using mathematical models. The ultimate goal of his work is to extend the life of road pavements by designing the asphalt mixture in order to reduce cracking and rutting. “If we don’t put enough binder in the asphalt mixture it will be brittle and crack,” Wang explained. “However, if we use too much binder the materials will be soft and will deform easily under the weight of heavy trucks.” Wang is now working with Departments of Transportation in states around the country to test his approach in various climates.
“I was the only finalist chosen whose first language is not English,” said Wang, who is from China. “That was another kind of accomplishment for me in addition to learning to present my work with no technical jargon to an audience not familiar with my area of research.”
CCEE’s Katelynn Mueller was the first and only Master’s student chosen as a finalist. Her research is focused on an environmentally oriented approach for evaluating the optimal time to replace aging buildings. She is using a methodology called life cycle assessment to determine the point at which the environmental benefits from operating a new, high performance building surpass the initial environmental costs of construction. “I have found that the holistic assessment of buildings by addressing a range of environmental impact categories, not just those related to greenhouse gasses, produces a more robust assessment of such projects,” Mueller said.
Mueller relayed that her greatest takeaway tip was from one of the preliminary round judges who urged her to “be confident and remember this is your research.” She went on to say “It is an incredibly valuable exercise to distill one’s research into an easily digestible, three minute talk where each word is intentionally selected for the purposes of being clear, providing an appropriate level of detail, and being able to connect with a broader audience.”
You can read more about the competition, the winners, and the research topics of each of the ten finalists here.