Explaining complicated research in three minutes

The CCEE department recently held our 4th Annual Three Minute Thesis (3MT) Competition, and 8 students presented their research to judges and colleagues. Physical distancing restrictions meant the event was held virtually. Each participant had three minutes, and one static visual slide, to make a compelling and concise statement about their thesis topic and its significance to society. In one presentation, the audience heard about  a risk assessment model for nuclear power plants and the research that was able to reduce computational time for predicting potential accidents from 6 hours down to two seconds.  Another  presentation called “Poop to Power” informed the audience how by finding the right setting for bacteria to eat fecal solids, we can harness the gasses they produce to generate power and reduce the amount of waste in landfills. Yet another presentation explained that each year, over 1,500 new chemicals are developed, and researchers at NC State have developed a process to more cost effectively assess the effectiveness of water treatment systems against these new contaminants.

The departmental event was modeled after the international 3MT, which was created at the University of Queensland. The Graduate School at NC State will hold its annual 3MT in the Fall, and the winners of the University-wide event will have the opportunity to progress to the regional competition.

“By participating in the competition, students develop a deeper understanding of their research while honing speaking skills. Over the course of a month, we gave them feedback and they revised until their speeches were just right. All of our competitors performed incredibly well, and the scoring was tight. Each of them made our department proud.”   Meagan Kittle-Autry, Teaching Assistant Professor & Director of Graduate Professional Development 

Judges included Dr. Katie Homar, Director of Academic & Engineering Writing Support at the Graduate School; Matt Shipman, Research Communication Lead with NC State University Communications; and alumni Andy Wagner (BSCE 2014, MCE 2016), who is a transportation engineer with HNTB.  Master of Ceremonies for the virtual event was PhD candidate Francisco Wladimir.

The Winners

Two finalists and a People’s Choice Award were given. First place went to PhD student Dhanushka K. Palipana. Second place was awarded to Nancy Ingabire Abayo. The audience, which included many CCEE faculty and graduate students, voted to bestow the People’s Choice award to Savanna Smith.

 Kudos to all seven students who participated. Following is a list of participants, the name of their presentation, and their advisor :

Student  Topic Advisor
Chandramauli Awasthi  “Reducing flood losses in the near future” Dr. Sankar Arumugam
Nancy Ingabire Abayo “Why the Earth Cracks up.” Drs. Ashly Cabas and Brina Montoya
SMA Bin Al (Opu) Islam “Talking Traffic Lights: Your Smart Friends” Dr. Ali Hajbabaie
Yoko Koyama “Using Mathematical Modeling to Remove Chemical contaminants from Water” Dr. Detlef Knappe


Hemant Kumar “ Understanding the food-energy-water nexus thru hydroeconmomic modeling in the Flint River Basin, GA” Dr. Sankar Arumugam
Dhanushka K. Palipana “Is That Reinforced Concrete Structure Safe for Use?” Dr. Giorgio T. Proestos
Savanna Smith “ Poop to Power” Dr. Fancis de los Reyes, III
Pragya Vaishanav “Clean Future with Nuclear Energy” Dr Abhinav Gupta


2021 Graduate Awards

The Graduate department also used this virtual gathering as a place to present the 2021 graduate awards.  They were as follows:

Asmita Narode Floyd Hasselriis Wolid Waste Award for her excellence in solid waste research
Dol Raj Chalise Thomas Coffey Graduate Award in recognition of his hard work and research contributions
Shiqi Fang Thomas Coffey Graduate Award in recognition of his outstanding scholarship and service
Diego Roberto Martinez Pineda, Sr Thomas Coffey Graduate Award in reconition of academic excellence and research contributions to the structural engineering field
Amie McElroy Thomas Coffey Graduate Award in honor of her achievements and contributions to research
Jorge Eduardo Pesantez Sarmiento Thomas Coffey Graduate Award in recognition of excellence in research, leadership, and teaching
Arpit Sardana Thomas Coffey Graduate Award in recognition of his efforts and leadership in research, teaching, and service
Weichang Yuan Thomas Coffey Graduate Award in honor of his achievements and contributions to research
Jing Ding Thomas Griffin Graduate Award in recognition of her scholarly research and classroom accomplishments
Chunyang Ji Thomas Griffin Graduate Award in recognition of her outstanding research and technical skills
Qianwen Liu Thomas Griffin Graduate Award in recognition for her outstanding research contributions and fellowship of the graduate group
Mojtaba Noghabaei Thomas Griffin Graduate Award in recognition of his achievements and contributions to research