UM Participates in the First-ever ACC 3MT® Competition and Research Forum

UM Participates in the First-ever ACC 3MT® Competition and Research Forum

By Amelia Pavlik

UM Participates in the First-ever ACC 3MT® Competition and Research Forum

By Amelia Pavlik
Konstantina Kritharidou, University of Miami 2019 3MT® champion, and Brandon Applewhite, Ph.D. student in Biomedical Engineering and McKnight Fellow, attended this one-of-a-kind event in Washington D.C., where 13 universities, belonging to the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), sent students to the inaugural ACC 3MT® Competition and Research Forum.

Opportunities to engage leaders on Capitol Hill in her research. This is just one of the memorable moments Carolyn Roberts, a University of Virginia Ph.D. student, experienced while participating in the inaugural Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) Competition and Research Forum in Washington, D.C.

“It was a great opportunity to share my research as a part of the 3MT® competition, and the research forum workshops were particularly helpful in learning about research advocacy with the federal government,” said Roberts, whose research focuses on how an individual’s sex can affect automotive injuries and won her third place in the competition. “For me, the best part of my trip to D.C. was meeting with congressional staff the day following the 3MT competition. During my meetings, I felt like they were extremely interested in my research topic and were actively asking about ways they could help solve sex discrepancies in automotive injury.” 

The event, held July 22-23, offered 13 students the chance to participate in an ACC-wide version of the international 3MT® competition. As Roberts mentioned, the students also had the opportunity to attend professional development sessions on research advocacy and working for the federal government, tour Capitol Hill, and meet with congressional staff from the students’ home states. 

The participants in the ACC event, which included one winner from each university-level 3MT® competition, were judged on criteria including their ability to avoid scientific jargon, describe key results of their research, and convey enthusiasm. The following students took home cash prizes for their presentations: 

  • First Place and People’s Choice: Monica Arul Jayachandran, Ph.D. student, Civil Engineering, University of Notre Dame, “Occupant Comfort in High-Rise Buildings”
  • Runner-up: Ciera Cipriani, Master’s student, Textile Chemistry, North Carolina State University, “Shapely Molecules Prevent Dyeing Dangers”
  • Third Place: Carolyn Roberts, Ph.D. student, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, University of Virginia, “Sex Differences in Automotive Injury” 

The following students also presented their research as part of the competition: 

  • Christopher Bassil, Ph.D. student, Molecular Cancer Biology, Duke University, “Achilles’ Heels in Drug-Resistant Tumors”
  • James Foster, Ph.D. student, Chemical and Bimolecular Engineering, Clemson University, “Innovative Materials for the Screening of Plutonium in Water”
  • Piyusha Gade, Ph.D. student, Bioengineering, University of Pittsburgh, “Rational Design of In Situ Engineered Vascular Grafts”
  • Eve Humphrey, Ph.D. student, Biological Science, Florida State University, “Under Pressure: How Population Differences and Coloration Influence Behavior and Stress Response”
  • Konstantina Kritharidou, Master's student, Architecture, University of Miami, “The Transformable: An Evolving Structural Mechanism That Continuously Adapts to Environmental Conditions”
  • Jack Molnar, Ph.D. student, Physiology and Biophysics, University of Louisville, “Hidradenitis Suppurativa and Crowd Sourcing Medical Research”
  • Francisco Quintero, Ph.D. student, Materials Science and Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology, “Solid Lithium Batteries and How to Deal with a Diva”
  • Erin Spencer, Master's student, Environment, Ecology, and Energy, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, “Fishy Business: Red Snapper Mislabeling in the Southeastern United States”
  • Lauren West-Livingston, Ph.D. student, Molecular Medicine and Translational Science, Wake Forest University, “Off-the-Shelf Tissue-Engineered Vascular Grafts”
  • Ying Zhang, Ph.D. student, Human Development and Family Science, Syracuse University, “Father Involvement, Couple Relationship Quality, and Maternal Postpartum Depression”

In addition to the 3MT® competition, the students participated in the professional development sessions, which were led by speakers from university federal affairs offices, and from organizations including the World Bank and the National Science Foundation.

In the sessions, students learned firsthand how being able to communicate research to a broad audience can have impact on government policies and funding for research. They also received coaching on government career opportunities for people with advanced degrees, and heard from the speakers about the importance of being able to work with a diverse group of people to find solutions to problems that could improve society.

“Every step of this experience — from preparing for their home university 3MT competitions to this two-day event — has provided the students with the invaluable opportunity to hone the ability to communicate their research and its impact to people of all walks of life,” said Bonnie Ferri, vice provost for Graduate Education and Faculty Development at Georgia Institute of Technology. “I’m so glad that Georgia Tech and the other ACC institutions were able to come together and create this new professional development event for our students to further develop their skills.”

In 2008, the first 3MT® event was held at The University of Queensland, Australia. Now, the event that helps graduate students hone their communication skills by challenging them to share their thesis or dissertation research in three minutes in a way anyone can understand has spread to more than 600 universities across more than 65 countries.

For more information about the 3MT® program, visit