Engineering, CALS Students Win 3 Minute Thesis Honors

Dean Maureen Grasso, left, and Greg Fishel, master of ceremonies, share the stage with finalists and audience members at the 3 Minute Thesis.

Three Ph.D. students were recognized for their outstanding research presentations Tuesday in the Graduate School’s second annual 3 Minute Thesis competition. Ten graduate student finalists presented their dissertation research in just three minutes, with one slide.

First place winner is Gilbert Castillo, chemical and biomolecular engineering, whose presentation was titled, “Glass-like Coatings for Polymers.” His research involves adding a molecule to traditional polyester to enhance products, like creating smudge-proof cell phone screens.

Second place went to Res Orgut, civil, construction and environmental engineering, for his presentation, “Metrics that Matter.” He is studying key metrics that can help contractors complete construction projects on time and on budget.

Sophia Webster, entomology and plant pathology, was chosen the Peoples’ Choice winner by audience members who voted following all 10 presentations. Webster told of developing a genetically engineered race of mosquitoes rendered incapable of transmitting the Zika virus.

“The students really outdid themselves this year,” said Dean Maureen Grasso of the Graduate School. “Everyone took the advice they received in the preliminary rounds to hone their slides and their messages. I feel like the audience learned a lot of science at 3MT yesterday.”

Greg Fishel, chief meteorologist for WRAL-TV, served as master of ceremonies for the event. Fishel talked about his association with NC State University, which goes back to when he started at WRAL more than 30 years ago, before the station had the weather equipment it has today. NC State faculty in Marine, Earth and Environmental Sciences allowed Fishel to stop by the weather-monitoring lab, then in Withers Hall, to collect data for his forecasts.

Wearing a periodic table tie, Fishel quipped his signature puns and shared examples of what can be done in just three minutes. On the 6 p.m. newscast Tuesday, he described the 3 Minute Thesis experience for viewers.

The 3MT competition was started in 2008 at the University of Queensland, Australia, and has since spread to at least 170 universities in 17 countries around the world. The challenge of 3MT® is to encourage Ph.D. students to hone their science communication skills by learning to present a compelling oration on their thesis topic and its significance.

The 10 finalists, who represented NC State’s colleges of Sciences, Engineering, and Agriculture and Life Sciences, were selected in preliminary rounds held earlier this month. Read more about the 10 finalists.

NC State held its first 3 Minute Thesis last year and scheduled the event this year to coincide with Red & White Week, in advance of the university’s homecoming.

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