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Departmental Three Minute Thesis contest highlights wide range of research

Samrim Ahmed Kusum prepares for her presentation.

CCEE hosted its third annual Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition on Monday, February 24, 2020. The event is organized by the Graduate Programs Committee to support our students in honing their research communication and presentation skills. Eleven students participated, almost all of them Ph.D. candidates except for one Masters student. Each had three minutes and one static slide to present their work in an accessible way to a public audience. This competition helps students to refine their thinking about their research, define a clear message about how the work impacts the public, and present their work in an engaging way to an audience.

To assist students in building these skills, Drs. Eleni Bardaka and Meagan Kittle Autry held an information session to present strategies for designing the 3M Thesis presentation, and several faculty from the department gave feedback at multiple practice sessions. Faculty mentors also helped students draft and revise their talks. From the initial meeting to the competition, the students greatly improved their presentations. The 3MT competition displayed the impressive ways our students and their research are improving the world around us.

First place went to Samrin Ahmed Kusum, for her presentation entitled “Vanquishing a Sewer Giant.” Kusum’s research look at sewer line blockages caused by the accumulation of solids that form from fat, oil, and grease (FOG) deposits. She is investigating methods to reduce the formation of these deposits by developing alternative concrete materials using fly ash and other low-calcium aggregates

Dr. Mohammad Pour-Ghaz (L), Samrin Ahmed Kusum, first place winner, and Dr. Joel Ducoste
Second place was awarded to Sadia Afrin for her presentation entitled “Influence of Prescribed Burning on Air Quality of Southeastern U.S.” Afrin’s research examines the sometimes competing interests of land managers, and air quality regulators, as it relates to using prescribed fires to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires. She is developing an air quality model that uses time of day, weather patterns, and burn techniques to help minimize the negative air quality affects and associated health risks from controlled burns.
Second place winner Sadia Afrin, with Dr. Ranji Ranjithan

Harleen Kaur Sandhu earned the People’s Choice Award for her presentation entitled “Nuclear Twinning is Climate Winning” Sandhu’s research is aimed at developing digital models of the structural safety systems of nuclear power plants that can predict the best range of options for operators during potential accidents, as well as during regular operations.

Harleen Kaur Sandhu was the People’s Choice winner. Here Dr. Ranjithan prepares to present the certificate.

The department extends congratulations to the winners, and to all participants, for their hard work in preparing for the event! (See list of all presenters at the end of this article.) We also thank our judges which included Laura Demarse, Assistant Dean of Professional Development in the Graduate School; Brent Lancaster, Director of Communications for the NC State College of Engineering; and Matt Shipman, Research Communications Lead for NC State University Communications & Marketing. Finally, a big round of applause for CCEE’s Dr. Mohammad Pour-Ghaz who carried out his Master of Ceremony duties with enthusiasm. Between each presenter, as the judges were taking a few minutes to score and make written comments for the contestants, Pour-Ghaz engaged the audience in lively improvisational activities designed to build confidence and public speaking skills.

Thanks to our judges. L to R Dr. Laura Demarse, Brent Lancaster, and Matt Shipman
Dr. Mohammad Pour-Ghaz was Master of Ceremonies
While the judges scored between presenters, Dr. Mohammad Pour-Ghaz led the audience in lively improvisational activities.
The event was followed with Dr. Ranji Ranjithan presenting graduate awards to several students. Photographs and awards can be found on our Facebook page. The afternoon provided a great balance of scholarship, education, camaraderie, and fun.
Dr. Ranji Ranjithan (L) and Dr. Eleni Bardaka



3MT was founded at The University of Queensland in Australia. It began in 2008 and is now held at over 900 universities across more than 85 countries worldwide.


Sadia Afrin –  “Influence of Prescribed Burning on Air Quality of Southeastern U.S.”   Advised by Dr. Fernando Garcia-Menendez

Matthew Aupperle –  “Internal Nutrient Loading in Jordan Lake: The Impact of a Long-Term Mistake”  Advised by Dr. Daniel Obenour

Laura Dalton –  “A Concrete Solution to Storing Greenhouse Gases”   Advised by Dr. Mohammad Pour-Ghaz

Amir Ghanbari –  “Performance Engineered Mix Design for Asphalt Mixtures”   Advised by Drs. Richard Kim and Shane Underwood

Elvin Hossen –   “Capacitive Deionization for Persistent Organic Contaminants”   Advised by Dr. Douglas Call

Samrin Ahmed Kusum – “Vanquishing a Sewer Giant”   Advised by Drs. Joel Ducoste and Mohammad Pour-Ghaz

SMA Bin Al “Opu” Islam –  “Talking Traffic Lights: Your Smart Friends”  Advised by Dr. Ali Hajbabaie

Maksim Islam –  “In Search of the Smokeless Kitchen”  Advised by Dr. Andrew Grieshop

Alexey Katin –  “New modeling techniques for effective water quality management”   Advised by Dr. Daniel Obenour

Tuhin Roy –   “Because Prevention is Better than a Cure”   Advised by Dr. Murthy Guddati

Harleen Kaur Sandhu –  “Nuclear Twinning is Climate Winning”    Advised by Dr. Abhinav Gupta