Skip to content Skip to main navigation Report an accessibility issue

2023 Three Minute Thesis Final Competition

On March 29, the Graduate School hosted the 2023 Three Minute Thesis (3MT) Final Competition. This is the sixth year that this competition has been a significant part of Graduate and Professional Student Appreciation Week (GPSAW). This competition challenges graduate students to talk about their research clearly and engagingly in only three minutes and using a single slide. A panel of judges chooses those who they feel gave the most successful presentation. Earlier this year, 30 students competed for the chance to compete in the final competition and be one of these final twelve.

View the recording

After remarks from Provost John Zomchick, who put this competition in the context of the importance of graduate education and the value that our graduate students bring to UT, Dean Dixie L. Thompson introduced the judges for the competition.

  • Herb Byrd is the Vice President of the UT Institute for Public Service and has had many ties to UT, including receiving three degrees and serving in the UT Institute of Agriculture (UTIA) for almost 30 years.
  • Allison Comer is the Executive Director at Muse Knoxville, a nonprofit children’s science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics museum in East Tennessee.
  • Todd Steed, a dual alumnus of UT, is currently the Interim Director for WUOT, the National Public Radio member station in Knoxville, and was recently inducted into the East Tennessee Writers Hall of Fame.

These three had the unenviable job of choosing three of these finalists as first, second and third place winners.

John Stier, Associate Dean for the Herbert College of Agriculture and long-time advocate for the 3MT, served as emcee for the event. For the benefit of the audience, he set out the rules for 3MT and then began introducing each speaker. The audience was treated to twelve excellent presentations ranging from biochemical to historical to anthropological to the potential for a healthier environment. After the presentations, while the judges retired to deliberate, the presenters were able to answer questions from the audience, giving them time to go into more detail about the work they do. Finally, Dean Thompson received the results from the judges, as well as votes from the audience for their favorite, and handed out awards.

Kaitlin Simpson, the third place winner, is a PhD candidate from the Department of History. During her presentation, she took the audience on a journey that ended at a purchase of roses in the United States but started in the country of Columbia. Her analysis of the connections between the cut-flower industry and the stories of those who live and work in Latin America may give one a unique perspective on the next visit to a florist.

Katelin Hubbard, the second place winner, is a PhD candidate from the Department of Nutrition, majoring in nutritional sciences. Her work focuses on the difficulties of managing diabetes and overcoming problems with low muscle mass, constricted blood flow and high heart rate. By investigating interactions of C-Peptides, Katelin hopes to provide another tool for managing diabetes that goes beyond traditional methods involving insulin regulation.

Debalina Acharyya, the first place winner, is a PhD candidate from the Department of Biochemistry & Cellular and Molecular Biology. Debalina wants to find ways to make our brains more resilient and is looking at the suprachiasmatic nucleus, a part of our brain in the anterior hypothalamus that is an important part of our internal clock, for ideas. The heroes of her story are the microglia found in the suprachiasmatic nucleus, which may just be the model for a mortar for a stronger foundation to keep our brains standing, even when sorely tested.

The audience also got a chance to vote for their favorite as the People’s Choice. This year’s winner is Ekramul Ehite, a PhD candidate from the Department of Biosystems Engineering and Soil Sciences, majoring in biosystems engineering. Using Charles Dickens’ classic, A Christmas Carol, as a framework, Ekramul discussed the application of agricultural waste in biomass energy production. Using complex simulations, he has found promising ways to use agricultural waste in energy production that avoid the problems of high rates of friction, allowing for a much more efficient output of cleaner energy.

All twelve presentations were outstanding and demonstrated the high level of research done by graduate and professional students at UT. The Graduate School is grateful to all of the finalists, and indeed all thirty of the participants of the 2023 Three Minute Thesis Competition. Thank you for sharing your stories with us and with the UT community!