The second annual Graduate Research Symposium was held on Saturday, March 25. Organized and implemented by graduate students for graduate students, the event included a keynote address, a Three Minute Thesis academic research competition, graduate student presentation sessions, two career panels, and a networking reception with graduate student poster presentations. Nearly 100 people attended the event.

Mark Little, Ph.D. ’82, a member of the Rensselaer Board of Trustees and a retired General Electric executive, delivered the keynote address. Little spoke about his career trajectory and lessons he has learned along the way. Following the keynote address, 10 doctoral students competed in the final round of the Three Minute Thesis competition. Founded by the University of Queensland, the Three Minute Thesis is an international competition that cultivates students’ academic, presentation, and research communication skills. The competition challenges Ph.D. students to effectively explain their research in three minutes, in a language appropriate to a non-specialist audience.

“The Graduate Research Symposium and the Three Minute Thesis competition are two of the ways in which we support our students to develop professionally as communicators,” said Stan Dunn, vice provost and dean of graduate education. “Both events also allow us to showcase the talent of our excellent graduate students.”

Seventeen doctoral students competed in the preliminary round for the Three Minute Thesis on Thursday, March 23. The Three Minute Thesis preliminary round faculty judges were: Tarek Abdoun, professor and endowed chair, civil and environmental engineering; Curtis Bahn, associate professor, arts and associate dean, School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences; Nancy Diniz, assistant professor, Center for Architecture Science and Ecology; Esther Wertz, assistant professor, physics. The final round faculty judges were: Lee Ligon, associate professor and associate head, biological sciences; Marge McShane, associate professor, cognitive science; Jennifer Pazour, assistant professor, industrial and systems engineering; and Frank Wright, lecturer, Lally School of Management.

According to Colleen Smith, dean of the graduate student experience, “The Graduate Research Symposium, including the Three Minute Thesis competition, is a great opportunity for graduate students from all five schools to come together and communicate their research and potentially form future interdisciplinary collaborations.” The Graduate Research Symposium task force received positive feedback about this year’s symposium and conversations about planning for next year have already begun, Smith said.

The final 10 Three Minute Thesis competitors were:

Sunil Badal, Chemistry and Chemical Biology

Tania Baltazar, Chemical and Biological Engineering

Camille Bilodeau, Chemical and Biological Engineering (Runner-up Award)

Amar Viswanathan Kannan, Computer Science

Robb Lauzon, Communication and Rhetoric

Akshat Mullerpatan, Chemical and Biological Engineering

Atriya Sen, Computer Science (Runner-up Award)

Prachi Sharma, Electrical, Computer, and Systems Engineering (First Place Award and People’s Choice Winner)

Justin Shultz, Center for Architecture Science and Ecology

Andres Vargas, Mathematics

Watch the 2017 Graduate Research Symposium keynote address and Three Minute Thesis final round.