The Three Minute Thesis (3MT) challenges graduate students to communicate their research in three minutes or less in non-specialist language. Contestants represent a diverse array of disciplines and areas of study, and reflect the passion and thirst for discovery common among all of Iowa's graduate students.

This year over 40 students competed in the preliminary competition. Of those students 16 were selected to compete in the finals. Below you can watch videos of our finalists.

Doctoral Winner

Kirsten Stoner

A Pain in the Neck: Modeling Cervical Myelopathy

Kirsten Stoner is a fourth year graduate student in the Department of Biomedical Engineering under the mentorship of Professor Nicole Grosland. She completed her bachelor’s degree in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and master’s degree in Biomedical Engineering at Cornell University. Her research focuses on utilizing finite element modeling of the neck and spinal cord to better understand spinal cord mechanics in diseased and operated states.

Doctoral Honorable Mention

Anh-Vu Do

Using Ultrasound to Enhance Tumor Cell Killing

Anh-Vu Do is a fourth year PhD student in Chemical and Biochemical Engineering. He has dual bachelor degrees in Science (majoring in Psychology and Biology) and Biochemical Engineering (majoring in Biochemical Engineering) from the University of Georgia. Under the guidance of Professor Aliasger Salem, his research focuses on designing novel methods of controlled drug delivery to enhance cancer treatments and tissue regeneration. Outside the laboratory, Anh-Vu spends his time volunteering in the Pediatrics Unit at UIHC and playing volleyball.

Doctoral Honorable Mention

Vijay Permeswaran

Reverse Shoulder Replacement

Vijay Permeswaran is a fifth year PhD student originally from LeMars, IA completing a degree in Biomedical Engineering. He earned his bachelor and master’s degrees in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Iowa in 2012 and 2014 respectively. He works in the Orthopedic Biomechanics Laboratory where his research focuses on improving patient outcomes following reverse shoulder arthroplasty.

Master's Winner & People's Choice

Sara Knox

How Helpful Are Specific Techniques in Online Counseling?

Sara Knox is a second year Master's student in Social Work at the University of Iowa where she previously completed a BS in Economics. Since 2007, Sara has volunteered on the crisis hotline and worked as a trainer of suicide intervention skills at The Crisis Center of Johnson County. Her research focuses on online crisis intervention and how online counselors can best help people who use that resource. At home, she works on her homework side by side with her 12-year-old son.

Doctoral People's Choice

Magdalene Ameka

Lose the Weight by Ignoring the Fat

A third year graduate student in the lab of Dr Matthew Potthoff in Pharmacology, Magdalene Ameka came to the US from Kenya in 2006. She received her Bachelors' degree from the University of Houston in 2009 in biochemistry and biophysical sciences. Currently she is working to understand how the liver derived hormone Fibroblast Growth Factor 21 (FGF21) regulates energy homeostasis. In whatever free time grad school allows me, she likes to be outdoors enjoying good food, good wine and good music.

Doctoral People's Choice Runner Up

Laura Kuhlman

The Beat Goes On: Women Writers of the Beat Generation

Laura Kuhlman is a sixth year doctoral candidate in English at the University of Iowa, specializing in 20th and 21st century American Literature. Originally from Yorktown, Indiana, Laura has previously studied at Ball State University, where she completed her B.A. in English and German. Laura’s research is on the Beat Generation, an influential literary and cultural movement during the 1950s and 1960s, and she focuses specifically on the writing and contributions of the critically underrepresented women who played pivotal roles in the movement.

Doctoral Finalist

Tim Chung

Will it Rupture?

Timothy Chung was born and raised in Iowa City where he received a B.S.E in Musculoskeletal Biomechanics (Biomedical Engineering), a M.S. in Cardiovascular Biomechanics and is currently a Ph.D Candidate under Professor Suresh Raghavan. His research leverages engineering tools to understand abdominal aortic aneurysm rupture, which is a leading cause of cardiovascular death in the world. He has been published at various conferences, has been awarded a patent, and has started a small company (Biomechanical Robotics Group, Inc.).

Master's Finalist

Suvendra Vijayan

Accuracy and reliability of using bio 3D printed prostheses

Suvendra Vijayan is a second year Masters student in Oral Sciences and Resident in Oral Pathology, Radiology and Medicine at the University of Iowa College of Dentistry and Dental Clinics. He completed his Bachelors in Dental Surgery (B.D.S.) from India and Masters in Public Health (M.P.H) from the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. His research focuses on imaging techniques, segmentation, registration, tissue regeneration, and 3D printing.

Doctoral Finalist

Ying Hsu

What happens when elevators break down in photoreceptor cells?

Ying Hsu came from Taiwan, a small island halfway across the world. The artist side of her brain is drawn to complex 3D structures and shapes. The detective side of her brain likes to solve mysteries by tirelessly collecting bits and pieces of evidence. The artist and the detective in her wrestled endlessly during the entire course of her undergraduate education, until she ran into the perfect mystery - where understanding the collapse of special 3D structures in the eye lights the way to cures for blindness. And this is how she finds herself to be a Ph.D. candidate in Val Sheffield's laboratory, a pipette in hand and the elusive answer within sight.

Doctoral Finalist

Kathryn Brightbill

Explaining Analyst Bias: Uncertainty & Time

Kathryn Brightbill is a fourth-year doctoral student in the college of Business. Kathryn would like to follow in her father's footsteps by pursuing a career in academia after receiving her degree. Her research focuses on the use of analytical and empirical methods to explain unusual accounting phenomena that has been documented in prior literature. Outside of her work, Kathryn is the long-distance wife of another graduate student, Ethan Brightbill, in Marquette Michigan.

Doctoral Finalist

Rachel Anderson

The effects of chronic corticosterone on the female rodent brain

Rachel Anderson is a fifth-year doctoral student in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences. She holds a BS in biology and a BS in psychology from Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota. Her research focuses on the effects of chronic stress and aging on the prefrontal cortex, using a preclinical rodent model.

Doctoral Finalist

Erica Ricker

Implant Infection Mitigation

Erica, originally from Boulder, Colorado, obtained Bachelor of Science degrees in both Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering from Montana State University in 2012. She is pursuing a Ph.D. at the University of Iowa in the Department of Chemical and Biochemical Engineering, where she works in the Nuxoll research group studying biofilm mitigation techniques to ultimately improve the quality of life for patients with infected implants. After completing her Ph.D. in May 2017 Erica intends to continue work in medically related research.

Doctoral Finalist

Madhur Joshi

Access to Aza-heterocycles: Key to a Better Future

Madhur Joshi is a fourth year graduate student in the Department of Chemistry. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Dyestuff Technology from the Institute of Chemical Technology in India. Madhur started her PhD studies at the University of Iowa in 2013 under the valued guidance of Dr. Chris Pigge. Her research focuses on developing methods for the synthesis of structurally complex aza-heterocyclic frameworks which form a backbone of various pharmacologically active molecules and materials.

Doctoral Finalist

Ali Azeez Ali Al-Jumaili

Towards a Better Work System in Nursing Homes

Pharmacy (Pharmaceutical Socioeconomics)Ali Al-Jumaili, a fifth year PhD student in the College of Pharmacy, Pharmacy Practice and Science Department. Ali has a bachelor and master degrees in Pharmacy from the University Of Baghdad College Of Pharmacy in Iraq, master in Pharmaceutical Socioeconomics, and Graduate Certificates in Biostatistics and College Teaching from the University of Iowa. Ali came to the US in 2011 and started a PhD degree in Pharmaceutical Socioeconomic in 2012. His research focuses on adverse drug events and improving work system in nursing homes. Outside the college, he is the father of three children and enjoys playing tennis and swimming.

Doctoral Finalist

Kareem Ebeid

Targeted Nanoparticles for Cancer Treatment

Kareem Ebeid, a fourth year PhD student in Prof. Aliasger K Salem’s lab, in the Division of Pharmaceutics and Translational Therapeutics, College of Pharmacy. He has a Bachelor of Pharmaceutical Sciences Degree from the College of Pharmacy, University of Minia, Egypt. Kareem’s research focuses on the fabrication of nanometer sized safe carriers that would enhance the delivery of anticancer drugs to cancer sites. He is a father of a little baby, Maria, that just celebrated her first birthday on October 24th.

Master's Finalist

Nyla Balakrishnan

Integration of oral health and chronic diseases

Nyla Balakrishnan is a second year Masters student in Dental Public Health with the Department of Preventive & Community Dentistry at the University of Iowa College of Dentistry and Dental Clinics. She is originally from India where she received her Bachelors in Dental Surgery. She moved to Texas to pursue her Master’s in Public Health and worked at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center on several clinical trials with cancer patients. Her research interests are integration of oral health and chronic diseases, oral health literacy, and oral healthcare for the elderly.

Graduate Success Professional Development
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University of Iowa Graduate College


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