Three graduate students claim awards in KU’s 2023 3MT competition

Tue, 11/21/2023


Savannah Rattanavong

LAWRENCE — After weeks of preparation and just 180 seconds each to convey their research topics, three University of Kansas graduate students earned honors and cash prizes at the conclusion of the KU Three Minute Thesis Competition (3MT) on Nov. 14.

KU's 2023 3MT winners: From left are Payal Makhasana, doctoral student in civil engineering; Quentin Jarrell, master’s student in bioengineering; and Kara Hageman, doctoral student in bioengineering.

Quentin Jarrell, master’s student in bioengineering, won first place and $600 for his presentation, “Unravelling our Genetic Puzzle.” As the top finalist, Jarrell will represent the university at the regional Midwestern Association of Graduate Schools 3MT Competition, which will take place April 5 in St. Louis. In addition, Jarrell took home the People’s Choice award, a $150 prize.

Jarrell said the competition made him reflect on the impact of his work and why he is involved in research at KU. He thanked everyone involved in the competition and reiterated that opportunities like 3MT help researchers connect with the broader community, encouraging interest in their work and reminding them of its real-world effects.

“It is really special to have the opportunity to represent KU at the regional competition,” Jarrell said. “From my experience as an undergraduate at KU through my master’s program, I know how much amazing research goes on at KU. I’m very proud to share my role in that culture and to share that with other schools throughout the Midwest at regionals.”

Kara Hageman, doctoral student in bioengineering, and Payal Makhasana, doctoral student in civil engineering, tied for second place, and each will receive a $300 prize. Hageman’s presentation was titled “The Material Team to Beat Orthopedic Infection,” and Makhasana’s was “Predicting Drought from Space.”

Hageman said it meant a lot to be recognized for her work and ability to connect with people outside of her field of study. She thanked her peers and mentors for their support and guidance.

“Building this presentation was a difficult, yet fun challenge,” Hageman said. “Condensing years of research into only three minutes made me really think about what the most important concepts were to get across. Since I come from a sports background, I felt drawing connections between a team and how that relates to my research on implant materials made sense.” 

Makhasana said she also felt honored to place in the competition and doing so validated the effort and passion she’d put into making her research accessible and engaging.

“This experience has boosted my confidence not only in discussing my research within a concise timeframe, but also in making it understandable to a broader audience,” Makhasana said. “The 3MT competition is a unique opportunity to learn how to effectively communicate with individuals outside of one's field. This isn't just a competition, it’s a learning experience that I believe every researcher should embrace. The skills developed here are invaluable for anyone looking to make their work resonate with a diverse audience.”

Twenty-one graduate students participated in KU’s 3MT preliminary heats Nov. 7. Seven of those students advanced to the finals, and three took home awards.

The 3MT competition, a global research communication event, challenges each student to explain their graduate research in a condensed three-minute presentation using a single PowerPoint slide as their only aid.

“All of the finalists did an excellent job in breaking down complex topics and making them more approachable to the wider community,” said Jennifer Roberts, senior vice provost for academic affairs and graduate studies. “I offer my congratulations to the winners for pulling off a challenging feat among several other impressive and diverse presentations.”

The University of Queensland in Australia held the first 3MT competition in 2008. Today, more than 900 universities in more than 85 countries participate.

All of the finalists’ presentations are available to watch on KU’s 3MT website.

Photo: From left are Payal Makhasana, doctoral student in civil engineering; Quentin Jarrell, master’s student in bioengineering; and Kara Hageman, doctoral student in bioengineering.

Tue, 11/21/2023


Savannah Rattanavong

Media Contacts

Savannah Rattanavong

Office of the Provost