Medical school graduate students, from left, Nadav Weinstock, Danielle Twum, Lucie Kafkova and Chong Zhang participated in UB’s first 3 Minute Thesis competition.

Graduate Students Compete in First Three Minute Thesis Event

Published April 20, 2017 This content is archived.

story by dirk hoffman

Four graduate students from the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences were among the 15 finalists of UB’s inaugural Three Minute Thesis (3MTĀ®) competition.


One of them, Danielle Twum, a doctoral candidate in the Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center Graduate Division, won second place in the competition that celebrates research by graduate students.

Conveying Research to Non-Specialist Audience

Developed by the University of Queensland in 2008, the exercise cultivates students’ academic, presentation and research communication skills.

In the 3MT competition, graduate students convey the essence and importance of their master’s thesis or doctoral dissertation research in an engaging way to a non-specialist audience in just three minutes and are limited to one PowerPoint slide.

A panel of judges determined first, second and third place prizes, worth $1,000, $750 and $500, respectively. A People’s Choice prize, worth $250, was awarded based on an audience vote.

Student Aims to Demystify Science for General Public

Twum, who is mentored by Scott Abrams, PhD, in Roswell’s Department of Immunology, won second place for her presentation titled “Switch Cancer Off!”

She is hoping to bring science to the general public by coming up with more exciting ways to explain complex scientific concepts in order to demystify the mysteries that surround science and make it more approachable to the lay person.

African Trypanosomes, Krabbe Disease Among Topics

Other medical school students who were 3MT finalists are:

Lucie Kafkova

Lucie Kafkova, a doctoral candidate in microbiology and immunology, is mentored by Laurie K. Read, PhD, professor of microbiology and immunology.

Kafkova has been studying African trypanosomes since the beginning of her undergraduate career. She completed her master’s studies at the University of South Bohemia with a degree in experimental biology and then switched her focus from RNA editing to arginine methylation when she joined Read’s group at UB.

Her presentation was titled “Figuring Out African Trypanosomes One Protein at a Time.”

Nadav Weinstock

Nadav Weinstock, a fifth-year MD/PhD student, aspires to become a physician-scientist working on developing therapies for rare diseases that affect babies.

During his first two years of medical school, Weinstock became interested in global health and spent time providing medical care at local free health clinics and to underserved remote populations in the Himalayan Mountains of India.

In 2016, he was awarded an F30 fellowship from the NIH for his research on Krabbe Disease.

His adviser in the MD-PhD Program is M. Laura Feltri, MD, professor of biochemistry and neurology.

Weinstock’s presentation was titled “Understanding Krabbe Disease.”

Chong Zhang

Chong Zhang presented “An Enzyme to Remember with No Strings Attached” at the competition.

She is a doctoral candidate in pharmacology and toxicology who is mentored by James M. O’Donnell, PhD, dean of the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.

Zhang’s research has involved elucidating the relationship between the neurochemical and behavioral effects of drugs that are used in neuropsychiatric diseases, such as depression, anxiety and learning and memory disabilities.

Sponsored by Graduate School, Blackstone LaunchPad

Other competition winners were:

  • First place — Phil Schneider (electrical engineering) for “Test Phantom Fingers for Higher Biometric Security”
  • Third place — Hooman Ansari (mechanical and aerospace engineering) for “Pacemaker Energy Harvester”
  • People’s Choice Award — Saeede Eftekhari (management science and systems) for “Less Pain, Lower Cost by Health Information Sharing”

The 3MT competition was sponsored by the UB Graduate School and Blackstone LaunchPad, a campus-based entrepreneurship program open to students of all majors, experiences and disciplines.

The event was conducted April 7 in the Center for the Arts Screening Room.