Doctoral candidate Hannah Calkins captured the People’s Choice Award at UB’s Three Minute Thesis competition.

Calkins is People’s Choice in Three Minute Thesis Event

Published April 11, 2022

story by bill bruton

Two graduate students from the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences were among the 10 finalists in UB’s sixth annual Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition.


One of them, Hannah Calkins, a doctoral candidate in experimental therapeutics in the Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center Graduate Division, won the People’s Choice Award in the competition that celebrates research by graduate students.

Her presentation was titled “Combating Treatment Resistance in Lung Cancer.”

She earned $250 for the award, which was voted on by viewers of the competition. It was livestreamed on March 4.

Her research aims to find new ways to target treatment-resistant lung cancer by identifying targetable mutations that the resistant cells have gained and using novel drugs to target and kill the cancer cells. The goal is to identify novel treatment options and improve outcomes for lung cancer patients facing no other options.

In the future, she would like to work in translational research on clinical trials to help bridge the gap between the research and the clinic.

She is mentored by Pamela Hershberger, PhD, in Roswell Park’s Department of Oncology.

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 — think elevator pitch — and are limited to one PowerPoint slide.

“Excelling in presentation skills is critical for students’ success,” says Allison Brashear, MD, UB’s vice president for health sciences and dean of the Jacobs School. “I am so pleased that our students are participating in this type of competition.”

A panel of judges determined first, second and third place prizes, worth $1,000, $750 and $500, respectively.

‘Decrypting Your Brain’ is Research Focus

The other Jacobs School 3MT finalist was Mahasweta Bhattacharya, a trainee in the doctoral program in biomedical engineering.

Her research focuses on brain activity and could contribute to the development of brain-machine interfaces that will hopefully help with the rehabilitation process of neurodegenerative diseases.

Her presentation was titled “Decrypting Your Brain: Quest for Smarter Machines.”

Her mentor is Rudiyanto Gunawan, PhD, associate professor of chemical and biological engineering in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and adjunct professor of biomedical engineering in the Jacobs School.

Sponsored by Graduate School, LaunchPad

Other competition winners were:

  • First place — Emily Ann Bowlus-Peck (history) for “Communal Trauma and the History of Mental Health Care Systems”
  • Second place — Hamed Khorasani (civil, structural and environmental engineering) for “The Search for Sewage in U.S. Rivers and Lakes”
  • Third place — Danielle Lewis (educational leadership and policy) for “An Examination of Men Faculty Allies for Undergraduate Women in STEM”

The 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.