Sabrina Orsi holding an oversized check.

Sabrina Orsi won $500 for being selected as the People’s Choice Award winner at UB’s eighth annual Three Minute Thesis competition.

Cancer and Nutrition Talk Wins Prize at 3MT Event

By Dirk Hoffman

Published March 13, 2024

Sabrina Orsi, a student in the doctoral program in pharmacology and toxicology, won the People’s Choice Award at UB’s eighth annual Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition.


Two other Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences students were also finalists in the competition, in which doctoral students are asked to effectively explain their research in three minutes using language tailored to a non-specialist audience.

Combining Cancer Therapy With Dietary Restrictions

Orsi’s presentation was titled “Fighting Cancer One SNACk at a Time: Integrating Science, Nutrition, and Cancer Care.”

She is a member of the lab of Roberto Pili, MD, an internationally renowned cancer and nutrition expert, who is professor and chief of the Division of Hematology/Oncology in the Department of Medicine. He is the inaugural director of UB’s Sciences, Nutrition and Cancer (SNAC) Center in the Jacobs School.

Orsi says her research aims to improve the success of currently available cancer treatments by combining traditional therapy with dietary restrictions, like fasting, to target the energy producing process of metabolism more effectively and slow tumors down even further.

“By providing the scientific evidence for why and how dietary restrictions work with traditional therapy my research has the potential to support the clinical use of this combination which will eventually provide the public with a safe and affordable option for cancer care in a space where treatments are typically very expensive and have a lot of negative long-term side effects,” she says.

Opportunity to Work with Global Collaborators

Sabrina Orsi presenting her thesis on stage at Screening Room at Center for the Arts.

Orsi presents her thesis on the Screening Room stage in the Center for the Arts.

Orsi received $500 for the People’s Choice Award, which was voted on by members of the audience at the competition that took place March 1 in the Screening Room at the Center for the Arts on UB’s North Campus.

“Receiving this award was as much about recognizing all the hard work I’ve put into my research as it was about those in the audience who have been affected by cancer, so I felt extremely honored and emotional to know that the importance of my research touched the audience that much for them to choose me,” she says.

Orsi says working in a translational research lab affords her the opportunity to work with a lot of different clinically relevant research projects and with collaborators from all over the world.

“There are plenty of opportunities to learn new things and make a difference even just as a bench scientist, which is extremely exciting and fulfilling,” she explains. “Dr. Pili is an incredible mentor. He encourages me to be a better scientist and person by giving me new opportunities and tasks all the time that challenge me and teach me a wide range of important professional, scientific, and life skills.”

“I am extremely fortunate to be part of the Pili lab and I would not be where I am today without his mentorship and guidance. His support has been instrumental to my success thus far and I know I will only continue to grow from here as a student in his lab.”

Event Sponsored by Graduate School, CoLab

The other Jacobs School students who were finalists are:

Other competition winners are:

  • First place — Mindula Kaumadi Wijayahena (chemistry) for “Breaking Bad Bonds: Will PFAS-Munching Microbes Save Us?”
  • Second place — Ameya Manoj Tandel (chemical and biological engineering) for “Turning Murky to Clear: Unveiling Pure Water with Membrane Magic!”
  • Third place — Alber Aqil (biological sciences) for “An Examination of Men Faculty Allies for Undergraduate Women in STEM”

The prizes were $2,000 for first place, $1,500 for second, $1,000 for third and were decided upon by a panel of judges.

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