Grad Students Compete in 2021 Three Minute Thesis Heat

Graduate student research topics

On February 25, five graduate students from the Department of Mechanical Engineering faced off on Zoom to see who could best explain their thesis research in three minutes or less. The Department’s second annual 3 Minute Thesis heat challenged graduate students to hone their communication skills by packing their complex research projects into a quick presentation that effectively communicated their work and its importance using only one slide, no audio or video, and no props.

Participants included both master’s-level and PhD students, researching a range of topics:

Nikoo Soltan  |  MASc Student, Supervisors: Dr. Peter Cripton & Dr. Gunter Siegmund
Soltan discussed the difficulty in detecting soft tissue and nerve damage caused by whiplash due to its invisibility in imaging technologies like X-ray. By studying the way different kinds of collisions affect the head and neck on animal models, Soltan hopes to shed light on how soft-tissue injury is caused.

Ammarah Kaderdina  | MASc Student, Supervisor: Dr. Antony Hodgson
If misdiagnosed, developmental hip dysplasia in infants can cause health problems later in life. 3D ultrasound is shown to be a more effective diagnosis tool than the current standard, 2D ultrasound, but it is too expensive for many pediatric practices to provide. Kaderdina is looking to reconstruct 3D ultrasound volumes from 2D ultrasound image frames, with the primary focus on accurately location-tagging the image frames.

Shayan Heydari | MASc Student, Supervisor: Dr. Rajeev Jaiman
Rats’ whiskers act as a kind of radar, picking up vibrations in the air which can tell them many things, including the shapes of objects in their vicinity. As air flows past them, whiskers create vortices, and by studying this mechanism Heydari hopes to lay the groundwork for creating whisker-like location sensors which could be used in robotics.

Iraj D Hamani | PhD student, Supervisor: Dr. Thomas Oxland
Spinal deformity affects many seniors who once had healthy backs. Hamani is working to understand the role muscles play in this shaping complex skeletal system as the body ages, particularly their mechanical properties. By understanding the specific muscles involved, treatment could be developed to strengthen them, preventing this debilitating condition.

Mrinmoy Chakraborty | PhD student, Supervisors: Dr. Naomi Zimmerman, and Dr. Amanda Giang
In many countries, cooking and heating are done by burning solid biomass fuels like firewood and dungcakes, contributing to poor indoor air quality and leading to higher mortality rates. In situations where the transition to cleaner fuel might be slower to achieve due to fuel price and behavioural reasons, Chakraborty seeks to understand if better ventilation design can more quickly alleviate this health impact.

Presenters spoke to a general audience of non-experts and a panel of faculty judges.  Lecturer Adrianna Eyking, Dr. Dana Grecov, and Dr. Lyndia Wu brought expertise in technical communication, fluid mechanics and dynamics, biomedical, and mechatronics subjects to their deliberations, but the audience was also responsible for selecting a People’s Choice winner. In the end, both the experts and the audience agreed: congratulations to Shayan Heydari for winning both the MECH First Place title and People’s Choice award! He will receive a $150 Amazon gift card as a combined prize for winning both titles, and will advance to the UBC 3MT Semi Finals.

Semi-Final competitors will submit their three-minute presentations via video, and after adjudication, and finalists will be announced on March 12th. The UBC Final will be in live virtual format on March 31st from 12 – 1:30 PM. Register here to view the competition, and find out more about the UBC 3 Minute Thesis at

Congratulations to all our presenters for taking part in this challenge!

Photos left to right by Adrian Swancar, zelle duda, Oxana Kuznetsova, Miikka Luotio and MD Duran on Unsplash.