Fourth Annual Three Minute Thesis Competition

Shots of past competition participants in a honeycomb-like structure over a blue background.

On Friday, March 13, 2020, PhD research came to life at the university's fourth annual Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition.

On this page:

UB's Fourth Annual Three Minute Thesis Competition took place in front of an empty theatre, but your vote matters. Vote for who you think should win the People's Choice Award.

Voting closes on Monday, March 30, 2020, at 11:59 p.m.


Meet the 12 exemplary doctoral students that were selected as finalists to present their three minute thesis at UB's fourth annual 3MT competition.

Joëlle Carota

Joelle Carota headshot.

Presentation Title: The Venezuelan Community of Pescara (Italy): A Sociolinguistic Analysis of Spanish in Contact With Italian 

PhD Program: Romance Languages and Literatures

Advisor: Wolfgang Wölck

Biography: Joëlle Carota is a PhD candidate in the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures, and is from Pescara, Italy. Her research aims to find out how the Venezuelan community that has re-settled in Pescara, Italy over the last ten years is adapting to new surroundings. This includes investigating the outcomes that result from linguistic contact, and monitoring language maintenance and shift. Although her native language is Italian, Carota currently teaches Spanish and is learning American Sign Language. While she is not deep into her research, she enjoys Zumba. Carota would like to continue teaching and work in academia in the future.

Poonam Choudhary

Poonam Choudary headshot.

Presentation Title: Advanced Imaging for Pre-Symptomatic Diagnosis of Krabbe Disease

PhD Program: Medicine

Advisor: Ferdinand Schweser

Biography: Poonam Choudhary is from Chandigarh, India. As a PhD candidate in the Department of Medicine, her research is focused on using advanced imaging techniques involving Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and Positron Emission Tomography (PET) to diagnose pre-symptomatic biomarkers of Krabbe Disease (KD) in a pre-clinical setting. Choudhary’s hobbies include cooking, yoga, meditation and tending to indoor plants. In the future she would like to work in academia.

Zeinab Farhat

Zeinab Farhat.

Presentation Title: Garlic’s Role as an Antioxidant in Cancer

PhD Program: Epidemiology and Environmental Health

Advisor: Lina Mu

Biography: From New York City, Zeinab Farhat is an epidemiology and environmental health PhD candidate. Farhat’s research focuses on how garlic can be used as a dietary agent to fight cancer. She is studying how various garlic forms and preparations may have different anti-cancer properties. Her goal is to determine which are the most beneficial in terms of anti-cancer activity. Farhat’s hobbies include going to concerts, baking, cooking and completing puzzles. Her career goal is to work in the Division of Cancer Prevention at the National Cancer Institute, and serve as principal investigator to develop a project regarding the impact of nutrition and exercise on cancer occurrence and survival.

Farshad Ghanei

Aditi Chaubey headshot.

Presentation Title: Energy Awareness

PhD Program: Computer Science and Engineering

Advisor: Karthik Dantu

Biography: Farshad Ghanei is from Tehran, Iran. As a PhD student in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, his research targets modern battery-powered systems. The goal of Ghanei’s research is to provide these systems with appropriate mechanisms to be able to track, account for, and manage energy, while being more energy efficient and running for longer periods of time. His hobbies include woodworking, gardening and spending time with his pet snail. Ghanei is also a third-degree black belt in Nearu martial arts and self-defense. After completing his PhD, Ghanei would like to continue his research and develop better battery-powered systems.

Seyed Ghodsi Headshot.

Seyed Hamed Ghodsi

Presentation Title: Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) Prediction and Reduction

PhD Program: Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering

Advisor: Zhenduo Zhu

Biography: Seyed Hamed Ghodsi is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering. In his research, Ghodsi is developing a tool to predict real-time combined sewer overflow (CSO) volume to reduce overflow, while keeping in mind municipality budgets and available area. The goal of his research is to understand the real impact of CSO on our environment, and find the best solution to overcome its negative effects. Ghodsi’s hobbies include soccer, volleyball and tennis. In the future he would like to work as a research and development engineer in an industry related to urban storm water management.

Nagashri Lakshminarayana headshot.

Nagashri Lakshminarayana

Presentation Title: Facial Expression Recognition: A Step Towards Emotionally Intelligent Technology

PhD Program: Computer Science and Engineering

Advisor: Venu Govindaraju 

Biography: Nagashri Lakshminarayana is a computer science and engineering PhD candidate from Bangalore, India. Her research focuses on bridging the gap between human and computer interaction, which currently lacks the empathy factor. She is working to build “human-centric” systems that can recognize facial expressions at the granularity of facial muscle movements. Her hobbies include hiking, singing and playing board games. Her career goals include becoming a research scientist and continuing to work towards making human-computer partnerships more meaningful.

Oladapo Ogunbodede headshot.

Oladapo Ogunbodede

Presentation Title: Energy Efficient Drones: Lessons From Nature

PhD Program: Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Advisor: Tarunraj Singh

Biography: From Owo, Nigeria, Oladapo Ogunbodede is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. His research is focused on finding ways to improve energy efficiency in drones by mimicking flight patterns in birds and marine mammals that exhibit powered-coasting locomotory behavior. Ogunbodede’s goal is to make drone flights greener and less costly. In his spare time, he enjoys photography, RC-airplanes and traveling. Upon graduation, Ogunbodede aspires to be a guidance, navigation and control engineer in the aerospace industry.

Ben Rein headshot.

Ben Rein

Presentation Title: Putting the Brakes on Autism: A New Molecular Strategy

PhD Program: Physiology and Biophysics

Advisor: Zhen Yan

Biography: From Buffalo, New York, Ben Rein is a physiology and biophysics PhD candidate. He studies gene mutations and their effects on autism, with hopes that his research discoveries may advance understanding of autism’s biological basis and develop breakthrough treatment strategies with broad applications. Aside from reading, watching Jeopardy and exercising, he has also served a chief editor for a non-fiction novel and produced a hip-hop album under the alias “Cheezy B”. In the future, Rein hopes to run his own research laboratory that studies autism spectrum disorder, depression and sleep.

Seyed Sajedi Headshot.

Seyed Omid Sajedi

Presentation Title: Artificially Intelligent Systems for Rapid Post-Earthquake Inspections

PhD Program: Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering

Advisor: Xiao Liang

Biography: Seyed Omid Sajedi is from Tehran, Iran. As a PhD candidate in the Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering, his research focuses on making reliable and automatic inspection systems that can quickly monitor the condition of structures after natural disasters. His goal is to develop the framework that performs structural damage diagnoses in real-time, to minimize the economic and social consequences of shutting down critical facilities after an earthquake. Outside of his research, he enjoys playing guitar, hiking and nature photography. Upon graduation, he plans to continue his research and pursue a career in academia.

Emily Sekera.

Emily Sekera

Presentation Title: More Than a Gut Feeling: Finding a Biomarker for Autism Spectrum Disorder

PhD Program: Chemistry

Advisor: Troy D. Wood

Biography: From Alden, New York, Emily Sekera is a PhD candidate in the Department of Chemistry, and a member of the American Society for Mass Spectrometry, American Chemical Society, Society for Applied Spectroscopy, and the Metabolomics Association of North America. In her research, she is using feces and urine to find potential diagnostic markers of autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Her goal is to create a clinically-used biomarker for the diagnosis of ASD, to help facilitate earlier detection of the disorder. Sekera enjoys wine tastings, playing video games and volunteering for STEM outreach events. In the future, she would like to run her own research lab.

Christopher Spence.

Christopher Spence

Presentation Title: The Impact of High-Stakes Testing

PhD Program: Educational Leadership and Policy

Advisor: Lois Weis

Biography: Christopher Spence is an educational leadership and policy PhD candidate from Manhattan, and is a member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc., and the NAACP. He is studying the intersectionality between educational policy—particularly high-stakes testing—and teachers’ expectations of students as it relates to the black and white achievement gap. His goal is to extend the scholarly imagination in relation to how people think about social reproduction and policy efforts designed to augment student achievement. Spence enjoys reading, cycling and playing basketball. Upon completion of his PhD, he would like to become a researcher at a tier one research institution.

Xiaoxiao Zhang.

Xiaoxiao Zhang

Presentation Title: Preventing Bone Loss With Fewer Side Effects

PhD Program: Oral Biology

Advisor: Ding Xu

Biography: Xiaoxiao Zhang is from China, but has also lived in Lund, Sweden. As a PhD candidate in the oral biology department, she is currently studying the structural details of heparin sulfate-cathepsin K interactions in hopes to develop a novel drug that treats osteoporosis with fewer side effects than the current available drugs. Previously, Zhang worked as a dentist and has traveled to over 15 countries. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking, salsa dancing and weight lifting. After completing her PhD, Zhang plans to continue to research protein-proteoglycan interactions and monoclonal antibody therapy.

The Judging Panel

Eilish Cumbo.

Eilish Cumbo

Senior Food Technologist, Rich Products

Eilish Cumbo is a senior food technologist at Rich Products on the desserts research and development team, where she formulates ice cream cakes under the Carvel brand. She completed her undergraduate degrees in chemistry and forensic science at Syracuse University, her MBA at the University at Buffalo, and is currently working on her master’s degree in food science at Kansas State University. She serves on the board of directors for the Western New York American Red Cross and is on the Young Alumni Leadership Council for UB.

Dharshan Jayasinghe.

Dharshan Jayasinghe

President and CEO, bizWin Strategies and Triad Healthcare Recruiting

Dharshan Jayasinghe is the president and CEO for two Buffalo-based companies that focus on building organizational human capital infrastructure to support strategic growth, market expansion, research and development efforts, and improve operational efficiencies, financial performance and organizational effectiveness. Jayasinghe received his Bachelor of Arts in psychology from UB as well as his MBA and Master of Science in industrial and organizational psychology from Capella University. As a UB alumnus, Jayasinghe is an active member of UB’s Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership and Vistage International. Jayasinghe also currently serves on a number of advisory boards in the community.

Janne Sirén.

Janne Sirén

Director, Albright-Knox Art Gallery

Janne Sirén became the director of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in April 2013. Prior to this, he served as director of Finland’s Helsinki Art Museum—one of the largest cultural institutions in the Nordic region—overseeing an active program of exhibitions, acquisitions and museum development.  Sirén received his PhD in 2001 from the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University. Sirén served as director of the Tampere Art Museum in southern Finland from 2004 to 2007. He also worked in the Department of Art History at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, teaching courses in modern and contemporary art, aesthetics, museology, and critical theory. Sirén also serves as the president of the board of directors of the Eschaton Kunststiftung, Anselm Kiefer Foundation.

Sujata Yalamanchili.

Sujata Yalamanchili

Partner, Hodgson Russ

Sujata Yalamanchili is a partner at Hodgson Russ. Her areas of practice include corporate real estate, commercial leasing, real estate development, and finance. She earned two bachelor’s degrees and an MBA from the University at Buffalo, as well as a law degree from Cornell Law School. Yalamanchili’s current professional affiliations include UB’s School of Management Advisory Council and Real Estate Development Program Advisory Board, American College of Real Estate Lawyers, New York State Bar Association, and the Bar Association of Erie County, among others. Her current community work includes Summit Educational Resources, the Williamsville Education Foundation, and Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Site Foundation.

Event Photos