LESA doctoral candidate Prachi Sharma (’18) who placed first in the Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) competition held as part of RPI’s 2nd Annual Graduate Research Symposium in 2017, has gone on to place 2nd at the Northeastern Association Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) regional 3MT® -automatically qualifying her for inclusion in the national competition in Washington, D.C., to be held in December.
“The video of my talk at RPI was presented at the regional level and I was pleasantly surprised to hear that it won the 2nd prize,” Sharma said after learning she had placed so highly.
The 3MT® was founded by the University of Queensland (Australia) in 2008 and is held at universities around the world. The competition provides a sound framework for students to effectively communicate their research to a broad audience, and is earning a reputation as an exercise that cultivates research communication skills.
Competitors at the local (RPI) level were narrowed down to the top ten in a preliminary round before presenting during the symposium. The ten finalists competed for prizes. In addition to taking 1st place and a cash prize, Sharma received the Peoples’ Choice Award for her 2017 presentation titled, “UV Photodetectors for Biohazard Detection,” where she describes the ‘dangers of hospital-acquired infections’ and provided a concise overview of her solution to this problem with ‘high-sensitivity photodetectors based on hollow nanospheres, combined with modulated UV LEDs, that can detect trace amounts of fluorescence from bacterial colonies.
The 3MT® is supported by the Office of Student Success in collaboration with the Graduate Research Symposium Task Force, and will continue to be part of the annual Graduate Research Symposium.
The 3MT® also shares many similarities with LESA’s Perfect Pitch competition, where Sharma was one of the winners in 2016. Student researchers at LESA receive mentor-based training in effective presentation delivery learning to explain their research in a language appropriate to a non-specialist audience. The Perfect Pitch program originated at LESA and has since been adopted by the National Science Foundation (NSF) as a standard training method at all NSF Engineering Research Centers. Immersive student experiences such as Perfect Pitch are what LESA is known for and have become best-practices at the Center.
“Prachi’s involvement in Perfect Pitch no doubt made her the standout presenter during the 3MT®,” said Colleen Smith, dean of the graduate student experience. “Her engaging presentation, stellar research, and confident stage presence are testaments to the quality of training, caliber of academic rigor, and research expertise students receive at LESA.”
This is the first year that the regional Council of Graduate Schools 1st and 2nd place winners will compete at the national level. Sharma’s participation draws significant attention to LESA at the national level, which helps elevate the profile of the Center as a global leader in engineering research.
“She just keeps winning!” said associate professor and LESA faculty researcher Shayla Sawyer, who has been Sharma’s advisor at LESA.
“Working with Dr. Sawyer and her research group has been an amazing experience!” Sharma boasts. “She provided freedom to pursue ideas, valuable feedback and guidance at every step. She encouraged me to participate in competitions and activities that have shaped my professional development. She has instigated in me an ability to understand and solve problems.”
LESA Center director Robert Karlicek describes Sharma as a true trailblazer saying, “She has brought a very high level of visibility to the Center with national exposure. Her recognition is not only important for our industry members to see us at the forefront of engineering research but for students who complete programs at LESA to know we provide meaningful educational experiences as part of our fundamentals.”
Sharma shared the following when asked about her experience going through the 3MT® and her time at LESA:
“I was excited to participate in the 3MT® competition. It was an experience that every graduate student should get. It made me think about presenting the core idea behind my research in simple, engaging terms. The coaching and practice sessions helped me shape my talk and instill curiosity in the audience, and get them excited about my work.”
“The feedback from the coaches for the Perfect Pitch at LESA formed the basis of my 3MT® presentation, and I learned the importance of finding a good “hook” to capture the audiences’ attention. Being a part of LESA allowed me to work on an interdisciplinary problem and interact with many students and faculty with diverse specializations. This helped me gain a unique perspective towards my research specifically how my work fits a larger picture of providing advanced applications and services in living spaces using lighting.”
Sharma plans to attend the national 3MT® in Washington and pursue a career in academics with a focus on teaching after graduation.
About the Center for Lighting Enabled Systems & Applications (LESA)
Funded primarily by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the LESA is an interdisciplinary, multi-university center developing “Lighting Systems that Think™. The Center engages faculty members, graduate students, research staff, and undergraduates to work on research leading to smart lighting systems with adaptive and controllable properties that will change the way society uses lighting. The Center joins academia, industry, and government in partnership to produce transformational engineered systems, along with engineering graduates who are adept at innovation and primed for leadership in the global economy. The LESA ERC is headquartered at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, and partners with Boston University, the University of New Mexico, and Thomas Jefferson University to achieve its objectives. To learn more, go to www.lesa.rpi.edu.
About Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, founded in 1824, is America’s first technological research university. For nearly 200 years, Rensselaer has been defining the scientific and technological advances of our world. Rensselaer faculty and alumni represent 85 members of the National Academy of Engineering, 17 members of the National Academy of Sciences, 25 members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 8 members of the National Academy of Medicine, 8 members of the National Academy of Inventors, and 5 members of the National Inventors Hall of Fame, as well as 6 National Medal of Technology winners, 5 National Medal of Science winners, and a Nobel Prize winner in Physics. With 7,000 students and nearly 100,000 living alumni, Rensselaer is addressing the global challenges facing the 21st century—to change lives, to advance society, and to change the world. To learn more, go to www.rpi.edu.
Leah Scott, MBA
Marketing and Outreach Manager
Lighting Enabled Systems & Applications
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Office: (518) 276-4010