MAE Ph.D. Students Take Home Two Prizes from the 2023 3MT Competition

April 6, 2023

3MT PhD student winners

The first Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition was held by its developer, The University of Queensland (UQ) in 2008. The popularity of the competition has since increased and 3MT competitions are now held in over 600 universities across more than 65 countries worldwide. The first GW 3MT competition was in 2019 and was expanded in 2022 to include CCAS as well as SEAS Ph.D. students.

The 2023 3MT competition was held on February 22 and this year two Mechanical and Aerospace Ph.D. students took home prizes! Congratulations to Ryan Welch on winning first place for his presentation, “Linking the Process, Structure, and Performance of 3D Printed Thermoelectric Materials,” and Anastasiia Sarmakeeva on winning the People’s Choice Award for her presentation, “Two-Phase Fluid and Solid Body Simulation.”

Welch’s research, under the mentorship of Professor Saniya Leblanc, focuses on additive manufacturing of the high-temperature thermoelectric material, silicon germanium. Thermoelectrics are unique solid-state energy conversion materials that convert heat to electricity or use electricity to pump heat via the Seebeck or Peltier effect, respectively. Typically, numerous cubes of thermoelectric materials are connected electrically in series and thermally in parallel in between two flat ceramic plates to comprise a thermoelectric device. Welch’s research goal is to use Laser Powder Bed Fusion (LPBF), an additive manufacturing technique (aka 3D printing), to consolidate silicon germanium powders and characterize the structure and properties of the material. So far, Welch and fellow graduate student, Bengisu Sisik, have seen a Seebeck coefficient comparable to the standard reference material and continue to elucidate the process-structure-property relationship for LPBF of thermoelectric materials.

 By winning first place for this presentation, Welch went home with a $1000 cash prize and a spot to compete in the next round of the National Competition. “I am elated to win this year’s 3MT competition since thermoelectrics is a niche area that rarely makes headlines and all participants had very interesting research. I enjoyed bringing the audience into the world of thermoelectrics and look forward to the upcoming regional event in April,” Welch stated.

Sarmakeeva, advised by Professor Lorena Barba, is working on a computational method for simulation granular media interacting with two-phase fluid with a free surface. To run simulations, she needs to solve a huge system of differential equations, which in fact is impossible to solve analytically. Thus, computers are needed to solve these equations with approximation methods. Such a complicated process has an application in simulations of landslides where the process could include rock formations that are falling into the water. Her research can also be applied in aerospace engineering and all other areas where simulations are needed. 

Both those in-person and online through the CCAS Facebook Live recording of the event, chose Sarmakeeva’s presentation to receive the People’s Choice Award and accompanying $500 cash prize. Sarmakeeva stated, “I am happy and proud to receive the award because it means that people can understand what I am doing. Last November, I set a goal for myself that I want to do more public talks to improve the way I am delivering concepts of my research. Receiving the award, especially people’s choice, means that I achieved my goal. I have more confidence defending my thesis now. “

The Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering’s Faculty are so excited to see two of their own excel in this competition. Here is what Dr. Michael Plesniak, MAE Department Chair, had to say, “I am very proud of our MAE students' accomplishments! The prizes they won at the 3 Minute Thesis Competition in recognition of their outstanding research and communication skills are well deserved. We saw many excellent presentations across diverse areas of study, and being picked best among these is a true honor and distinction. I also appreciate the mentorship provided by their faculty dissertation advisors.”