Alison Mercer-Smith, an M.D./Ph.D. student who is completing her doctoral work in the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy’s Division of Pharmacoengineering and Molecular Pharmaceutics, is the UNC-Chapel Hill Three Minute Thesis (3MT) campus winner.

Four women stand in front of the Three Minute Thesis banner.
From left, Dean Suzanne Barbour, Samantha Ervin, Alison Mercer-Smith, and Jenna Beam

Mercer-Smith and nine other UNC-Chapel Hill graduate students presented their research in front of a large audience and panel of judges – and with only three minutes for their presentations – on Oct. 29. The Graduate School hosts the annual event.

Samantha Ervin, a doctoral student in chemistry, received second-place honors, and Jenna Beam, a doctoral student in microbiology and immunology, was named the People’s Choice winner (determined by audience votes).

Mercer-Smith receives $1,000 and a trip to compete in the regional 3MT competition in March 2020. Ervin receives $600, and Beam receives $400.

“Three Minute Thesis was an excellent learning experience for me for communicating scientific research to a non-specialist audience quickly and concisely, which is particularly important in a clinical setting,” Mercer-Smith said. “Patients are often asked to become specialists in their own illnesses, and anything I can do to be a better teacher will ultimately make me a better clinician in the future.”

Mercer-Smith’s academic adviser is Shawn Hingtgen, associate professor in the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy’s Division of Pharmacoengineering and Molecular Pharmaceutics, with a joint appointment as assistant professor in the UNC School of Medicine’s neurosurgery department.

The 10 3MT finalists and their topics were:

Olufunmilayo Arogbokun, a doctoral student in epidemiology, “Can Obstructive Sleep Apnea Impact Flu Severity?”

Lauren Bates, a master’s student in exercise and sport science, “Exercise Training Immune Response in Breast Cancer Survivors vs. Healthy Controls”

Anna Batorsky, a doctoral student in biostatistics, “Going Above and Beyond the Human Genome to Solve the Mysteries of Chronic Kidney Disease”

Jenna Beam (People’s Choice winner), a doctoral student in microbiology and immunology, “The Battle Against the Bugs: Antibiotics versus Staph”

Samantha Ervin (second-place winner), a doctoral student in chemistry, “The Role of Gut Bacterial Enzymes in Hormone-Driven Disease”

Alison Mercer-Smith (first-place winner), a doctoral student in pharmaceutical sciences, “Turning Skin Cells into Cancer-Killers”

Adele Musicant, a doctoral student in genetics and molecular biology, “Genes Gone Bad”

Tong Qiu, a doctoral student in geography, “Predicting When and Where Autumn Foliage Coloration Will Peak in the United States”

Shannon Speer, a doctoral student in chemistry, “Probing Protein-Protein Interactions: How Studying Proteins in Their Native Environment Can Help Us Treat Diseases”

Rylee Wander, a doctoral student in pharmaceutical sciences, “Harnessing the Power of Nature: Optimizing the Enzyme-Based Production of the Drug Heparin”

The University of Queensland developed the 3MT in 2008, and more than 600 universities in 65 countries now hold their own competitions.

Videos by Melanie Busbee

Comments are closed.