Multidisciplinary Engineering Doctoral Student Wins 2023 Three Minute Thesis Finals
Interdisciplinary engineering doctoral student Andrea Porter won the 11th annual Texas A&M Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) competition last week. Her presentation, “Better Body Armor for Women Warfighters” describes research that will use innovative engineering for improved design for ballistic vests for women in the military.
Justinn Jones, a master’s student in ecology and conservation biology was named runner-up for his presentation, “Going Green for the Maroon & White.” Sociology doctoral student Gemini Creason-Parker placed third for “‘Especially Heinous’ and ‘Vicious Felonies’: Rape Myths in Dialogue on Law & Order SVU.” Oluyomi Oloruntoba, a doctoral student in public health sciences, won the people’s choice award for “Body Pain & Pain Management among the Dental Workforce.”
The Graduate and Professional School, along with co-sponsors the Center for Teaching Excellence and the University Writing Center, hosted the event in Rudder Forum before a live audience and streamed for viewers worldwide on Zoom. Dr. Adam Seipp, professor of history and associate dean for graduate studies in the College of Arts and Sciences served as emcee for the fourth time.
At this year’s event, the Grad School partnered with the Career Center to present the inaugural “Investing in Excellence Award.” This award will be presented annually to companies that demonstrate exceptional effort to engage and support graduate and professional students through recruitment and development initiatives. This year’s award went to Medpace, a company that works with biotech companies to accelerate the development of safe and effective medical therapeutics. Medpace Clinical Research Associate Manager Thomas Murphy was on hand to accept the award.
The 3MT competition, created in 2008 by the University of Queensland, gives students just three minutes and one slide to present a compelling oration of their research and its significance to a general audience. The event has garnered global popularity as a vehicle for helping graduate students develop their presentation skills and to showcase student research.
Five judges from the campus and Bryan-College Station community represented a variety of areas of expertise. Associate Vice President of Marketing, Strategy and Insights Dr. Isaac Munoz; Hagler Institute for Advanced Study Fellow Dr. Mark O’Malley; KBTX Director of Community Affairs and Special Projects Stacy Colvin; Teaching, Learning and Culture Professor Dr. Andy Kwok; and Graduate and Professional Student Government President Hannah Payne evaluated competitors based on two criteria: presentation content and the competitor’s ability to convey that content in an engaging and clear way to a general audience.
Better Body Armor For Women
Porter said she was “stunned” to win. “All the finalists are conducting innovative research that advances knowledge; I was just honored to be in their company, she said.”
In her presentation, Porter focused on addressing the gender gap in body armor design. Specifically, she is working to tailor ballistic vests for women to address the discomfort and limitations caused by the current standard vests. She emphasizes the need for vests that allow freedom of movement, especially as more women enter military, law enforcement and security sectors.
Unlike Porter, her faculty advisor Dr. Mark E. Benden was not surprised at her win: “Andrea’s research will save the lives of females in combat, and she speaks so passionately about it. It’s no surprise that her presentation would resonate with others.”
Dr. Timothy J. Jacobs, department head for multidisciplinary engineering (the home of the interdisciplinary engineering doctoral program), congratulated Porter and said that her win embodies the spirit of her program. “Interdisciplinary engineering doctoral students are risk-takers. They’re not afraid to step out on a limb that will allow them to fly higher than they could ever imagine,” Jacobs said. “The strength of our program is that we give our doctoral students the flexibility to make things happen that aren’t apparent to others. Andrea exemplifies that approach, and her work is going to have a profound impact.”
Dr. Fuhui Tong, interim dean of the Graduate and Professional School, congratulated all the finalists and said this year’s winners demonstrate the strength, breadth and impact of graduate student research at Texas A&M. “This year’s finalists should be proud of the way they represented their programs and Texas A&M,” Tong said. “Our finalists come from 10 different programs. Their success reflects the quality of our programs across the board and the mentoring and support our students receive from their faculty advisors.”
Porter will go on to represent Texas A&M at the 3MT regional competition in Greenville, S.C., in March 2024. “It’s daunting,” Porter said, “but I hope I have a great chance. My topic really hits people in the heart because our soldiers are deeply respected, and knowing our women warfighters are fighting a handicap from their body armor is unthinkable. Plus, who doesn’t like the idea of our soldiers being equipped with better armor that could look like something Batman would wear?”