School of Public Health Students Participate in the University of North Texas Health Science Center’s Inaugural Three Minute Thesis Competition

May 24, 2023 • News


A significant milestone was reached at the University of North Texas Health Science Center (UNTHSC) as it hosted its first annual Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition. Five School of Public Health students – Emma Nolan, Kaeli Johnson, Edna Mendoza, Rohit Baal Balasundaram, and Sarpong Boateng – distinguished themselves, each presenting insightful research on pressing public health issues.

The successful staging of the 3MT competition, originally developed by the University of Queensland, Australia, would not have been possible without the tireless efforts of Allison Cross, a Ph.D. student in Public Health Sciences, who played a key role in organizing the School of Public Health heat, which was judged by Dean Shafik Dharamsi, Dr. Dana Litt, and Dr. Rajesh Nandy.

The competition challenged students to condense their intricate research into a compelling three-minute presentation using one slide designed for a non-specialist audience. This inaugural event brought a diverse range of health science topics to the forefront, highlighting the incredible breadth and depth of research currently being undertaken at the UNTHSC.

Dr. Shafik Dharamsi, Dean of the School of Public Health, expressed his admiration for the students’ accomplishments, “Our Public Health students have showcased an exceptional ability to present complex ideas in an accessible and engaging manner. Their work contributes significantly to our understanding of contemporary public health challenges.”

Emma Nolan, an M.S. student in Public Health Sciences specializing in genetic epidemiology, claimed first place in the School of Public Health heat with her thesis titled, “A Mendelian Randomization Analysis of Obesity on the Development of Alzheimer’s Disease.” Nolan’s exploration of the genetic link between obesity and Alzheimer’s disease demonstrated both depth of understanding and clarity of presentation.

Kaeli Johnson took the second spot with her research presentation on “Breastfeeding Initiation and Information Sources by Race.” Johnson’s work shed light on the cultural and societal factors influencing breastfeeding practices, and their impact on public health.

Edna Mendoza secured third place, captivating the audience with her insightful presentation entitled, “Multi-hazard Assessment of the Kyrgyz Republic’s Osh Region using Maximum Entropy.” Mendoza’s study employed a machine learning technique to develop a multi-hazard map of landslide, flood, and wildfire that can be used for disaster risk reduction and mitigation by decisionmakers.

Rohit Baal Balasundaram and Sarpong Boateng also made their mark with notable presentations. Balasundaram’s “Oral Health Literacy, Knowledge, Practice, and Beliefs Among Asian Americans: A Scoping Review” provided a thorough examination of oral health practices, while Boateng’s presentation, “Healing from Hate,” explored the impact of discrimination and bias of COVID-19 on weight and mental health.

Nolan then went on to get first place in the overall UNTHSC competition, and in doing so highlighted the potential impact of her research. Dr. Caroline Rickards and Dr. Thomas Cunningham organized the 3MT with students from the School of Public Health and the School of Biomedical Sciences.

Dr. Melissa Lewis, Associate Dean for Research and Faculty Advancement, lauded the students’ efforts, “The dedication these students showed in preparing for this inaugural event is truly commendable. Their ability to communicate their scientific research to a wider audience exemplifies the skills we strive to instill in our future public health leaders.”

This first 3MT competition at UNTHSC marked a significant milestone in fostering young researchers’ communication skills and promoting public engagement with health science research. The achievements of Nolan, Johnson, Mendoza, Balasundaram, and Boateng serve as a testament to the wealth of talent within the School of Public Health.

As these impressive scholars continue their academic journeys, the UNTHSC community and the broader public health field eagerly anticipate the further advancements they will undoubtedly bring to the forefront of public health science.