GSAS Congratulates Three-Minute Thesis (3MT) Winners

February 11, 2022

Doctoral students from across the University showcased their research and teaching skills at the third annual Columbia University Three-Minute Thesis Competition on Friday, February 4, 2022. In three minutes, using only one slide and no notes, twelve students from as many doctoral programs presented their dissertation research to a live panel of faculty and alumni judges in Davis Auditorium, along with a Zoom audience of more than 150 students, alumni, faculty, staff, friends, and family. The research topics ranged from calcium channels in our hearts to dark matter in the universe, from nineteenth-century gardens in Paris to gender equality in the contemporary United States. The competition was co-hosted by the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science, and the Coordinated Doctoral Programs in Biomedical Sciences.

“At its heart, 3MT is about communication,” observed GSAS Dean Carlos J. Alonso in his opening remarks. “Participants are challenged to distill their dissertations…and to translate their highly specialized knowledge, methods, and findings to engage a general audience. To communicate groundbreaking research to the broader public is central to the mission of the University. I applaud these twelve finalists for being bold enough to have accepted this challenge.”

Kinnari Shah, a third-year doctoral student in Earth and Environmental Engineering, was awarded first place for her presentation Sustainable hypersaline desalination via solvent extraction: fundamental molecular insights from thermodynamic analysis. Her advisor is Dr. Ngai Yin Yip, Lavon Duddleson Krumb Assistant Professor of Earth and Environmental Engineering in the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science.

Pedro Javier del Rivero Morfin, a fourth-year doctoral student in Physiology and Cellular Biophysics, won second place for his presentation Tuning the heart: modulation of cardiac calcium channels by unconventional subunits. His advisor is Dr. Manu Ben-Johny, Assistant Professor of Physiology and Cellular Biophysics and Medicine at Columbia University Irving Medical Center.

GSAS doctoral student Alejandra Quintos, a sixth-year PhD candidate in Statistics, won Audience Choice for her presentation Using Mathematics to Help Impoverished Women, via Microlending. Her advisor is Dr. Philip E. Protter, Professor in the Statistics Department.

Quintos commented that she participated in the competition because she “wanted to share with the community how useful mathematics can be to solve a real-world problem. Moreover,” she continued, “given that I want to pursue a career in academia, I thought the 3MT competition would be a tremendous opportunity to improve my presentation skills…and I had a lot of fun in the process!”

GSAS congratulates all of the competition’s twelve finalists. 


  • Rachel Avard, Chemistry (GSAS)
  • Joseph Howlett, Physics (GSAS)
  • Milica Iličić, Slavic Languages (GSAS)
  • Mariko Kanai, Cellular, Molecular and Biomedical Studies (Biomedical Sciences)
  • Katharine Khanna, Sociology (GSAS)
  • Yuki Miura, Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics (SEAS)
  • Alejandra Quintos, Statistics (GSAS)
  • Pedro Javier del Rivero Morfin, Physiology and Cellular Biophysics (Biomedical Sciences)
  • Kinnari Shah, Earth and Environmental Engineering (SEAS)
  • Kaveri A. Thakoor, Biomedical Engineering (SEAS)
  • Danil Tyulmankov, Neurobiology and Behavior (Biomedical Sciences)
  • Alex Zivkovic, Art History and Archaeology (GSAS)