Polymer Student Captures Three Minute Thesis Competition at USM

November 08, 2017

Pictured left to right: Rahul Shankar (Grand Champion), Oindrila Paul (People’s Choice), Charles Joplin (Runner Up) and Dr. Karen Coats, Dean of USM Graduate School. (Submitted photo

Rahul Shankar, a doctoral student in polymer science and engineering, took home the title of Grand Champion in the 4th Annual Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition held Nov. 1-3 on The University of Southern Mississippi’s Hattiesburg campus. Shankar, a native of Mumbai, India, also collected a cash prize of $1,000.

In this challenging competition, participants are required to describe the significance of their thesis or dissertation in three minutes or less. A total of 32 graduate students delivered presentations to an audience of students, faculty, and staff during the preliminary rounds on Nov. 1-2. Seven finalists competed for the title of Grand Champion on Nov. 3.


“The topics were very diverse and showcased really exciting research projects being conducted at Southern Miss,” said Dr. Karen Coats, dean of the USM Graduate School. “I was very proud of all the competitors for being willing to attempt a really difficult task in front of a live audience.”

Shankar was crowned Grand Champion for his presentation: “Improving the

Fuel Efficiency of Automobiles Using Thermoplastic Composite Materials.” He is conducting research under the tutelage of polymer professor Dr. Sarah Morgan.

“His presentation was done with enthusiasm and energy in terms easily understood by the entire audience. It was fun to watch,” said Coats.

Pascagoula, Miss., native Charles Joplin, who is pursuing a doctorate in English literature, finished as the competition’s runner-up and received a cash prize of $750. He delivered a presentation titled, “I-Witness Reports: Reading the Writing Process of English War Poets.”

Oindrila Paul captured the People’s Choice Award and a $500 cash prize. A native of Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh, India, she is pursuing a doctorate in microbiology. Her presentation was titled, “Stress! Even the Bacteria Cannot Escape it!”


The competition was open to any active master’s, specialist or doctoral student who has not graduated prior to Fall 2017. Students competed in one of the following four categories: 1) arts and humanities; 2) life, health and environmental sciences; 3) physical sciences and mathematics; 4) social and educational sciences and business.


Participants were required to follow a spoken word format (no poems, raps, or songs permitted). A single static PowerPoint slide was permitted, but no additional electronic media or props were allowed.