ISE graduate student wins university's Three Minute Thesis competition

Published: Nov 9, 2022 3:00 PM

By Joe McAdory

Shiva Nageswaran is determined to design advanced, safer seat belts that allow passengers the opportunity to easily release themselves in the event of a rollover accident.

“During our tests, we used a subject in a chair (car seat) and flipped them upside down to measure how much force they can exert by using their thumbs and fingers on the seat belt buckle,” said Nageswaran, a fifth-year doctoral student in industrial and systems engineering. “All other research for strength data has been accumulated with people sitting in normal, or neutral postures, or standing and pressing a device which is usually much bigger than a seat belt button. I believe our research, flipping subjects upside-down to measure how much force they can exert, is a first of its kind.”

His study, “The Significance of Seat Belt Buckle Release Force Post Passenger Vehicle Rollover,” impressed judges enough to win the 12th Three Minute Thesis competition held Tuesday, Nov. 8 in the Melton Student Center, sponsored by the Auburn University Graduate School and Graduate Student Council. There, 10 graduate students representing five colleges across campus delivered three-minute presentations of their respective thesis work. More than 60 original entrants were trimmed to 10 finalists over the course of seven preliminary competitions on Oct. 25-26.

Developed by the University of Queensland, the Three Minute Thesis challenges graduate students to present compelling oration on their thesis or dissertation topic and its significance with minimal time.

“This has also been one of the most difficult competitions I have been in because you must summarize a 500-page dissertation into three minutes,” said Nageswaran. “It’s almost impossible. I had to work a lot for this one. My wife, Aishwarya, helped me a lot and proof-read everything that I was going to say during the presentation. I also must give credit to my mentor and professor, Dr. Richard Sesek (Tim Cook Associate Professor in industrial and systems engineering).

“Winning this event is like a dream come true. My work was delayed two years because of COVID. I had suggestions to continue the research by using mannequins. But I stuck to my gut. I wanted to use an actual human subject for the research. I persevered and waited.”

Nageswaran received the first-place prize of $500 and will represent Auburn University at the Conference of Southern Graduate Schools’ regional competition next spring. Nageswaran is no stranger to success. This study and poster presentation also won first place last month at the annual Graduate Engineering Research Showcase.

Fifth-year chemical engineering doctoral student Justin Harvell, who serves on the college’s Council of Engineering Graduate Students and is an active participant within the Lipke Lab, headed by associate professor in chemical engineering Elizabeth Lipke, was awarded runner-up and $250 for his pitch, “Using Building Blocks to Fix Broken Hearts.”

Miranda Silano, a graduate student in geosciences, earned $250 and the People’s Choice Award for her presentation, “The Calm Before the Storm: Keeping and Eye on the Gulf of Mexico’s Tropical Cyclone Risk and Vulnerability.”

Other finalists included:

  • Delaney Clouse (chemical engineering), “Using Plaint Waste to Kill Weeds: Cellulose Nanocrystals as a Carrier of Herbicides”
  • Harrish Kumar (chemical engineering), “Fabrication of Reactive Rock samples via Fused Filament Fabrication”
  • Manuel Indaco (aerospace engineering), “Detecting anomalies across mega satellite networks with graph transformers”
  • Adam Book (consumer and design sciences), “Food Insecurity: What can TikTok and AI Reveal about Hunger in the United States?”
  • Melissa Voynich (educational foundations, leadership and technology), “Let’s Play a Speech Game”
  • Aya Hussain (fisheries, aquaculture & aquatic sciences), “Evaluating the growth performance of Pacific white shrimp cultured in different biofloc systems”
  • Ishveen Kaur (biological sciences), “Plants emit stinky compounds to repel insect herbivores”

“The annual Three Minute Thesis competition not only provides select engineering graduate students with an opportunity to enhance their presentation skills by detailing their research and hard work in a compact summary — which is difficult — but also learn from one another,” said Maria Auad, Auburn Engineering associate dean for graduate studies and faculty development. “Like our annual Graduate Engineering Research Showcase, this competition is another experiential learning opportunity provided by the university that helps transform today’s engineering students into tomorrow’s engineering leaders. We are so proud of each of them! Their presentation skills were on point and their theses are individually amazing.”

Media Contact: Joe McAdory,, 334.559.3447
Graduate School Dean George Flowers, left, presents the first-place plaque to Shiva Nageswaran after the Three Minute Thesis competition on Tuesday, Nov. 8.

Graduate School Dean George Flowers, left, presents the first-place plaque to Shiva Nageswaran after the Three Minute Thesis competition on Tuesday, Nov. 8.

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