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Doctoral Candidate Gabriele Betancourt-Martinez Represents UMD at International Thesis Competition

October 10, 2016

Contact: Mary Carroll-Mason,, 301.405.7792

Gabriele Betancourt-Martinez, a PhD candidate in astronomy, is the University of Maryland’s representative in the Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition, sponsored by Universitas 21, an international network of research universities. In the competition, Betancourt-Martinez and the other competitors are judged on their ability to communicate the significance of their doctoral research to a non-specialist audience in just three minutes.

Betancourt-Martinez’s video presentation describes her research in laboratory astrophysics. As part of a group at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Betancourt-Martinez works on technologies related to the development of a new type of X-ray detector that will be used in space-based X-ray telescopes in the future. Specifically, she creates laboratory studies of a process called charge-exchange that generates X-rays from “cold” objects such as comets and planetary atmospheres that are not normally thought of as X-ray sources. Using the Electron Beam Ion Trap (EBIT) facility at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, she can re-create the conditions needed to get charge-exchange, and take precise measurements of the resulting X-ray spectra. These measurements provide more accurate and complete information for quantum mechanical models that astrophysicists use to interpret observational data. Betancourt-Martinez is advised by Professor Christopher Reynolds in the Department of Astronomy.

The Graduate School conducts an annual 3MT competition for University of Maryland students. The winner of the competition is also named as UMD’s nominee to the international U21 competition. Betancourt-Martinez and 19 other graduate students emerged as finalists from hundreds of students competing in eight countries. They will contend for three prizes: Judges’ First Place, Judges' Highly Commended, and People's Choice.

“Doctoral students across the University of Maryland are carrying out significant and innovative research, and the 3MT competition is an excellent opportunity for them to practice communicating the impact of their research to a global audience,” says Jeffrey Franke, interim Dean of the Graduate School. “We are proud that Gabriele will be representing the University of Maryland in this international competition.”

University of Maryland students have a highly successful track record in the 3MT contest. Last year’s University of Maryland representative, Carly Muletz Wolz, a doctoral candidate in biological sciences, won the People’s Choice award. In 2014, the first year that UMD entered the competition, Amy Marquardt, who completed her PhD in material science and engineering, won both the Judges’ First Place and People’s Choice awards.

Vote now for Betancourt-Martinez’s video for the People’s Choice award at; voting ends on Monday, October 24. Results will be announced on November 1.

Vote Now!


View all of the UMD 3MT finalist videos online.

Contact Information

The Graduate School
University of Maryland

2123 Lee Building
7809 Regents Drive
College Park, MD 20742