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Doctoral Candidate Pravrutha Raman Wins UMD Three Minute Thesis Contest

April 4, 2018

Pravrutha Raman, a doctoral candidate in the Biological Sciences Program, has been named winner of the fifth annual University of Maryland Three Minute Thesis competition, held April 4 during Graduate Research Appreciation Day (GRAD) at the University of Maryland campus. In the Three Minute Thesis contest, created by the University of Queensland (Australia), competitors explain their research and its impact to an educated lay audience in just three minutes.

Raman’s presentation, “How the Food We Eat Could Change our Descendants”, describes her research into gene silencing in the worm C. elegans. In her work, Raman studies how double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) can “silence” DNA in multiple generations of an organism without changing the sequence information of DNA. By feeding dsRNA to the worm C. elegans, and observing how and when gene silencing continues into multiple generations of this worm, Raman is trying to determine the contexts that determine susceptibility or resistance to silencing in the original worm’s descendants. This work could help explain certain genetic phenomenon in humans as well, such as the altered metabolism of the children and grandchildren of people who experienced periods of starvation. Her advisor is Dr. Antony Jose, associate professor in the Department of Cell Biology and Molecular Genetics.

Raman competed against seven other finalists during a live competition, judged by Linda Clement, Vice President for Student Affairs, University of Maryland; Marlene Feldman, Member, University of Maryland Board of Trustees; Marsha Guenzler-Stevens, Director, Stamp Student Union, University of Maryland; Alene Moyer, Professor, Department of English, University of Maryland; Ray Phaneuf, Professor and Chair, Materials Science and Engineering, University of Maryland; Katherine Russell, Associate Dean, College of Behavioral and Social Sciences, University of Maryland. She will receive a $500 research award, and will become the University of Maryland representative at the international 2018 Three Minute Thesis competition sponsored by Universitas 21, an international consortium of research universities.

Kelsey Gray, a doctoral candidate in the Fischell Department of Bioengineering, was awarded second place with her presentation, “Knights of the Brain: Modelling the Blood-Brain Barrier”, and Yuhan (Douglas) Rao, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Geographical Sciences was named the third place winner with his presentation, “Earlier and Warmer Spring Could ‘Plant” a Drier Summer”.

This is the fifth year that the University of Maryland has participated in the Three Minute Thesis competition. In 2014, 2015, and 2017, University of Maryland winners have gone on to win prizes at the international contest.

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