21:32 PM

Sarah Hemler Clinches First Place at Pitt’s Three Minute Thesis Competition

Each year, graduate students from the University of Pittsburgh participate in the University of Queensland’s Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) Competition to challenge their research communication skills. The event invites higher degree students to effectively explain their work in three minutes to a non-specialist audience.

Sarah Hemler, a bioengineering PhD candidate in the Swanson School of Engineering’s Human Movement and Balance Laboratory, was awarded first place in Pitt’s 2021 competition. She used the platform to discuss the assessment and mechanics of shoe tread wear.

“I think research or any work we do is only as potent as its communication,” she said. “In the lab, we know the details of our work more than anyone else. It’s in relaying this information with accuracy, tact, and attention to the audience that the information is disseminated effectively. Even the best interventions require strategic communication around their importance and validity to reach the intended audiences.”

Her dissertation work includes monitoring shoe traction performance and wear, and developing footwear replacement strategies to prevent slips and falls. She designed and prototyped a portable shoe scanner, which could ultimately help reduce the billions of dollars spent on medical claims due to workplace injuries.

“Part of my research involves user-centered design which understands how to assess and incorporate user needs into the product design process for optimal efficiency,” Hemler added. “I think effective communication involves applying some user-centered design techniques; we need to know what is useful, usable, and desirable for the audience in order for information to be remembered.”

“Sarah has worked hard to refine the skill of communicating in a concise and understandable way,” said Kurt Beschorner, associate professor of bioengineering and Hemler’s research advisor. “This skill can be especially challenging when communicating highly technical research. I was so pleased that her efforts and talents were recognized in this competition.”

Swanson School students have continually placed as finalists or won the top prize in this competition since 2018.