Monica Arul Jayachandran wins inaugural ACC Three Minute Thesis competition

Author: Erin Blasko

Monica Arul Jayachandran (left)

Monica Arul Jayachandran, a graduate student at the University of Notre Dame, won first place and the People’s Choice award, along with $2,500 in prize money, at the inaugural Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition July 22 in Washington, D.C.

Developed by the University of Queensland in Australia, 3MT is an academic competition that challenges graduate students to explain their research in a language appropriate to both specialists and non-specialists with just one static slide in three minutes or less.

Monica’s presentation — “Occupant Comfort in High-Rise Buildings” — employed humor and personal anecdotes to show the need for established movement guidelines for occupant comfort in tall buildings, which can sway unpleasantly in high winds.

She competed for the awards along with 12 other ACC students.

“3MT has been a life-changing experience for me,” said Monica, who goes by only her first name. “The chance to explain my research to a non-specialist audience while being engaging was a great learning experience. It takes skill and practice to articulate one’s research work in three minutes, and it is a skill that every graduate student should hone. I strongly recommend 3MT to all of our graduate students as ‘our research matters’!”

A doctoral student in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences, Monica specializes in the field of structural wind engineering.

Her research lab, the NatHaz Modeling Laboratory, worked with collaborators including Skidmore, Owings and Merrill and Samsung Corp. to monitor tall buildings in Chicago as well as overseas, including Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, in the United Arab Emirates.

“Monica is an extremely caring, diligent and pleasant student and teacher. I seek her counsel for my own teaching and in the preparation of my keynote lectures,” said Ahsan Kareem, the Robert M. Moran Professor of Engineering in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences at Notre Dame and Monica’s adviser. “She is a great example of a balanced student who excels in her skills as teacher and is exhaustive in getting down to the bottom of complex issues in research and presenting them in a simple and clear manner.” 

Monica won the Graduate School’s Shaheen 3MT competition, along with $2,000 in prize money, in February to advance to the ACC competition. She placed second in the Midwestern Association of Graduate Schools 3MT competition in St. Louis in March.

In preparing for all three competitions, she worked closely with Mandy Madden-Miller, program director of professional development in the Graduate School.

“It has been a pleasure mentoring and watching Monica prepare and compete for all three competitions,” Madden-Miller said. “She is a model graduate student who is not only in the last year of her Ph.D. program and in the midst of writing and publishing multiple articles, but also a graduate associate for the Kaneb Center for Teaching and Learning, where she develops and delivers workshops to help other graduate students become better teachers.”

She continued: “Each time Monica presents, she continues to improve, and she has a natural ability to connect with the audience. Through attending the 3MT Workshop prior to the ND qualifications and practicing at home in front of her husband, she has mastered what the 3MT program is about — distilling your research and confidently sharing it with the world.”

Laura Carlson, vice president, associate provost and dean of the graduate school, said, “3MT is a great opportunity for Notre Dame graduate students to promote their research and communicate its importance to a broader audience, as well as engage more fully with the impacts their work has for all of us. Being able to reduce their dissertations to one slide and a three-minute oration while retaining the importance of the work requires significant skills that are crucial to our students’ professional development.”

Originally published by Erin Blasko at on July 26, 2019.