UBC 3MT Winner Aria Malhotra Brings Passion to Physics
The PHAS Department is proud to celebrate Medical Physics PhD student, Aria Malhotra, for winning the People’s Choice Award in the 2023 UBC 3MT competition!
The UBC Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition is a highly anticipated event that challenges graduate students to summarize their theses (imagine an approximate 80, 000-word report, or 9-hour talk into engaging three-minute presentations tailored for a general audience.
This year showcased topics from Xenon MRIs, Cancer and mental health, human stem cells, shifting sea life, Autism in Children, Radiation therapy and fruit flies.
Out of 130 grad students participating in the competition this year, Aria was one of thirty grad students making it to the semi-finals and one of the top 10 finalists with her presentation: “In your breast interest: A surface level talk about preventing skin toxicity”.
Currently a PhD candidate working at BC Cancer, Aria’s research with breast cancer aims to better predict skin complications and burns in breast cancer treatments. Although modern radiation therapy minimizes the risk of burns, skin reactions can still occur in high risk populations.
Although Aria initially started out in physics with an eye towards a physics/Mathematics degree, she had an opportunity in the summer of her 2nd year to work at BC Cancer using modeling techniques to predict tissue outcomes during prostate radiation treatments. This experience not only proved to be a great summer research job, but also revealed a straightforward trajectory, starting with graduate school in medical physics that would lead to a residency and career in clinical medical physics.
“It made [my career choice] simple”, Aria explains. “Not all areas of physics are so clear-cut when it comes to careers.”
Despite the additional workload it entails, participating in the 3MT competition offers numerous benefits including fostering effective communication skills, connecting with a broader audience and effectively communicating complex ideas through public speaking. When deciding to participate in the 3MT, Aria says of her reasoning, ”I thought it would be fun to explain what I do. The research we’re doing in physics is important for everyone, but it’s so easy to get so deep into the field and get to a science communication stage where you’re primarily talking about your research with other physicists. I think the 3MT is important because it brings a level of accessibility to physics”.
Preparing for the 3MT competition does require a substantial investment of time and effort, but it also serves as a chance for graduate students to receive recognition and validation for their research efforts. Aria’s success in winning the UBC 3MT People's Choice Award exemplifies the acknowledgment and appreciation that can be gained through participation.
Any advice for undergraduates in science? First of all, don’t be afraid of physics! The field is vast and being challenged by it doesn’t preclude the ability to learn, be inspired and to make a career in this area of science. And second of all, as a platform for showcasing research, the 3MT competition is a great place to share your physics with the world.
As Aria concludes, “it takes a big chunk of time to prepare, but I think it’s worth it. It’s very unique experience”.
Congratulations again, Aria!