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Geoscience grad student makes nationals in Three Minute Thesis competition

Cast your People’s Choice Award ballot in support of Aprami Jaggi’s presentation
May 12, 2017
Aprami Jaggi, a PhD candidate specializing in oil geochemistry, will compete in the national finals of the Three Minute Thesis competition. Photo by Britta Kokemor

Aprami Jaggi, a PhD candidate specializing in oil geochemistry, will compete in the national finals of the Three Minute Thesis competition. Photo by Britta Kokemor

Aprami Jaggi, PhD candidate, is the second University of Calgary graduate student to compete in the Three Minute Thesis (3MT) national finals. The national competition, in its fourth year, features graduate student speakers from coast to coast who have won both their local and regional competitions.

Now in the third year of her PhD and making progress on her research project, Jaggi signed up for 3MT because she recognized the need to be able to communicate about her research, both clearly and concisely.

“I realized that the research pitch would have to be done to both a technical and non-technical audience,” says Jaggi. “3MT provided an opportunity to hone that skill.”

Jaggi, specializing in oil geochemistry in the Department of Geoscience, won the 3MT Western Canadian finals held recently at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon.

Jaggi could win 3MT People's Choice Award with your help

The Canadian Association for Graduate Studies in Ottawa is posting all 11 competing national presentations — including Jaggi’s — until May 26. It’s a virtual competition, so the judges will review the videos and decide the winner.

You can participate by casting a ballot for Jaggi to win the national 3MT People’s Choice award.

Jaggi’s talk is entitled The Ultimate Fate of Oil in the Marine Environment Following Spillage. It’s a subject of increasing relevance as more companies are seeking to collect oil from deep water environments.

She is engineering an oil spill simulator to recreate the pressure and temperature differences in the various layers of the ocean to better measure how the components of spilled oil travel through and mix with the ocean water.

Creating awareness and helping the community

“I have presented my research in academic conferences for a fairly technical audience a couple of times,” Jaggi says. “I do enjoy the process of public speaking, since it increases the chances of successful collaborations and…better science. The 3MT, however, was my very first time pitching to both a technical and non-technical audience.”

For Jaggi, communicating about her research is important not only for her own career, but also for the advancement of science and society.

“A lot of the research we do at the university is working towards a bigger goal of helping the community,” Jaggi says. “However, a lot of times this message gets lost in translation. If we can communicate that science better, it will help reach a bigger audience and create awareness.”

Research about clean water is personal

Jaggi grew up in Delhi, India and lived through the extreme shortage of clean water.

“I remember filling buckets of water from a tanker over weeks to cope with the shortage,” she says.

She was already interested in science, and this experience and the “abysmal condition of the rivers” in her city inspired her to work in water remediation. As her career progressed and she interned and worked with companies that were developing methods and chemistries to treat polluted water, Jaggi became interested in research on treating oil spill-affected waters.

The traditional methods for measuring deep water oil spills use the shake flask technique which cannot account for the extremes of high pressure and low temperature found in deep-ocean environments. With the device Jaggi’s team in the PRG lab have built, they are able to map the transportation of carcinogenic species from the spilled oil along various layers of water in the ocean. The research will deepen the understanding of how oil interacts with the seawater and inform strategies for cleanup of potential future spills.

An ambassador for women scientists

Jaggi’s co-supervisor Stephen Larter says Jaggi’s success comes as no surprise to their team. “I'm never surprised to hear that Aprami is winning awards! The whole PRG group are enormously proud of Aprami.” 

Her other co-supervisor Thomas Oldenburg agrees. “Aprami is an outstanding PhD student and plays an important role in our group both scientifically and socially,” he says. 

Larter says Jaggi is doing important science and is a great ambassador for women scientists, the University of Calgary, and her home country of India.

3MT national judges’ panel will choose a first- and second-place winner and award prizes of $1,500 and $1,000. The People’s Choice is awarded $500.

Winners will be announced the first week of June. Please share the 3MT link with your network and encourage people to vote.