Sustainable energy engineering student wins the 2021 FAS Three Minute Thesis competition

March 24, 2021

Update on April 15, 2021:

The 2021 SFU Three Minute Thesis Finals have concluded. Congratulations to Nicholaus Zilinski, who won third place in the finals.

The Faculty of Applied Sciences (FAS) heat of SFU’s Three Minute Thesis competition was held asynchronously this year, with student video presentations posted online for viewing. A panel of alumni judges reviewed and scored each video submission, while the public was invited to vote for their favourite to receive the People’s Choice Award.

The new format of the competition allowed the student presentations to reach a global audience – over 1,400 votes were submitted toward the Peoples’ Choice Award. Viewers were also invited to submit questions that were asked to presenters during the live awards event hosted on March 23, 2021 by FAS dean Eugene Fiume. This year’s submissions left the judges impressed by the quality and interdisciplinary nature of the research projects.

Sustainable energy engineering master of applied science (MASc) candidate Laura Whelan was announced as the First-Place winner based on the judges scores. Her presentation was titled “Thermal Energy Storage for Residential Application.”

Engineering science master of applied science (MASc) candidate Nicholaus Zilinski was announced as the Runner Up based on the judges scores, as well as the People’s Choice Award winner based on public voting. His presentation was titled “Mind Reading with Laser Beams.”

Judges noted that both Whelan and Zilinski not only clearly explained their research during their presentations, but they also successfully created a diagram in their one slide that was simple yet informative.

Both Whelan and Zilinski will advance to the SFU Final on April 15 where they will compete with students across the university for the chance to win $1000 and represent SFU at the Western Regional Competition.

Three Minute Thesis is a global competition that challenges graduate students to present their research to a non-specialist audience in three minutes using only one slide. Since 2013, SFU’s Office of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies has been organizing the annual university competition and sponsors the individual heats organized by the faculties.

Visit for details and videos from the FAS heat. For full details about the overall SFU competition, including the rules and event schedule, visit

2021 FAS Three Minute Thesis Student Participants

Ohoud Alharbi, Computing Science PhD Student

The Effects of Predictive Features of Mobile Keyboards on Text Entry Speed and Errors

Supervisors: Dr. Parmit Chilana (CMPT), Dr. Wolfgang Stuerzlinger (SIAT)

Daina Baker, Sustainable Energy Engineering MASc Student

Sustainable 3D Printed Electronics with Sheath Conductors

Supervisor: Dr. Woo Soo Kim (MSE)

Sarah Garner, Sustainable Energy Engineering MASc Student

Fuel Cells: Linking Membrane Durability to Longevity

Supervisor: Dr. Erik Kjeang (MSE)

Kimia Haghighi, Sustainable Energy Engineering MASc Student

A Bridge to Zero Emission Vehicles: Fuel of the Future!

Supervisor: Dr. Gordon McTaggart-Cowan (SEE)

Pawel Kudzia, Engineering Science PhD Student

Characterizing the Control of External Force Vectors

Supervisor: Dr. Max Donelan (BPK)

Sathish Panchapakesan, Engineering Science MASc Student

Implementation of Neural Networks on FPGA

Supervisor: Dr. Zhenman Fang (ENSC)

First Place Winner

Laura Whelan, Sustainable Energy Engineering MASc Student

Thermal Energy Storage for Residential Application

Supervisor: Dr. Majid Bahrami (MSE)

Runner Up and People's Choice Winner

Nicholaus Zilinski, Engineering Science MASc Student

Mind Reading with Laser Beams

Supervisor: Dr. Teresa Cheung (ENSC)

2021 Judging Panel

Noah Adams (BSc ’08, Computing Science)
Software Engineer, Salesforce

Dr. Ouldooz Baghban Karimi (PhD '13, Computing Science)
Lecturer, SFU School of Computing Science

Dr. Manpreet Kaur (PhD ’19, Mechatronic Systems Engineering)
Lecturer, SFU School of Sustainable Energy Engineering
2019 SFU 3MT Finalist

Biljana Pecelj (BASc ’06, Engineering Science)
Senior Product Manager, Hootsuite

Dr. Pete Thimmaiah (PhD '18, Mechatronic Systems Engineering)
Program Manager, Fraser Basin Council