April 9, 2019

Chemical and petroleum engineering student takes top spot in 2019 UCalgary 3MT

Laura Rios Carreno will represent University of Calgary at Canadian Western Regionals April 17

It’s a cliché to say engineers lack communication skills. If you believe that, you clearly haven’t met 2019 UCalgary 3MT (Three Minute Thesis) champ Laura Rios Carreno.

Rios, a master’s student in chemical and petroleum engineering, won first place for her talk Modification of Asphalt with Reactive Polymers for Quality Enhancement of Pavement. As winner, Rios takes home a $1,000 top prize and will represent the University of Calgary at the Canadian Western Regionals on April 17.

Kinesiology master’s student Laura Crack came in second, winning $500 for her talk CHESS: Change in Hormones with Exposure to Student Stress. English PhD student Benjamin Blyth took third place and the People’s Choice award for his talk Shakespeare’s Shoreditch 19: Site-Specificity and Collective Creation in Shakespeare’s Early Works.

First 3MT win for an international student

Rios’s win marks the first time an international student has taken the top spot in the 3MT. Rios, who is originally from Colombia, graduated with a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering before moving to Calgary for her master’s program.

“I always loved chemistry,” says Rios, “and I am drawn to engineering because of its focus on practical problems. Engineers solve problems by understanding the underlying science.”

Choosing the University of Calgary was almost a no-brainer for Rios, who set her sights on an English-speaking university as an undergrad in Colombia. Starting from an interest in Colombia’s petroleum industry, Rios was drawn to Alberta for its strengths in oil and gas research. The Schulich School of Engineering stood out as a place where she could apply her passion for science to real-world problems.

2019 UCalgary 3MT winner Laura Rios Carreno (right) with her supervisor, Dr. Martin Jasso, PhD

2019 UCalgary 3MT winner Laura Rios Carreno (right) with her supervisor, Dr. Martin Jasso, PhD

Tackling the problem of potholes

Her research seeks to improve asphalt production to reduce long-term maintenance costs of roads. “Canadian roads tend to form ruts in hot weather, and potholes in cold weather,” explains Rios. “These are expensive problems resulting from modifiers in the asphalt separating during the mixing process. My research uses an epoxy modifier that crosslinks with the asphalt during mixing, enhancing its stiffness at high temperatures and making it less prone to rutting and cracking.”

The 2019 3MT finals were hosted by University of Calgary Chancellor Deborah Yedlin. Members of the Chancellor’s Club joined representatives of the university’s leadership in the audience, including President Ed McCauley and Provost and Vice-President (Academic) Dru Marshall.

Rios will represent the University of Calgary at the Western Canadian Regionals April 17 at the University of Northern British Columbia in Prince George.