NSM Students Dominate 2023 exCITE Talks Final Round

Students Present 3-Minute Pitches on Life-Changing Co-Curricular Experiences

Five undergraduate students from the UH College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics competed in the final round of the 2023 University of Houston exCITE Talks, with three taking home awards.

UH exCITE Talks Participants
The UH exCITE Talks, held each fall, challenges students to present a three-minute pitch about a co-curricular experience that affected their academic and professional development. NSM students made up half of the top 10 finalists in the 2023 competition.

The event, held each fall, challenges students to give a three-minute elevator pitch about a co-curricular learning experience and how the experience affected their academic and professional development.

Each student’s pitch is accompanied by a single slide for their presentation. The competition is modeled after the Three-Minute Thesis (3MT) competition held at over 200 universities around the world.

The presentations are evaluated by a panel of three judges, composed of UH faculty and staff.

The top three presentations are chosen by judges, and the audience votes for their top pick as the People’s Choice Award. This year’s winners were awarded Amazon gift cards.

Focused on Student Engagement

exCITE Talks, hosted by the UH Office of the Provost, is part of UH’s Quality Enhancement Plan, called Cougar Initiative to Engage (CITE). CITE offers students more co-curricular learning opportunities while focusing on increased awareness and student participation in these programs.

In all, 39 students applied to participate in the competition. Of those, 10 finalists were chosen, with half from NSM.

exCITE Talks creates a competitive academic environment for students as they engage in professional development through public speaking and presentation skills.

NSM Students Compete in Final Round

Rosemarie Le, Honors Biomedical Sciences Major – First Place Award

Rosemarie Le

Rosemarie Le, who earned first place in the final round, spent her summer in Geneva, Switzerland, conducting neuroscience research. She expected to learn a lot from her undergraduate research experience, but she didn’t expect the life-changing experience that was to come.

She discovered the Swiss culture had a different outlook on work-life balance, and it helped her become more productive. Even during her breaks, she was able to find solutions to challenges she faced in her research.

Her experience not only helped her become a better researcher, but it also helped her to better understand how “down time,” both during and outside of work, is equally important.

Arushi Dheer, Biology Major – Third Place Award

Arushi Dheer

Arushi Dheer, a biology major who placed third in the final round, spoke of her experience as a volunteer at Houston Methodist Hospital and how it led to her own project titled “Peaceful Paintings.”

She wanted to combine her passion for art and medicine to help alleviate stress and anxiety among families and patients. Dheer set up her easel in the hospital’s ICU and surgery waiting areas and painted personalized artwork.

The experience helped reinforce Dheer’s determination to continue a path to become a doctor who heals the body while offering compassionate care.

Paul Daniel, Biology Major – People’s Choice Award

Paul Daniel

Paul Daniel, majoring in biology, participated in an internship over the summer at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. Daniel conducted stem cell research in the Department of Stem Cell Transplantation and Cellular Therapy. He focused his research on a new cancer treatment using natural killer cells to target cancer.

Daniel credits the positive outlook of his lab mate for making his experience one he will never forget.

He earned the most votes for the People’s Choice Award in the final round.

Danielle Henry, Biology Major

Danielle Henry

Pediatric cancer is the second most common cause of death in children. It’s why Danielle Henry, a biology major, chose her path of oncology and immunology. She wants to explore using bacterial toxins as therapy for leukemia.

Henry spoke of her experience while shadowing a pediatric oncologist and witnessing the effects of immunotherapy on young patients. It pushed her further in her research.

She said one of the most important lessons she has learned through her experience has been patience.

Annan Khan, Environmental Sciences Major

Annan Khan

Annan Khan, an environmental sciences major, recently participated in the Student Airborne Research Program, a summer internship program at the NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.

He studied formaldehyde concentrations and how these impacted people living nearby. He took part in field campaigns by flying in NASA aircraft to collect environmental data.

While Khan learned a lot from his experience, he said it was also the first time he went through imposter syndrome, a phenomenon in which a person feels inferior to others because of self-doubt over their skills or knowledge.

Conducting research at a world-class NASA facility made Khan feel like he didn’t fit in, but he eventually realized that he belonged just like other undergraduates from across the country because they were there for the same purpose.

- Chris Guillory, College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics