Computer science student wins award at thesis competition

Ashwinee Mehta, a graduate student in the East Carolina University Department of Computer Science, received the People’s Choice Award during the Graduate School’s annual Three-Minute Thesis (3MT) Competition.

As part of the event, graduate students have just three minutes and can use just one PowerPoint slide to present their thesis research to a panel of judges and the attending audience.

“Compressing the entire thesis into a three-minute presentation was challenging,” Mehta said. “There was so much content to talk about, and given the time constraint of three minutes, it was difficult to select what to talk about to explain the thesis to the best extent.”

Her advisor, Dr. Nic Herndon, assistant professor and director of graduate studies in the Department of Computer Science, suggested she enter the competition.

“The concept of the competition to present my thesis in three minutes using one static slide was itself attractive,” Mehta said. “I was overly excited to present my thesis to the audience, and I also wanted to watch the thesis presentations of other students. The entire three-minute thesis competition was a wonderful experience right from preparing the slide to grabbing the first prize in the people’s choice category.”

Those attending the event vote on the People’s Choice Award.

“I was overly excited and happy,” Mehta said. “I felt proud, and I would like to thank Dr. Nic Herndon, who is my advisor, for introducing me to this competition and encouraging me to participate in it. All my effort was recognized, and I would encourage students to participate in the future 3MT competitions as they help to improve many skills.”

Mehta’s presentation focused on the use of machine learning to automatically identify facial landmarks that can be used to classify a patient’s facial shape to help with the selection of a denture model. A three-dimensional denture design can then be created using frontal and side-view images of the patient as well as images from inside the mouth. This can improve patient outcomes as it relates to the facial aesthetics of the patient, Mehta said.

“The goal of the research is to streamline the denture design process by considering the facial and teeth aesthetics — to enable denture-in-progress visualizations that avoid the end-moment denture refinements — with a simple graphical user interface that is easy to use by dental technicians,” she said.

Mehta’s goal is to become a software developer database administrator, and while looking for graduate schools, she got a good impression from ECU’s computer science program.

“I spoke to some professors in the College of Engineering and Technology regarding the course structure and research and thesis projects,” she said. “The response I received was helpful and everything went exactly right. I then decided to attend ECU for my graduate school studies, and I am glad I made the right decision.”

More information on ECU’s graduate programs in computer science, data science and software engineering can be found online.