Al-Qurashi Fights Criminals in Winning 3MT Presentation

Thamer Al-Qurashi presents during the 3 Minute Thesis competition Thamer Al-Qurashi presents during the 3 Minute Thesis Competition.

November 29, 2018

AUBURN, Alabama – More than 30 percent of all global deaths are caused by heart-related diseases, which are mainly triggered by coronary artery atherosclerosis. For those that are treated, the re-blockage of those arteries remains a major issue.

For Thamer Al-Qurashi, a graduate student in the Harrison School of Pharmacy pursuing a Ph.D. in pharmaceutical sciences (pharmacology option), treating these blockages was the subject of his presentation titled  “Police vs. Criminals in Atherosclerosis” in the 2018 Three Minute Thesis competition. Al-Qurashi took both first place and the people’s choice award in the competition held on Nov. 15.

Three Minute Thesis (3MT) is a research communication competition developed by The University of Queensland (Australia). The exercise challenges graduate students to present a compelling oration on their thesis or dissertation topic and its significance in just three minutes. 3MT develops academic, presentation and research communication skills and supports the development of research students’ capacity to effectively explain their research in language appropriate to a non-specialist audience.

Student receives certificate

Thamer Al-Qurashi was selected as both the overall winner and people's choice award winner at the 2018 3 Minute Thesis Competition.

Al-Qurashi continued a successful run of HSOP graduate students in the competition. Mohammed Motiur Rahman (Health Outcomes Research and Policy) finished runner-up and people’s choice winner in 2017 while Madison Chandler Bishop (Pharmacology) won first place in 2016.

“It was really unique experience. I thought it would be very easy to deliver three minutes in the front of a non-expert audience, especially that I am used to speaking in the front of people,” said Al-Qurashi. “During my preliminary, I was really shocked by how much nervousness was there, not only me, but all competitors. It was really good practice for how to manage your anxiety and push yourself out of your comfort zone.”

Working under Dr. Jianzhong Shen, associate professor in the Department of Drug Discovery and Development, Al-Qurashi came to Auburn to work in Dr. Shen’s lab on his National Institutes of Health R01 grant studying a coronary artery P2Y2 receptor gene. The goal of the project is to provide the foundation for novel therapy for the treatment of blood vessel occlusive diseases, such as angina, heart attack and stroke.

For Al-Qurashi’s 3 Minute Thesis project, he explained how the growth of smooth muscle cells, or criminal cells as he compared them, cause a re-blockage of the coronary artery. The current approach to prevent the criminal cell growth and re-blockage of the coronary artery is inserting an anti-cancer drug coated stent into the affected artery.

“In our lab, we tested the long-term application of this approach and we found that anti-cancer drugs killed all kinds of cells around the tube, including innocent cells, of which their existence is important for the healing process,” said Al-Qurashi. “Therefore, we need a drug that can target only the growth of criminal cells.”

Through his work, Al-Qurashi has found a drug called TC, which can target only the criminal cells without causing harm to any innocent cells.

“We found that TC suppressed the activity of specific proteins that are responsible for the growth of the criminals,” said Al-Qurashi. “Thus, TC will prevent the future blockage of the artery without causing a mess.”

While a unique experience, Al-Qurashi enjoyed the opportunity to present and encourages future 3MT participants to practice often and do so in a disturbing atmosphere. He also stressed the importance of making it simple.

“My advice to those who are looking to participating in the future is make a simple story that your grandma can understand, practice in a disturbing atmosphere and strengthen your talk with body language that is related to every word you mention,” said Al-Qurashi. “What I did, I practiced my talk while my apartment was hectic, my wife was vacuuming and kids were playing and jumping. This is the best way for building a sold memorization.”


About the Harrison School of Pharmacy

Auburn University’s Harrison School of Pharmacy is ranked among the top 20 percent of all pharmacy schools in the United States, according to U.S. News & World Report. Fully accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE), the School offers doctoral degrees in pharmacy (Pharm.D.) and pharmaceutical sciences (Ph.D.) while also offering a master’s in pharmaceutical sciences. For more information about the School, please call 334.844.8348 or visit

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Last Updated: November 19, 2018