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Two awards in 3-Minute Thesis competition for TRIUMF Ph.D. candidate Andrew Robertson

04 April 2018

In addition to designing radiochemistry experiments and building remote handling electronics, TRIUMF-UBC Ph.D. candidate Andrew Robertson can tell one heck of a great story. 

Just ask anyone in the audience at the recent 2018 UBC Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition where Robertson took home first place and the People’s Choice award for his thesis presentation, Enabling Targeted Alpha Therapy for Treatment of Advanced Cancers.

Robertson, who is also a student in the Isotopes for Science and Medicine (IsoSiM) program, used his three minutes to demonstrate how TRIUMF can produce the isotope actinium-225 (Ac-225), a radioactive atom that has shown immense promise as a therapy for some kinds of cancer. Globally, what small amounts of actinium that are currently produced come from decades-old nuclear weapons material, and its scarcity has stifled the pace of therapeutics research. Robertson went on to outline the work he has undertaken to show that TRIUMF has the capacity to produce actinium-225 in quantities that may potentially reshape global production and save millions of lives.

Robertson managed to squeeze the story of actinium into a concise, articulate and approachable 3-minute presentation that wowed the crowd and garnered him two awards. We can’t wait to see what he does with his other 12 minutes of fame. 

We caught up with Robertson to ask him about his 3MT win, and what lies on his horizon:

TRIUMF: How does it feel to win both the Merit and the People's Choice? 

AR: I’m surprised and thrilled that my talk was so well received. For a competition like this, I’m fortunate that the TRIUMF-Ac225 story is such an exciting one to tell. My work is also suddenly getting a lot more attention, which is exciting but also something I’m not that used to.

TRIUMF: How was the competition different than you expected?

AR: The 3-Minute Thesis competition was a lot more fun than I thought it would be, both as a participant and an audience member. In academia, it’s very easy to stay focused only on what’s happening in your own field, but all the 3MT participants’ talks were so good and I really enjoyed hearing about exciting work other UBC graduate students were doing in other departments. 

TRIUMF: You're headed to Regina for the 3MT Western Regional competition on April 27- what are you most excited about for your trip and presentation there?

AR: I always enjoy talking about the TRIUMF-Ac225 story and I’m looking forward to promoting it in other parts of Canada. It’s really a Canadian story too. I also have a few friends in Regina that I haven’t seen in a while so I’m excited to be back there for a couple days.

Best of luck in your next round of storytelling, Andrew!

You can keep tabs on the 3MT Western Regional competition here.