Seventh Annual Three Minute Thesis Competition

Event Date: March 3, 2023

Winners Finalists Judges Emcee Event Photos

The Judging Panel

Erin Johnson

Erin Johnson.

Vice President, Organizational Strategy and Development for ingredients PLUS

Erin Johnson currently serves as vice president of organizational strategy and development for ingredients PLUS, a Graycliff Partners company. In this role, Erin is responsible for the advancement of organizational strategies focused on operational effectiveness and performance metrics, brand reputation, human resources and talent management, information systems, and product diversification.

Prior to joining ingredients PLUS, Erin served as global vice president and human resources officer for ARMOR-IIMAK, a thermal transfer, digital inks, and medical device manufacturer; and for Synacor, Inc., a leading SaaS and online advertising company serving some of the world’s most recognizable names.

Earlier in her career, she served as director of talent management for Ingram Micro, a Fortune 100 company, where she oversaw the company’s executive development programs and development center simulations focused on assessing, developing, and advancing the capabilities of the company’s high-potential talent around the world.

Erin earned an MBA from Canisius College and a certification in International Strategy from the Saïd Business School at Oxford University. She holds added certifications in Workplace Big 5 Profile and Everything DiSCĀ® behavior assessment tools and is a graduate of Leadership Buffalo. Her professional accomplishments, along with her community engagement have led to Erin being recognized as one of Buffalo’s 200 Most Powerful Women in 2022. She is also a recipient of the prestigious Business First “40 Under 40” award.

Kelsey Lewis

Kelsey Lewis.

Assitant Professor, University at Buffalo

Dr. Kelsey Lewis (she/they) is an assistant professor in the Department of Global Gender and Sexuality Studies at the University at Buffalo. She completed her PhD in 2020 at the University of Florida (UF), where she won the “People’s Choice Award" for UF’s Three Minute Thesis Competition (November 2018) and subsequently represented UF at the Florida Graduate School Conference (April 2019, Miami). Dr. Lewis found that these 3MT experiences, which cross disciplinary boundaries, helped shape the way she presents her work and helped free her from the disciplinary limitations she was accustomed to. After graduation, she was the 2020-2022 Wittig Postdoctoral Fellow in Feminist Biology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she taught feminist biology courses and examined how children with intersex traits are approached or treated, and she continues this work at UB. Dr. Lewis is deeply invested in dismantling the paradigm of binary sex in biology, medicine and beyond.

Simone Ragland

Simone Ragland.


Simone Ragland is a Licensed Social Worker, administrator, educator and proud Buffalonian. She has over 20 years of experience providing support services to individuals and families by facilitating parent education classes, family support for individuals with developmental disabilities and recovery treatment, in-home intensive therapy for children and their families through organizations in Erie County. For a decade, as Project Director for the Science and Technology Enrichment Program, Simone has cultivated a wealth of knowledge and understanding for the academic and socio-emotional needs of the students, specifically those who are historically underrepresented groups including girls in science, technology, engineering, math and medicine (STEMM). She has been immersed in the local educational community, creating, and providing opportunities for students to close the achievement, digital and equity gaps and assist students in developing and sharping skills needed to excel in post-secondary education and STEMM careers. Simone is passionate about education, empowerment, engagement, and support for children and families and increasing diversity and inclusion in the STEM pipeline, STEM education and STEM careers.  

Ezra Rich

Ezra RIch.

Marketing Communications Manager, Uniland Development Company

Ezra N. Rich is the marketing communications manager at Uniland Development Company, one of Buffalo’s largest commercial real estate developers. In this role, he supports the company’s marketing and public relations initiatives which span proposed projects and new construction to the leasing of existing commercial and residential properties. Outside of the office, he is active on the boards of the Buffalo Jewish Federation and Temple Beth Tzedek synagogue, as well as with the Public Relations Society of America Buffalo Niagara Chapter. A 2022 Buffalo Business First 40 Under 40 honoree, Rich previously worked in New York City at public relations agencies representing global technology companies including Hewlett-Packard, T-Mobile, and NEC. He is an alumnus of Brooklyn College of the City University of New York. 

Mo Sumbundu

Mo Sumbundu.

Assistant Director, Empire State Development

Mo Sumbundu is an International Trade Manager with Empire State Development’s (ESD)—Global New York division. Since he took this most recent ESD promotion, Mo has been working with NY companies that apply for ESD funding assistance programs to promote exports. The position also requires overseeing contacts between NY companies and ESD’s foreign offices, managing export marketing assistance service (EMAS) cases, interfacing with regional U.S. Department of Commerce, the U.S. Small Business Administration and other industry groups that provide export assistance. Mo also serves as a representative of Governor Kathy Hochul in the Western New York Region. He represents the Governor by helping to build and maintain productive relationships with elected officials, community leaders and advocacy/issue groups. Prior to his move to Global New York, Mo was the assistant director of the Regional Economic Development Council (REDC) of Western New York, where he worked to encourage business investment and job creation, and support diverse local economies through the efficient use of loans, grants, tax credits, real estate development, marketing and other forms of assistance in Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie and Niagara counties.