PhD research at the Faculty of Engineering and Science is changing the world – but how? In essence, this was the question being answered by participants in the University of Greenwich’s first ever ‘Three Minute Thesis’ competition on 10th July 2017. Faculty doctoral students responded to the challenge by explaining their research creatively, in language appropriate to a non-specialist audience, in just 180 seconds. That’s years of study, work and roughly 80,000 words of a dissertation distilled down to its purest form. How did they do it?
The Three Minute Competition, known as 3MT®, is open only to PhD students who have passed their ‘transfer viva’ – the internal examination where research students defend their work in order to upgrade to a doctorate. Ten intrepid students took part in the inaugural Greenwich 3MT, planning, preparing and playing by the rules – of which there are many. If you thought that a PowerPoint presentation could do all the explaining, then think again: you’re only allowed one single, static slide, with no transitions, animations or movement. Nor can you use electronic media or props – including costumes, musical instruments or lab equipment.
3MT presentations rely on clarity of thought, storytelling techniques, and the ability to explain complex concepts in accessible language – without using jargon and explaining terms and related research where necessary. The aim is for the participants to get across what their work is about, why it’s important and what they hope to achieve, allowing the audience to relate to the outcome.
PhD students from across the faculty took part in the contest, with topics ranging from mosquito ecology to cancer signalling pathways, preventing anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries, big data, civil engineering for mitigating the impacts of climate change, Leishmania infection in human cells, amongst others.
There were two major prizes: the Judges’ Choice Award and the People’s Choice Award. The judges were Professor Andrew Westby, Director of the Natural Resources Institute (NRI) and Faculty Director of Research and Enterprise, Lesley Gould, Academic Support Manager at the Drill Hall Library, and Olumide Ojo, PhD student in the department of Applied Engineering and Management.
Winning the coveted Judges’ Choice Award and a prize of £1,500 to attend an international conference was Sona Vyskocilova, PhD student at NRI. Sona’s presentation took the audience to the agricultural fields of the Mediterranean, where farmers are battling with the diminutive yet destructive pest, whitefly. Sona’s work is about previously unrecognised species diversity within whitefly. With her prize winnings, she will be travelling to Australia to attend the ‘Science Protecting Plant Health 2017’ conference in Brisbane, followed by a Whitefly Workshop, then a 2-week training session at CSIRO in Canberra to learn new skills. “I highly recommend this challenge to anyone,” says Sona, “as it is always beneficial to look at your work from a different angle. It has definitely pushed me to see the ‘bigger picture’ and I think many people doing PhDs struggle to keep this in mind.”
The People’s Choice Award was won by Eugene Ogbodo, PhD student in Engineering. His topic was all about developing novel microwave devices. “This prize means a lot to me as I never expected it,” says Eugene. “It will give me the chance to attend another conference before I graduate, in the USA if possible.”
Developed by the University of Queensland, Australia, 3MT has grown since its inception in 2008, with competitions now being held in over 600 universities and institutions across 59 countries worldwide. Participants share ideas, develop their presentation, research and communication skills and could win a significant prize. Enrol in a PhD at the University of Greenwich, and you could carry out world-changing research, take part in challenging contests, win prizes and travel the world to further your career!