By Erin Lafferty
The winner of the second annual Three Minute Thesis competition at the School is Natalie Savona of the Faculty of Public Health & Policy. Natalie described her experience in the competition as “challenging, terrifying and absolutely brilliant for cementing your PhD research itself, let alone for practising public speaking and getting others excited about your work”. Now in the final year of her PhD, Natalie’s research seeks to understand where people think responsibility lies when it comes to healthy eating. Natalie’s engaging presentation titled “Who chose your breakfast?” was submitted this month to the UK semi-final competition. When it comes to thinking about her PhD research, Natalie said that the competition “made me realise how accessible the ideas really were despite all the theory and complexity; also, it helped me to be less attached to certain parts of the research and just get to the core of it”.
The Three Minute Thesis competition challenges research degree students to engagingly explain their thesis research to a general audience in just three minutes. It is the brainchild of the University of Queensland and is run by Vitae in the UK.
The six research degree students in the School final had to earn their place by first competing in preliminary heats. Their creative and accessible presentations on topics ranging from mental health to diabetes to reproductive health made it a challenge for the three final judges, Ann Fazakerley, Della Freeth, and Susannah Mayhew, to select a winner. In addition to awarding first place (£500) to Natalie, the judges awarded second place (£250) to Matthew Quaife’s presentation titled “Sex, risk and preferences”. Matthew, also from the Faculty of Public Health & Policy, is a second year PhD student researching demand for new HIV prevention tools and how they affect decision making by sex workers in Johannesburg, South Africa. When discussing his participation in the competition Matthew said, “I found it a great exercise to drag myself away from the daily grind of research, and work out what was really interesting and important about my thesis. It was very motivational!”
As public understanding is key in the competition, the audience also had a say in the judging. Following over 70 audience votes Priya Morjaria from the Faculty of Infectious & Tropical Diseases was chosen as the audience favourite with her presentation “To see or not to see – why is it a question?”. Her prize was a selection of books on science communication. In the second year of her PhD, Priya says she chose to take part in the competition because she “thought it would be fun to do something like this and create a buzz about what I am doing in a creative way”. Her research seeks to improve school programmes for eye health in India. From taking part in the competition Priya reflected that “I have definitely picked up communication skills and learnt that knowing your research yourself is not enough, it needs to be shared in a manner that resonates with people who are not academics.”
If you would like to participate in next year’s three minute thesis competition, please contact email@example.com. The call for applications will begin in January 2017. In the meantime, get inspired by the presentation videos of all of our finalists:
- Natassia Brenman – Mental health at the margins
- Priya Morjaria – To see or not to see – why is it a question?
- Nyawira Mwangi – Can we outrun this epidemic?
- Matthew Quaife – Sex, risk, and preferences
- Natalie Savona – Who chose your breakfast?
Image (top): Our finalists with the judges and compere. From left to right: Susannah Mayhew, Natalie Savona, Matthew Quaife, Natassia Brenman, Yovitha Sedekia, Alan Dangour, Priya Morjaria, Ann Fazakerley, Nyawira Mwangi, Della Freeth. Credit: Tom Garvey
Image (side): Alan Dangour (Reader in Food & Nutrition for Global Health) acting as compere for the competition. Credit: Elizabeth Williamson