Compelling three-minute talks highlight graduate research excellence
The University of Melbourne’s 3 Minute Thesis Competition (3MT) Grand Final is a highlight on the University calendar and this year it did not disappoint.
Those who were in the audience, or watching the action unfold live on the web, experienced an entertaining and inspiring insight into the passion and life’s work of 12 talented PhD candidates, in fields as diverse as language, engineering, veterinary science, education and medicine.
The 3MT premise? Present a clear, concise and engaging oration of your research in accessible terms to an intelligent lay audience in three minutes with the use of only one slide.
This is quite a feat, considering a PhD is a comprehensive three-year research degree requiring the candidate to deliver their findings in an 80,000 to 100,000 word thesis.
The 3MT is considered an important innovation in graduate research training as it enables candidates to develop fundamental academic and research communication skills.
The competition began at the University of Queensland (UQ) in 2008 and has since been adopted by a number of universities across Australia and New Zealand. It has grown into a national competition, with over 40 institutions competing annually for the title of ‘3MT Trans-Tasman Champion’.
Professor Dick Strugnell, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Graduate Research) from the Melbourne School of Graduate Research commends the competition and its value.
“Being able to reduce complex ideas down to simple statements for a general audience is vital for any researcher. The 3MT enables candidates to see their research in the bigger picture, how it adds value to society and contributes to the greater good of humanity. The key is to reflect on the purpose of the research, and then present it in a succinct way that connects to the audience,” Professor Strugnell says.
The competitors this year delivered some of the most compelling presentations the competition has seen since its inception at Melbourne in 2009.
Dr Simon Crouch from the School of Population Health presented his research into the health and wellbeing of children with same sex parents, which enthralled the audience and judges, landing him third prize.
“After the final more than one person came over to me and congratulated me on conducting what they viewed as important research”, says Dr Crouch. “They were a young woman with two mums and a mother with a lesbian daughter. They were really appreciative of the work I am doing and the 3MT was the way they were able to connect to my work.”
Many fascinating research topics were presented and included the bionic eye, council policies on alcohol-fuelled violence, the identity of foreign language teachers in English speaking countries, and the role of horror in society.
The winner this year was Sara Ciesielski from the School of Languages and Linguistics in the Faculty of Arts. Sara won a $4500 travel scholarship for her engaging presentation, Learning to be Sherpa: Children, language and culture on the roof of the world.
Ms Ciesielski’s research into Sherpa child language and culture in a remote Himalayan society was captivating. As most early child language research is based on European languages, she hopes her work with these little-studied communities will make child language research universal.
Ms Ciesielski was thrilled to have won the competition.
“All of the competitors were so strong, doing amazing research and presenting it in such fascinating and professional ways. I feel very lucky to be the one walking away with the trophy.”
With her travel scholarship, Sara hopes to conduct similar work in India or Tibet or to attend an international conference.
This is the first time a PhD candidate from an Arts discipline has won the 3MT at Melbourne.
“As a member of the Arts Faculty, it is especially exciting to win the 3MT. Occasionally we Arts folk struggle to communicate the value of our work to the public, especially alongside all the brilliant, life-saving work being done in Science and Medicine. Arts has so much to offer in helping us to think differently about the world, and to change it for the better in really important ways”, Ms Ciesielski says.
Ms Ciesielski will now represent Melbourne at the 2012 3MT National Competition at the University of Queensland.
View the 3MT Grand Final videos: