Uni Life

Presenting my research in three minutes

Heidi Walkden winning the Griffith 3MT finals

Why is your research important? You obviously know, but how do you convince others? There is a big difference between writing about your research and giving a verbal presentation about it. This was the challenge I faced when I entered into the Three Minute Thesis competition.

For those who are unaware, the Three Minute Thesis (3MT) is a competition for Research Masters and PhD candidates during which participants are invited to tell an audience about their research within three minutes (not as easy as it sounds!).

I have competed in the 3MT twice now and each time I have learnt new things about science communication which can only be gained from participation. After winning the Griffith University 3MT final I was fortunate enough to reach the top 10 of the Asia-Pacific 3MT finals which had 55 competitors from eight countries. It has been a wonderful experience to learn about different areas of research in a concise way and to meet the researchers involved both at Griffith University and across the globe. I even had the opportunity to meet Australia’s Chief Scientist, Dr Alan Finkel, who was part of the judging panel for the Asia-Pacific 3MT Grand Final.

Even though your presentation time is short, only 3 minutes, it can take quite a lot of time to prepare for. It can be very difficult to condense your research and to make it understandable for a general audience, however, practice makes progress. I am much more comfortable talking about my research now that I have developed my story or as some would say my ‘elevator pitch’. The elevator pitch is a concise but persuasive speech about your research which can be used to promote your work during unexpected opportunities. I was able to talk about my research during a flight home with the person sitting next to me – who happened to be working in a related field! This could easily have been a missed opportunity had I not previously developed my elevator pitch.

The 3MT is a fantastic opportunity to tell others about your research in a clear and succinct way. The skills used to do this are important not only for 3MT but for future outreach and potential funding opportunities. Just this year I have been able to talk about my research in several schools for Australia’s National Science Week, at an international conference held in Scotland, and during interviews for Coral Coast Radio and ABC Radio Brisbane. The 3MT experience will help you to develop your pitch and to receive invaluable feedback from those both within your field and outside it. Some of the best advice I received were from people outside of my research field.

Are you a PhD candidate thinking of participating in the 3MT? If you are, my advice would be to go for it. You’ve got nothing to lose and at the very least you’ll perfect your research pitch.

Watch my Asia-Pacific 3MT Final presentation


 – Heidi Walkden (Guest Blogger)

Heidi is a Griffith University PhD candidate in Neuroscience and Microbiology. Working with both Menzies Health Institute of Queensland and Griffith Institute for Drug Discovery, Heidi completed her undergraduate with honours degree in Biomedical Science at QUT before moving to Griffith to begin her doctorate under the supervision of Associate Professor Jenny Ekberg.



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