Earlier this year, we challenged postgraduate researchers from across the University to present their research in just three minutes and with only one slide. Cardiff University has taken part in the national Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition for the last five years, and this year saw our highest level of interest to date. In the run-up to the competition, we delivered training workshops to help entrants to hone their presentation skills and, at the end of March, 16 brave researchers competed for their place in the national semi-finals.
Here, this year’s three prize winners tell us about their experiences of taking part, and the valuable skills they have gained…
Luke Kidwell, School of Chemistry
First Prize and People’s Choice
“It was not the challenge I was expecting. As my usual audience consists of other chemists, the challenge was to present in a way that was more accessible to everyone and I found that pretty difficult. The Doctoral Academy’s 3MT workshop helped in this regard as it allowed me to recognise jargon I should avoid during the presentation.
I was very nervous. I was rehearsing for three hours prior the event and then during the 3MT I was constantly going over it in my head until my presentation came up. Though after delivering it, I felt an immediate sense of relief and was glad I did it.
I feel it’s helped me massively in presenting to an audience outside of chemistry – it is an important skill as it is quite easy to feel isolated within a field when not able to communicate clearly to a wider audience. I think it will help me massively in my future career. I am looking for a career outside of academia and it’s given me the confidence to go outside my comfort zone and look at careers not directly related to chemistry.”
Luke will now be representing Cardiff University at the 3MT semi-finals. Stay tuned for updates!
Laura Shobiye, School of Social Sciences
“I found the Three Minute Thesis much more challenging than doing a standard length presentation of 15-20 minutes. I am naturally quite loquacious and struggle to be concise. But this is also the reason I entered the competition in the first place. I wanted practice at condensing what I have to say. Once I decided on a focus, then it became easier to do – but it still requires a fair amount of work.
I was very nervous, and I am not normally a nervous presenter. The combination of the time limit and having to do it all from memory was scary for me. I’d have been fine doing it from memory without the time limit, as I could have waffled (my fallback!). However, all the other competitors were really friendly and supportive and it was a lovely atmosphere on the day. That really helped.
From taking part, I learnt that sometimes stepping outside of my comfort zone and challenging myself is worth it. I definitely learnt how to be concise and work with very strict limits. It has made me a much more confident presenter. I entered the competition for practice and a challenge, but I also didn’t believe I was ready to orally present in other academic settings. Winning a prize helped me to realise that I have capabilities I didn’t know I had and that I am far more ready to talk about my work, in public, than I had believed. As I’m in the first year of my PhD that feels like a wonderful discovery to have, early in my journey. I have since adapted my 3MT presentation and presented at an external conference where I got some great feedback, made useful contacts and learnt a lot from others. I would not have had that experience without the 3MT competition.”
Monika Sledziowska, School of Biosciences
“I found that writing the script for the presentation was quite a challenge. The process made me realise that some of the facts I take for granted are not common knowledge and require an explanation. It was also a rare opportunity to use vivid language and metaphors to explain certain concepts. I found the support offered by the Doctoral Academy prior to the presentation invaluable.
The presentation itself was surprisingly nerve-wrecking. The strict time limit and the presence of the multidisciplinary audience was both a source of nervousness and excitement for me.
The competition was an opportunity to think about my research from a novel perspective. I found myself turning familiar concepts in my mind and seeing them in a different way than before. If I keep engaging in this process, I believe it will greatly improve my ability to clearly communicate scientific concepts to others. I’m sure it will be an incredibly useful skill down the line.”
Watch all of this year’s presentations (as well as presentations from previous years) on our YouTube page.
Interested in taking part in next year’s competition? We’ll be telling you how to apply via our Doctoral Academy email bulletin and on Twitter nearer the time.