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Why you should enter the Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) competition – by someone who already has!

18 April 2018

So, tell me about your PhD…
Can you give a good answer in just three minutes? If you can it will help you in many different situations, from job interviews to family occasions. And it could even win you some money!

The Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) competition is a fun, fast-paced and enlightening event, whether you’re presenting or observing. We’re now inviting entries for the 2018 Cardiff heat, which will be taking place on Thursday 7 June. A winner will be selected to progress to the national stages of the competition. £400 of cash prizes are up for grabs for the best presentations, with further prizes on offer at the national final. All doctoral researchers, regardless of stage of study, are invited to enter, and further information plus an application form can be found online.

Ben Woods, a PhD student in the School of Chemistry, entered the competition in 2017 – check out his video on our YouTube channel! Here, he tells us what he learnt from taking part, and why he would recommend it to others…

I heard about 3MT® through my supervisor and was told that a colleague of hers who had participated in it during her PhD would thoroughly recommend it. Along with the typical spiel on how it would be good practice for public speaking, how it will help me rationalise my research and look good on a CV, she also mentioned that there were some hefty cash prizes to be won. As a student you’d be daft to turn down a shot at earning some extra money!

Despite entering the competition for pretty superficial reasons my favourite aspect of 3MT® ended up being planning the talk. As the challenge of the competition is to condense three years of current and planned research into three minutes, there are large parts of any research project that can’t be covered. Therefore, planning the talk involved breaking down my research project, cherry-picking the parts that would be most interesting to a broad audience, and then structuring these parts in a concise way that avoids jargon but doesn’t come across as patronising. This process is definitely challenging, however it’s also really liberating to spend time stripping down your research to its most interesting core, and this process actually ended up helping me to prioritise and plan my research project. As an added bonus, spending so much time thinking about what a lay audience would find interesting about my research, and how to talk about it without using jargon, means friends and family definitely take longer to regret asking how the research is going!

The competition itself is very supportive and not as intimidating as I thought it may be. Furthermore, having people from such a wide spectrum of subjects to talk about their cutting-edge research in short, sharp three-minute bursts using language you can understand as a non-expert resulted in a really interesting few hours. An unforeseen bonus of competing in the 3MT® competition was that I was invited a few months later to speak at another Cardiff University-organised public engagement event, PUBlic Uni 17.  This event gave me a chance to talk about my research to an audience I would never have had the chance to talk to during my project otherwise. The overall experience has given me a very on-the-nose lesson of the advantages of networking and putting yourself out there!

I really would recommend 3MT® to any PhD student, and like my supervisor’s friend I would recommend it mainly for how it will help structure your research and recognise the most interesting parts of your project, and not only for the chance to win cash prizes!


1 comment
  1. Taz

    Ben’s video was revealing and this is actually inspiring not just for existing doctoral researchers but for those aspiring to embark upon doctoral research in the near future.

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