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Can you convey your research passion and expertise in three minutes?

On Thursday February 29th, Hughes hosted its seventh annual three-minute thesis (3MT) competition.

The 3MT is an opportunity for students at all levels of study to showcase their academic work by outlining their research projects under strict constraints: three minutes to speak, a single PowerPoint slide, and language that can engage a general audience; not just academics in their fields.

Getting across challenging, nuanced, specialist, and often new academic work to non-experts is a great test of our ability to communicate and translate our research, and to inspire others with what we are working on. These skills are essential for the next stages of life, whether inside or outside academia – and our students proved again they are more than up to the task.

Entrants and judges from the hotly contested 2024 Hughes Hall ‘Three-minute Thesis’ competition.

Senior Tutor Tori McKee reflected on this year’s event: “I was tremendously impressed with the breadth of research represented at this year’s Three-minute Thesis. It was a pleasure to watch our students present complex and highly specialist research in engaging, accessible narratives which resonate with people outside their fields. Testament to the success of the event, and to the hard work of the organisers and participants, the finale was standing room only!”

In keeping with the range of research occurring at Hughes, the evening featured talks on topics ranging from cancer biology to Anglo-Saxon literature to international law. For many students, one of the most valuable aspects of the evening was the opportunity to hear peers in entirely different disciplines speak passionately about their research: attendees came away from the evening not only with more factual knowledge, but with a greater appreciation for the people who spend days in the archive or behind the microscope because they truly believe that their research matters.

1st place went to Hughes Hall’s Yizhou Yu, a PhD student in Neuroscience, for his compelling presentation “Unlocking the “sleep switch” in Alzheimer’s disease”.

Madiha Noman, MCR Academic Officer, said: “It was so impressive to see participants distil complex ideas into succinct and accessible presentations. All pitches were fantastic! Congratulations to the winners and participants for their hard work, and I hope it encourages more students to participate. Competition was tight this year, with many strong talks, and everyone receiving positive feedback from both the judges and the audience.”

The winners

The winning lineup was evenly split across lab science, social science, and humanities:

  • 1st place: Yizhou Yu, PhD in Neuroscience: Unlocking the “sleep switch” in Alzheimer’s disease
  • 2nd place: Tanatswa Chikaura, PhD in Psychiatry: Trauma and suicidality among autistic people
  • Audience choice award: Marianne Cross, MPhil in Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic: Illuminating the Dark Ages: Overseas Trade in Anglo-Saxon England

“Testament to the success of the event, and to the hard work of the organisers and participants, the finale was standing room only!” Dr Tori McKee, Senior Tutor.

After the talks, participants, judges, and audience members mingled over drinks, and had the opportunity to talk further about the fantastic array of research on display.

With thanks to Annie Hill and Jess Hollerton for summarising the event.