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3 MT: Australia's Academic Showcase

BrainGain magazine spoke to Dr. Krystyna Haq, Graduate Education Officer in the University of Western Australia, about the 3 Minute Thesis competition organised at UWA in September 2015. She discussed the reasons behind UWA's success in the competition, its research strengths, as well as continued engagement with pushing the boundaries of science. Read more below.
BY Skendha Singh |   05-10-2015

The 3 Minute Thesis is a unique event organized by the University of Queensland since 2008. 3MT invites PhD students to explain their intensive research, using presentations and non-specialist language, in a brief span of 3 minutes!

UWA finalist, Marcus Giacci with the runner up, Rachael Zemek

Previous winners have talked about how to make breast cancer surgery more effective, whether probiotics can inhibit kidney disease, and how we can fight glaucoma.

The University of Western Australia has been a part of 3MT’s Trans-Tasman edition since the start and, as a member of the G8, has an excellent research tradition. We spoke to Dr. Krystyna Haq, Graduate Education Officer, about the competition, the university, as well as research. Below are edited excerpts.

  1. The University of Western Australia has been a part of the 3 MT since 2010. What is the competition’s USP?

    The 3MT is more than a short “pitch” because depth of ideas is expected. The judging criteria include a clear explanation of the background to the research problem, and some discussion of results and outcomes. Although 3 minutes seems a short time in which to explain research that takes 3 or 4 years to complete, in a well-structured talk, it’s actually long enough in which to convey complex ideas in a clear manner.
  2. According to you, what are the UWA’s research strengths?

    Over 6 years of the 3MT competition at UWA I’ve consistently seen ground-breaking research presented in the areas of Evolutionary Biology, Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Psychology, Medical Sciences, Physics, Plant Genomics, Resource Economics, Social and Cultural Studies, Business and research related to our oceans (eg understanding the distributions and behaviours of sharks and whales in our region).
  3. Dr. Herve This, a French Chemist, said “There’s no such thing as applied sciences.” Comment?

    I think I agree with the sentiment here. All science is based on hypothesis driven enquiry.  Even science that tackles the most obviously practical problem, works from the basis of testable hypotheses which the scientist evaluates with the collection of data, and in a sense actively seeks to disprove.  I love the fact that science continually seeks to push the boundaries of knowledge and is not just restricted to finding a solution to a practical problem.
  4. One of the key advantages of a competition like 3MT is that it helps bridge the gap between researchers and public. How does the UWA promote similar engagements otherwise?

    UWA’s Institute of Advanced Studies has an extensive program that bridges the gap between researchers and the public. This includes public lectures and the very popular “Research Tapas” evening that provides “intellectual tastings which will provide food for thought” (
  5. The UWA has won the Trans-Tasman 3MT more number of times than any other university. What do you think is the reason?

    I think a key reason is the excellence of our students and their supervisors, but an additional factor is the way that we run the 3MT in our University. To us it’s primarily an educational event that concludes with a competition, and not just a competition on its own. So as students prepare their talks, they are given opportunities to develop them together, and to give each other feedback and guidance on what works and what doesn’t. We only consider 3MT participants to be in competition with each other during the Final – up to that point it’s a collaborative effort in which we all aim to provide constructive feedback so that everyone who participates in the competition is confident that they have a talk they can deliver with pride.


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