180 Seconds

by Paulina Rowinska, PhD student in the Department of Mathematics.

Years of research squeezed into three minutes? That was the task I and eighteen other participants of Imperial College Three Minute Thesis competition had to face on Tuesday 24th April 2018.

The rules are very simple. Contestants get exactly three minutes to describe their research to a general audience, using only one static slide. Sounds easy, but trust me, it’s extremely difficult. How do you introduce your narrow topic, explain what your research involves and persuade the audience that they should care in the first place?

All nineteen of us managed to do that. I learned a lot about a variety of research areas, from planting forests in Brazil, to optimal mixing of coffee and milk, to gravitational waves. I was impressed by the amount of information other contestant were able to convey in such a short time.

Because my last name starts with “R” and the order of presentations was alphabetical, I had to wait for what felt like AGES for my turn. These were very stressful hours! However, as soon as I stepped on the stage, I felt much better, especially since the audience was lively and reacting very positively to my words.

Our host, Professor Tom Welton, the dean of the Faculty of Natural Sciences, made the event truly entertaining. His jokes, smiles and charismatic personality let us, the contestants, forget about the challenge ahead of us.

Finally the panel of judges consisting of Dr Helal Ahmed, Dr Amy Seakins and Simon Schöller picked their favourite talks. The third place went to Hannah Maude from the Department of Medicine for her talk ‘Genomics of Common Disease’ that explored the link between the genes and diabetes. The second place was awarded to Maria Lucey from the same department. During her presentation ‘Food for Thought: Inhibiting Appetite with Prokineticin’ she explained how our appetites works. And the first prize… to me, for my talk ‘Winds of Change’! I used my three minutes to describe how I’m applying mathematics to help investments in renewable energy sources. The audience also voted for their favourite presentation, which turned out to be ‘Wearable Integrated Circuits for Sweat Analysis’ by Matt Douthwaite from the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, who made us feel a bit better about our stress sweat 😉

I signed up for this contest spontaneously and I’m truly happy I did it! During this fun event I got a chance to hear about the research of fellow PhD students as well as practice giving talks, which is the key to get over the fear of public speaking.

Make sure that in 2019 you sign up yourself and get your own three minutes of fame. Good luck!

The 2018 Three Minute Thesis Contestants
The winners! L-R: 2nd place, 3rd place, 1st place and People’s Choice winner