Three Minutes Of Fame

The Three Minute Thesis, or 3MT, is a competition – and a challenge – for PhD students at universities across Australia and New Zealand. With a single PowerPoint slide, each competitor must convey the essentials of their research in just 180 seconds. The best and brightest from universities on both sides of the Tasman will gather at the University of Western Sydney in October; vying for fame, glory and a $5000 prize.

Each university is allowed a single representative. Monash University’s competitor will be chosen at the university-wide final held in September. Entry to the final is gained by emerging victorious from the faculty-level competitions – such as that which was held at the Parkville campus (home to the Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences) on a brisk winter’s morning in July.

Eight competitors gathered in the green room, doing some last-minute rehearsal and trying to quell the butterflies in their stomachs. The fact that they had already been selected as the best of an initial pool of 22 hopefuls did little to ease the tension. This was The Big One, and it didn’t matter how good you were a few days ago if you forgot your speech half-way through this performance.

The crowd had gathered, the judges were seated, the all-important clock was set – it was time. One by one, they used plain English phrases and clever analogies to get the point of their research across to an audience who may not have been familiar with the intricacies of the particular subject areas. The specialised technical vocabulary (read: jargon) and innumerable acronyms that generally typify scientific conversations were almost entirely absent, with ideas being expressed in creative ways. Drug receptors in the brain became traffic wardens. Combination drug therapy became a superhero team-up. Prostate glands became insidious villains. Potential drug compounds became jigsaw puzzles. Each speech was carefully crafted and expertly delivered.

The quality of all performances was excellent, and the judges had a hard time separating them from each other. In the end, first, second and third places were separated by half a point each. Victory was awarded to Nicole Eise, for her presentation on the use of plant derivatives to treat prostate enlargement. Second was Stephen Drane, for his work with venomous, predatory snails. Third was Lori Fennins, for explaining how she was developing a treatment for African sleeping sickness. The People’s Choice award was given to the presenter deemed best by popular audience vote, and was also taken out by Drane.
The Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences was a bit late to the party this year – most of the other faculties chose their representatives weeks before. Be sure to keep an eye out for Nicole’s presentation as she battles it out in the Alexander Threatre on September 3 – come along and cheer for your faculty’s representative, too!

Stephen Drane

The author Stephen Drane

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