Doctoral School

Three Minute Thesis

An 80,000 word thesis would take 9 hours to present. Your time limit... 3 minutes!

3MT returned to Sussex for 2022! The final took place on campus on Thursday 9 June as part of the Festival of Doctoral Research. Read on for more, and we hope to share the winning talks with you soon.

About 3MT

3MT is an academic competition that challenges doctoral researchers to deliver a compelling spoken presentation on their research topic and its significance in just three minutes. It started at the University of Queensland and competitions take place at institutions around the world each year. 

Participants at Sussex compete for a chance to win £500 towards research and a place in the Vitae UK semi-finals. There are also prizes of £250 for the runner up and People's Choice awards. Entrants are supported with a full day’s training and a peer practice session to help hone those presenting skills.

On the Doctoral Connections blog you'll find a review of the 2020 virtual 3MT competition and an interview with 2019 winner Noora Nevala, who discusses her 3MT journey, the skills she developed, and her top tips for this year's participants. 

See the Vitae website for more on the UK national competition.

3MT 2022 Judges

  • Dr Sushri Sangita Puhan, Honorary Research Fellow (ESW) and 3MT runner-up 2020
  • Dr Erika Mancini, Research Staff Office
  • Dr Edward O'Garro-Priddie, The Brilliant Club and Sussex PhD graduate

3MT 2022 Results

  • Winner: Belinda Zakrzewska (Sussex Business School)
  • 2nd Place: Jorge Ortiz Moreno (Institute of Development Studies)
  • People's Choice Award: Karen Hiestand (Psychology)

3MT Final and Festival Photos

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Meet the presenters

Karen Hiestand (Psychology) - Who has more empurrthy, Lassie or Garfield?

We live with cats and dogs in their hundreds of millions and value the emotional support they give us, never more so than during the Covid pandemic. We want to believe they care about us the way we care about them – but do they? My thesis evaluated how people understand experiences of animal empathy and investigated the empathic capacities of cats and dogs. We found that stereotypes about cats may not be accurate, as both species are affected by our emotional states, which has important implications for their welfare when they are used for emotional support.

Jorge Ortiz Moreno (Insitute of Development Studies) - Easing up a differential urban crisis: The case of rainwater harvesting in Mexico City

Mexico City has been facing a differential water crisis for decades. While residents in poor neighbourhoods can get as minimum as 20 litres of water per day, privileged populations enjoy unlimited consumption. But coincidentally, it rains more than London throughout the year. In this context, I am studying how rainwater harvesting has been promoted for supplementing water supply. After interviewing more than 60 key stakeholders, I have found that, certainly, this alternative will not break the structural inequalities that prevent marginalised populations from adequate access to water. However, it can make their life easier during the rainy season.

Karen Patterson (Brighton and Sussex Medical School) - Dis-rupting the lymphatic system with granulomas

Sometimes we breathe in bacteria or irritating particles that our bodies can’t get rid of. When the goal of eradication fails, the immune system has a plan B. It forms structures called granulomas which trap bugs and particles. These clusters of immune cells form in lymph nodes and along lymphatic tracks in tissues. In my research I measure how granulomas disrupt lymph node function and damage lymphatic tracks, which in turn allows granulomas to destroy organ tissues. The ultimate goal of my work is to better understand how to cure tuberculosis and other similar diseases.

Grazia Ragone (Engineering and Informatics) - Supporting and understanding autistic children’s interactions through a motion-based sonic system

Autistic children can benefit from additional support to develop social and motor skills, but there is still a gap in treatments addressing motor skills. Additionally, music has cognitive, psychosocial and motor benefits for autistic people. I developed an interactive musical system using motion-capture, enabling the detection and transformation of children’s movements into sounds to address those areas. My studies showed how the interaction of autistic children significantly improved using this system. My findings aim to contribute to interdisciplinary collaboration between families, practitioners and researchers to make learning for autistic children enjoyable and inclusive.

Jonathan Sadler (Brighton and Sussex Medical School) - How uncertain is medicine?

Uncertainty is a part of medicine and medical decision making. As a doctor, managing your uncertainty poorly can cause anxiety (for both you and your patients), burnout and lead to patient harm. Medical students currently are not directly taught about any aspects of uncertainty. But should they be? I explore why medical students struggle with uncertainty and discuss whether or not we should be preparing the doctors of tomorrow for the uncertainty they will face.

Norah Sarhan (Engineering and Informatics) - Using gesture technology to support children's vocabulary acquisition

Vocabulary acquisition is an important aspect of language learning. Yet, understanding and remembering the words is a difficult task that could result in frustration when communicating with others. Previous research suggests that acting out vocabulary can improve remembering the words. My research explores the use of digital gesture-based interfaces in learning vocabulary for children. I designed a gesture game for children to learn words using their bodies to interact with a screen, the results suggest that this tool encouraged children to do the gestures and therefore they remembered the words after the learning activity.

Jilan Wei (Media, Arts and Humanities) - Who knows better during the pandemic: a politician or a medical expert

My research tries to reveal who know better between politicians and medical experts in the government announcements during the three national lockdowns. I found that politicians use I know more frequently than medical experts. Using I know, they share their conjectures about the painful lockdown experiences and the prediction for the possible future success. By contrast, what is marked as knowledge by experts are the factual pandemic situation. This suggests that politicians know better the emotional power of I know, while medical experts emphasise its evidential use.

Belinda Zakrzewska (University of Sussex Business School) - What's cooking behind my guinea pig ravioli?

In Peru, indigenous products such as the guinea pig that have been regarded as food for peasants by the elite class are being transformed into delicacies by local elite chefs. They claim that their culinary inventions, such as guinea pig ravioli, are authentic because they combine ancestral traditions with creative skills. But, what lies beneath these discourses? My research reveals that elite chefs’ authenticity claims shape long-standing social divisions between local elite and indigenous groups. These findings advance our critical understanding of what is cooking behind new cuisines that are simultaneously local and cosmopolitan.

Take a look at previous events to familiarise yourself with the competition, including details of the winners, abstracts from all the finalists, and photos from the day.
And if you're looking for inspiration, in the video below our final winners from 2016 talk about their experiences of participating in the competition, and share their top tips for doctoral researchers interested in taking on the challenge.


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