…by Priya / from India / PhD Edinburgh Cancer Research Centre 2013-2017
The 3MT (3 minute thesis competition) is a global competition. PhD students condense their 2-3 hundred pages thesis into a 3 minute monologue that is comprehensible and engaging for an intelligent lay-audience. There are several rounds of the competition from local institute level, school/college level, university level, national level and international level. Our institute held a heat back in April and I decided to take part as someone once told me that the first question you were likely to get asked at your PhD viva is “Describe your thesis” and having a three minute answer is all you need. Since I find the prospect of my thesis defence already quite daunting, I thought this would help. (Also I liked the potential of winning a £100 even though I knew I had no chance of winning with so making great, confident speakers at our institute).
Despite feeling very ill that week and having lost my voice, being someone who never backs out, I made up some rambling speech and gibbered it out in front of a very packed seminar room one Friday afternoon and then left to attend to my cells. Until my supervisor came running to find me, telling me that everyone was waiting for me in the seminar room. I didn’t dare hurry to find out who of the other 8 contestants had won but as soon as I entered the room, I was greeted my an overwhelming round of applause. I received a big check for £100 having won both the judges and audience votes. The whole thing was recorded and links are available through the university website but I still can’t bare to watch it. Little did I know that this was just the beginning.
The next step was the College of Medicine and Veterinary Science round. This time there were 18 contestants from across the college. It wasn’t actually necessary to have been in a previous heat before this one, but I did have a little added confidence knowing that I had once won with a very unrefined speech. This time I actually practised to a less rambling point and updated my slide so that it looked like I had made an effort. This round actually turned out to be a little less daunting, being in a big room but with majority empty chairs I gave out my performance and somehow was voted as 1st runner up by the judges, bagging myself £75 Amazon vouchers.
This meant that I was through to the University finals. But before that, just having been through these two rounds led me to gaining some recognition for my presenting skills. I was asked to attend the Race for Life in Edinburgh and gave a speech as a guest of honour to motivate the racers before their run, for which I was very grateful to be given the opportunity. I also got to start the race by sounding the horn (and also got almost trampled on by running enthusiasts!). As well as this, our institute (the Institute for Genetics and Molecular Medicine, IGMM) has recently has a new building built and an official opening was conducted recently by HRH Princess Royal, the Chancellor of Edinburgh University. I was given the opportunity here to present a poster to the guests of this event and even had the opportunity to meet and greet with HRH Princess Anne herself. This was such an honour too, another opportunity I may not have had if I hadn’t have taken part in the 3MT.
But back to the official competition itself, having got through to the finals, the University gave us the opportunity to have some vocal coaching and presentation techniques, as well as having some one-to-one feedback on our 3MT from the vocal coach. Again, this was another valuable experience I am very grateful for from the Institute of Academic Development (IAD). This time at the finals, I knew I was up against much tougher
competition, particularly as at least 3 of the contestants had to have been better than me as they would have come 1st in the college heats. But, I was only in it for the experience anyway. The final round is live streamed and first the first time, I really wanted my parents to watch me, hence I put as much effort into this, just to make them proud, regardless of the outcome. So, with a re-made slide and refined speech I happily gave my best shot at the finals and wished for the best person to win. I was gob-smacked when it was announced that I was 1st runner up again! With such good presentation from other contestants, I was not expecting to be the winner of an iPad. What I had also done, which meant more to me, was made my parents proud too, and even my supervisor said he was proud of me.
So after all this, I have now been invited to give my 3MT presentation at the University Senate meeting in September. Hopefully, I haven’t forgotten it by then! My initial intention with the 3MT was to have an answer to the first question for my thesis defence. A successful 3MT is not a few sentences on your project, it is an engaging and informative performance adapted for the specific audience. I don’t think breaking out into this performance would work in my thesis defence but I have been able to develop the skills to talk about my project confidently to a wide range of audiences, and that is the most valuable outcome.