A packed lecture theatre during Saturday’s University Festival saw two postgraduate researchers from our Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies (CSCT) take home the winner and runner-up prizes for this year’s Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition.

Integrated PhD students Kasia Smug and Emma Sackville impressed the judges by telling the story of their research and why it matters in a captivating and entertaining way. The 3MT format allows presenters just one slide and 180 seconds to summarise their PhD.

Winner Kasia’s enlightening talk ‘Oranges versus crude oil: Can we reduce the use of crude oil by using plants?’ drew on her PhD about creating new, sustainable materials from terpenoid feedstocks. Her presentation explored the secret power behind oranges, their terpenes, and how they are being used to create new sustainable and renewable materials.

Valuable PhD experience

Kasia, who is in the third year of her PhD based within the Department of Chemical Engineering, said: “I am happy I was part of this year's 3MT, I had a great time. Talking about your research in three minutes is a challenging task and it is definitely harder than it looks, but it's also really fun to present your research in a non-scientific manner. In my opinion, it's a valuable experience for a PhD student.”

Emma’s talk ‘Hydrogen Production and Dumping your Ex’ explored her PhD into molecular electrocatalysts for energy conversion. Emma is researching materials that can do the water-splitting reaction, which is a really important step in the production of alternative, non-polluting fuels.

Based within the Department of Chemistry, Emma is in the fourth year of her PhD. She added: “It was a great event to be part of. Obviously it was a bit stressful on the day but was really interesting to hear everyone else's talks and the training was really helpful!”

Eight finalists from around the University competed in Saturday’s Final following on from our Faculty heats held in March. Judges for the event included: Professor Bernie Morley (Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Provost), Helen Featherstone (Head of Public Engagement), Hugh Dixon (Chief Sub Editor, Bath Chronicle) as well as Bath alumni Rasika Uplekar (Social Policy & Administration, 2010) and Bob Clay (Pharmacy & Pharmacology, 1980). The event was compered by Dr Polly McGuigan (Department for Health).

Some of the best finalists ever

Professor Bernie Morley said: “The 3MT is an excellent initiative that really challenges PhDs to develop the story behind their research and hone their communication and presentation skills. This year’s finalists were some of the best we’ve ever had and deciding on the winner and runner-up was a challenging task for the judges.

“Kasia and Emma both did a fantastic job at summarising their work and helping a non-expert audience understand why it’s important. Well done to all our finalists.”

All the finalists were given access to specialist coaching, arranged by the Researcher Development Unit, to hone their presentation and delivery skills in preparation for the final.