Festival Spotlight: Could you condense your thesis into just three minutes? Our 3MT finalists did just that!

Prof Jeremy Niven addresses the 3MT audience at the start of the event. A 3 minute timer is displayed on a large screen behind him. Image: Stuart Robinson

The Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition returned to Sussex last month after an enforced two-year hiatus due to the Covid pandemic. The star of the Festival of Doctoral Research programme, presenters from very different academic fields gathered in the Student Centre on Thursday 9 June to share their research with an enthusiastic audience.

Delivering their talks with the aid of just one static slide, the audience heard from:

  • Grazia Ragone (Engineering and Informatics) – Supporting and understanding autistic children’s interactions through a motion-based sonic system
  • Karen Hiestand (Psychology) – Who has more empurrthy, Lassie or Garfield?
  • Jonathan Sadler (Brighton and Sussex Medical School) – How uncertain is medicine?
  • Norah Sarhan (Engineering and Informatics) – Using gesture technology to support children’s vocabulary acquisition
  • Jorge Ortiz Moreno (Insitute of Development Studies) – Easing up a differential urban crisis: The case of rainwater harvesting in Mexico City
  • Belinda Zakrzewska (Sussex Business School) – What’s cooking behind my guinea pig ravioli?
  • Karen Patterson (Brighton and Sussex Medical School) – Dis-rupting the lymphatic system with granulomas
  • Jilan Wei (Media, Arts and Humanities) – Who knows better during the pandemic: a politician or a medical expert?

This year’s judging panel included Dr Sushri Sangita Puhan (ESW Honorary Research Fellow and former 3MT runner-up), Dr Erika Mancini (Research Staff Office) and Dr Edward O’Garro-Priddie (The Brilliant Club), ably chaired by Prof Jeremy Niven (Dean of the Doctoral School). They had a tough time deciding between the excellent presenters, who all stepped up despite the nerves, but sadly there had to be a winner.

Our 2022 3MT winner is Management PhD candidate Belinda Zakrzewska, who wins £500 towards her research and goes forward to the national Vitae semi-final. Belinda’s talk on the appropriation of indigenous Peruvian cuisine was informative, confident and really encapsulated her research – not easy to do in 180 seconds!

Jorge Ortiz Moreno came second (£250), for an excellent talk about the possibilities of rainwater collection in Mexico City, and Karen Hiestand won the People’s Choice Award (£250) with her plea in favour of dogs, not cats, as the most empathic companions.

Check out the winners’ 3MT abstracts below, and we’ll be adding some of the talks to our RDP Canvas site and 3MT webpage shortly. You’ll find abstracts from all of this year’s presenters there.

A seated man wearing jeans and t-shirt talks to three women wearing traditional Peruvian dress, and carrying fabric bundles on their backs. They are on a mountain path. Image: Belinda Zakrzewska
Belinda’s 3MT slide

Winner: Belinda Zakrzewska – 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.

Jorge Ortiz Moreno delivers his 3MT talk in front of a large screen displaying the countdown timer. Image: Stuart Robinson
Jorge delivers his 3MT talk. Image: Stuart Robinson

Runner-up: Jorge Ortiz Moreno – 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 Hiestand delivers her 3MT talk in front of a very large screen showing an image of a cat and dog facing each other. Image: Stuart Robinson
Karen gives her 3MT talk – with a dramatic backdrop. Image: Stuart Robinson

People’s Choice: Karen Hiestand – 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.

See Sway for more images from the 3MT final, prize-giving ceremony and other Festival events.