A thesis in three minutes?

CAN you explain a thesis in just three minutes?

This was the challenge posed at Universiti Malaya’s (UM) Three Minute Thesis competition.

The event was designed for PhD candidates to explain their theses to laymen through a three-minute presentation using only a single PowerPoint slide.

The competition first started in the University of Queensland, Australia in 2008 and is now successfully held in universities across Australia and New Zealand every year.

Out of 71 students participating at the faculty level, nine were chosen for the final round where Wong Yuen Meng of the Faculty of Business and Accountancy emerged victor.

Wong, who won RM3,000, said he would like to spend his prize money on attending academic conferences in the region so he can share his “research findings with a larger audience.”

“I am overjoyed and have to thank my lucky stars,” said Wong, 31, whose thesis looked at the efficiency of foreign exchange markets in the Asia-Pacific region.

The stars were indeed shining in his favour as the original champion was disqualified.

Meanwhile, Audrey Chew Li from the Faculty of Science, secured the runner-up position and won RM1,500.

Audrey, 26, has spent three years researching the biodiversity of glowing mushrooms.

Her fieldwork has taken her to jungles in Peninsular Malaysia to study the mushrooms which she affectionately describes as “stars on the ground.”

“My focus for the presentation was to explain to the audience the importance of my research,” she said, adding that her prize money would go towards paying her car instalments.

The competition assesses candidates on three aspects: communication style, comprehension and engagement.

Prof Dr Iekhsan Othman, who is the head of the Department of Biomedical Sciences at Monash University Sunway campus and also one of the three guest judges at the competition, said it was important for candidates to not only distribute their time effectively, but to stimulate audience interest and to present in a natural and relaxed manner.

UM Institute of Graduate Studies dean Prof Datin Dr Norhanom Abdul Wahab said the competition “was a good exercise to develop soft skills in our students.”

“Even though it was our first time hosting the competition, there were several that did very well,” she said.

Beginning next year, UM will send its university-level winner to take part in the international-level competition in Australia.

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