Last week I spoke at my university’s Three Minute Thesis competition, which challenges doctoral candidates to explain their research in under 180 seconds, to a non-specialist audience.Other Ph D students in the competition had been attending multiple workshops, practising for weeks in front of experts, and being given feedback from professors and each other.
(Thank you to those in the audience who nodded vigorously, and the two girls at the cafeteria afterwards who told me they think I should have won!
) The most useful part of the 3MT for the Ph D researcher is the decision making that goes into writing the speech.
By the time 3MT day came around, I was still full of cold and bleary eyed, but I figured I only needed to be ‘on’ for three minutes. I presented the speech before its first ever audience on the day.
I managed to remember my entire speech from start to finish, did it under time (which is crucial) and got some nice feedback afterwards.
Update: If you're interested in being that postdoc, get in touch with me!
It is available at .50 thanks to Hewlett-Packard's high-quality on-demand publishing service, Mag Cloud.So as I presented my 3MT speech, before my idiosyncratic slide, I felt that I was presenting research in which my journey, my voice and my work has been – challenged, certainly – but also respected.Any and all proceeds will fund graduate students (and postdocs) doing work in biology that may impact treatment of diseases of cellular metabolism.Such is the world of the working, parenting Ph D candidate!I found ways to fit 3MT prep into the cracks in my week.At around 500 words the speaker has to make tough decisions about what to put in (in my case, from research which has resulted in a 100,000 word thesis) and what to leave out.About how much to popularise and entertain, and how much serious research detail to foreground.It's sixteen pages, saddle-stitch bound and in full color.It's a good gift for new students, the recently defended and relatives thereof. If you zoom in on the boundary of human knowledge in the direction of genetics, there's something just outside humanity's reach: My wife and I chose to start funding these graduate students after we learned that our son has a rare, fatal genetic disorder.Update: When I first wrote this post, my son's specific disorder was unknown.Thanks to a scientific advance made in genetic diagnostics--specifically exome sequencing--we were able to isolate the mutations in my son's genome and determine that he is the very first documented case of a new disease: N-glycanase deficiency.