Although it may seem daunting, previous competitors have spoken about their enjoyment of the process once they overcame their initial nerves

Aimee Quickfall (2019 participant)

Taking part in 3MT opened things up for me that I hadn’t imagined – it is so much more than a presentation of your work to people who work in your field; you realise the exciting and innovative things that are going on across the university.  Summarising your thesis in three minutes is challenging – it is too long to give that twenty second soundbite, too short to present the fine details, but it is excellent for distilling down exactly what it is that you are the new expert in!  I loved taking part and the support from SHU was humbling and motivating in equal measure.

Shruti Mandhani (SHU winner 2019 and National Winner 2019)

“Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) is a national competition held by Vitae every year, where a doctoral student is challenged to present their thesis in just 3 minutes to a non-specialist audience.  Having won the SHU final at the Creating Knowledge Conference in June, I was the university’s entry for the national competition held at the Vitae Conference in Birmingham.  I made it through to the top 6 finalists amongst all entries across the UK and got the chance to present my talk to a live audience of ~400 people.

Speaking in front of that many people can be quite daunting, but the organisers did a brilliant job in making us feel comfortable in every way they could.  They gave us the opportunity to rehearse with mics on the stage, get a ‘feel’ of the room, and even meet two previous winners of the competition.  The event was also an excellent opportunity for me to meet some key figures in universities across the country and make my work known to them through this competition.  The best part, of course, was that I won! I received a grant of £3000 to spend on public engagement activities, provided by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and will be providing a proposal to Vitae on how I intend to spend this prize money.  This will hopefully open new opportunities for me by establishing key collaborations with my work and engaging in exciting science communication events.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank my supervisors – Profs. Andy Alderson and Doug Cleaver, my colleagues at MERI, and my partner and our families for their support and valuable feedback which has been instrumental in my win.”

Shruti has subsequently written a blog about the interesting opportunities and doors that have been opened for her since winning the competition. It is an inspiring read for any doctoral candidate considering entering the event.


Mike Thelwell (SHU winner 2018)

“I really enjoyed the whole 3MT process.  It was challenging for many reasons; first trying to distil everything I had done during my PhD down into a three-minute speech was tough.  Then presenting that information to a non-specialist audience, in a way that makes them interested in your work and make them want to know more was also a challenge.  However, I gained some amazing experience presenting in front of a large audience, as well as learning about presentation style and how to engage people’s attention.  The advice I got from my mentor, Doug Cleaver, was invaluable and helped me to identify the key points of my work to focus on.  The lead up to the final was stressful, making sure I knew my speech off by heart and making sure I didn’t go over the dreaded three-minute mark.  But as soon as I started speaking and I knew I had the audience’s attention I was able to just talk about my work and try to communicate my passion to the audience. ”

Janet Ulman 

“I’ve taken part twice and it’s been a positive experience on both occasions.  For me the requirement to condense your work into three minutes is a brilliant way to focus your mind on what your research is all about.  It also gives you a ready-made summary to deliver to people in all sorts of situations.  I don’t have a huge amount of experience and confidence in delivering presentations, either, so knowing that you are only going to have the spotlight on you for three minutes is a really good opportunity to gain some experience in a relatively non-threatening way – especially as there will be no questions from the audience, either!

The heats were fun and supportive, and a great way to learn about others’ studies and their presentation styles – all good material for learning how to present.  My experience with mentors has also been very positive – enthusiasm and good insights provided into how to improve on the presentation.

Although I was anxious in the lead-up to taking part in the final, actually the audience and the environment was incredibly receptive and encouraging.  After all, people only have to concentrate for three minutes and so generally they are attentive!  In the end I enjoyed the experience: in a sense, it was a privilege to have everyone’s undivided attention on me and my study for that short time.  I had the satisfaction of delivering a message to a wide group of people.”

Previous SHU Winners and Commended

2021    Katie Mills

2020   Amie Woodward

2019    Shruti Mandhani (won the National Final)  | Janet Ulman was commended

2018    Mike Thelwell  |  Francis Awolowo and Rachel Hawley were commended

2017    Caroline Claisse   |  Fazila Hussain and Mootaz Salman were commended

2016    Ronak Janani

2015    James Reynolds (was selected to compete at the National Final)