#U213MT 2016 Results

01 November 2016
The first prize, highly commended and people's choice winners from the 2016 U21 3MT competition.



Universitas 21 are pleased to announce the 2016 winner of the annual U21 3MT® (Three Minute Thesis) competition as Kate Riegle van West from the University of Auckland for her thesis ‘Poi for your health: A spin on aging’ – a presentation on her PhD research into the health effects of poi.

First developed by the University of Queensland in 2008, the Three Minute Thesis competition (3MT®) challenges research students to communicate the significance of their projects to a non-specialist audience in just three minutes.

Now in its fourth year, the U21 3MT competition 2016 pitted the leading presenters from Universitas 21 (U21) member universities against one another. Each participating member held their own internal 3MT® competition to select a local winner who was then put forward for the U21 final.

The judging panel, made up of experts from around the world, came together to discuss the presentations and decide on a winner. The panel included Caroline Daley, Dean of Graduate Studies at the University of Auckland; Barbara Dooley, Dean of Graduate Studies at University College Dublin; Charles Caramello, Dean in Residence at the US Council of Graduate Schools; Joaquin Guerra, Vice Chancellor of Educational Innovation and Online Programs at Tecnológico de Monterrey; and Phil Baty, editor-at-large and World University Rankings editor at the Times Higher Education.

After viewing all 20 U21 3MT® entries from around the world, Kate Riegle van West, of the University of Auckland, was crowned the winner.


#U213MT Winner 2016

In her winning presentation, Kate described her research on the effects of poi on physical and cognitive function in healthy older adults. Poi in simple terms are “socks with a weight in the end” that you “spin in circles around your body”. It is thought that poi originates in Maori culture, however you may be more familiar with their use by circus performers whose poi may have streamers, or are on fire.

Kate explained that simple, effective strategies for maintaining health in older age are urgently needed due to the increasing aging population across the globe. Kate’s study showed that poi was just as effective as Tai Chi (her comparison group) on cognitive function, including improved focus and attention, but had a number of physical benefits too, such as improvements in upper limb movement, grip strength and manual dexterity - benefits that can help older people stay independent longer. To find out more about Kate's research, visit www.spinpoi.com.

Kate spoke of her excitement at winning: "The 3MT competition has taken me on an incredible (and sometimes nerve-racking!) journey, from my small heat at the University of Auckland, to filming my speech in a TV studio, to the Asia-Pacific finals in Brisbane. The competition has given me an amazing platform to share my research on poi and health, and I am super excited and honoured that the judges have chosen me as the winner! 

I'd like to thank my supervisors at the University of Auckland, Associate Professor Ralph Buck (Dance Studies, Creative Arts and Industries) and Associate Professor Cathy Stinear (the Centre for Brain Research, Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences) for their guidance and unwavering support toward my interdisciplinary and unconventional research."

Associate Professor Caroline Daley, Dean of Graduate Studies at the University of Auckland, spoke of the university’s delight in Kate’s achievement: “The University of Auckland are thrilled that Kate has won this year’s U21 3MT. From circus performer to award winning doctoral candidate – it’s not the standard route into higher education, but Kate’s win reminds us that excellent students come from all walks of life, and that life experiences can have unusual, but very positive impacts on students’ research.”


Highly Commended Award

Highly commended was Lillian JA Olule from the University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus for her thesis ‘Capturing signals then charging batteries’. Lillian’s presentation described research on the potential to transform wireless signals into energy to power small devices. The applications for such technology are vast from powering sensors used in biomedicine or hazardous environments, to charging your mobile phone on the go.

Lillian described her experience in taking part in the competition: “The 3MT experience has been amazing! It was great to see people from all walks of life getting excited about the research I am doing. I got a lot of “Oooh… so THAT'S what you are doing!” and I am glad I participated. It has made me more comfortable discussing my research jargon free. Anyone who has the opportunity to participate in the 3MT should definitely give it a shot.             

I would like to give a very big thank you to everyone who showed their support and gave feedback from my colleagues, supervisors, family, friends, The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus particularly the Graduate School, the University of Nottingham and last but not least God.”

Professor Claire O’Malley, Vice Provost for Research and Knowledge Exchange at the University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus, spoke of Lillian’s achievement: “I am delighted that Lillian Olule has won the runner-up prize for the U21 3MT competition - her research project is outstanding and she is clearly a highly effective communicator of her science.  It is a great testament to the high quality of postgraduate research students at the University of Nottingham and especially pleasing that a student from Nottingham’s Malaysia Campus is a prize–winner.  This sends a great signal not only about the quality of our students but also the excellent research training and support by UNMC’s Graduate School.”


People's Choice Award

This year’s People’s Choice Award went to Islam Mosa from the University of Connecticut for his presentation on ‘Miniaturised Power Sources for Implantable Bioelectronics: Ultrathin Power Sources for Cardiac Pacemakers’. Islam discussed the potential to use supercapacitors to power pacemakers – they have many advantages over the usual batteries used: they are a fraction of the size, are biocompatible and can last much longer so don’t need to be replaced.

Islam described his 3MT experience: “180 seconds to tell the story of my thesis research to a broad audience while making each word count was undoubtedly one of the biggest challenges I have had in my graduate career. I’m thrilled for all the skills I have gained through this amazing experience. I encourage all graduate students to participate. It’s a great learning opportunity. 

I would like to send big thanks all those who supported me with advice and constructive feedback including my amazing supervisor Prof. James Rusling, my lovely wife Esraa Elsanadidy, the great UConn community, and all my dear family and friends in both United States and Egypt.”

Professor Kent Holsinger, Vice Provost for Graduate Education at the University of Connecticut, said of Islam’s achievement: “We are delighted that Islam won the People’s Choice award in this year’s Universitas 21 3MT competition, and we are extremely proud of all that he’s accomplished. Islam is a very accomplished young scientist and a powerful communicator. His work may improve the lives of thousands who depend on cardiac pacemakers. The 3MT competition helped him develop the skills to describe complex, technical details of his work in language we can all understand, and we are very proud to have him represent UConn in the 2016 U21 competition.”


Universitas 21 Provost Professor Bairbre Redmond, said, “As a network, Universitas 21 strives to nurture global citizens, to promote internationalisation, and to give our students opportunities to communicate over borders.  The U21 3MT® provides a very important platform for students to engage with different cross-cultural and disciplinary perspectives, presenting their research on an international stage and learning valuable communication skills in the process.

The Universitas 21 3MT competition is now in its fourth year and continues to go from strength to strength. This year has seen the highest number of students taking part - over 1000 students presented in local heats across the network – and the People’s Choice award saw its highest total number of online votes - 3400 compared to 2500 last year - so we're reaching out to more people than ever before.

The quality of the 3MT presentations are truly impressive and this year we have been treated to an array of engaging and informative presentations from a wide range of disciplines. The judging process was described as ‘a pleasure not a chore’ which goes to show the high quality of this year’s entries. My warmest congratulations to all competitors, each and every entry has contributed to a fine showcase of the breadth and depth of doctoral expertise across the U21 community of scholars.” 


To watch all three of the winning presentations, on our YouTube channel, please follow the link below: