#U213MT 2017 Results

31 October 2017
First prize, Highly Commended and People's Choice winners from the 2017 U21 3MT competition

Universitas 21 are pleased to announce the 2017 winner of the annual U21 3MT® (Three Minute Thesis) competition as Samuel Ramsey from the University of Maryland for his thesis ‘Varroa destructor: The Curious Case of the Bee Mite's Bite’ – a presentation on his PhD research into how honey bee parasite varroa destructor is affecting the bee population.

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 fifth year, the U21 3MT® competition 2017 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 and Chair of the U21 Deans and Directors of Graduate Studies; Charles Caramello, retired Dean of Graduate Studies, University of Maryland; Sally Jeffries, Global Education Leader, PwC Global; Veronika Meduna, New Zealand Editor of The Conversation; and Zaidatun Tasir, Chairperson of the Malaysian Dean of Graduate Studies Council.

Sally Jeffery commented on the really excellent standard of the entrants, “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 international U21 community of scholars.”

After viewing all 17 U21 3MT® entries from around the world, Samuel Ramsey, of the University of Maryland, was crowned the winner.

#U213MT Winner 2017

In his winning presentation, Samuel described his research which has focused on the parasitic mite, varroa destructor, which is one of the main reasons for the decline in the honey bee population. Samuel’s research has centred on finding out how this parasite is so destructive; focussing on what the parasite is eating and where on the honey bee they feed. His results have shown that the parasite only feeds on one specific part of the honey bee, the fat body tissue, an important tissue that controls nine major functions within the organism, including the storage of nutrients, the detoxification of pesticides and the production of the immune response. Now he knows what they are feeding on, he is investigating whether it is possible to introduce an agent into this fat body tissue that can disrupt the reproductive cycle of the parasite and eliminate this pest once and for all.

Samuel spoke of his experience of taking part in the 3MT® competition: "I would characterize this experience as challenging but in the best way possible. Ph.D. programs teach us complex technical terms and opaque jargon. Reliance on them can make our entire field inaccessible to the people most in need of our insight. Being forced to explain your work simply, forces you to approach it differently; to understand it better. 

So many ground-breaking scientific discoveries never move beyond the pages of journals to public consciousness or public policy, partly because it's difficult to explain things briefly without sacrificing accuracy. That's why I'm so glad that I entered this contest. It forced me to refine this skill; one that I'm certain will serve me well throughout my career in science. 

I'm so grateful to the University of Maryland for encouraging us to be a part of this competition! I think I'm a better communicator and a better researcher as a direct result. I want to thank everyone who participated in the contest by watching and sharing the videos. I also have to thank my advisor Dennis van Engelsdorp for all of his support, my mentors Kathy and Dr. Kevin Hackett, and my incredible parents who have constantly encouraged my interest in science and who are always so interested to hear what I'm up to in the lab. I had no idea at the time but dinner with them was the best possible practice for this competition.” 

Dr Steve Fetter, Interim Dean of Graduate Studies and Associate Provost for Academic Affairs at the University of Maryland, spoke of the university’s delight in Samuel’s achievement: “We are thrilled that Sammy Ramsey won both the U21 3MT Judge's Prize and the People's Choice Prize in this year's competition.  Sammy's presentation is a wonderful example of how researchers can describe their work to a general audience in a clear, compelling, and engaging manner."

The international judging panel noted that Samuel’s presentation was really engaging, that Samuel presented clearly and with confidence, and that he articulated his research very well. The general public clearly agreed with the judges and voted Samuel’s presentation top in the People’s Choice competition which took place online during mid-October. With around one third of the overall votes, Samuel clearly impressed the public with his research on the how the parasitic mite, varroa destructor, is affecting the honey bee population and how this could be stopped. Entrants from the University of Nottingham and University of British Columbia were second and third respectively, in the public vote.

Highly Commended Award

Highly commended was Euan Doidge from the University of Edinburgh for his thesis ‘WEEE are Golden: metal recovery by solvent extraction’. Euan’s presentation described his research on extracting gold from recycled waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE), such as mobile phones, which contains 300 times more gold per tonne that naturally occurring rocks and ore. By designing molecules called ‘extractants’ which are specific to gold, Euan uses a solvent extraction technique to separate out gold from other metals in the WEEE, in a process that is far more efficient and environmentally friendly than mining for gold.

Euan described his experience in taking part in the competition: “The 3MT® competition has been amazing! I’ve thoroughly enjoyed meeting all of the fantastic competitors throughout the various stages of the competition. It’s been a great opportunity to meet other PhD students and the people who support them, as well as learn little chunks of information on novel research across an amazingly diverse range of subjects. I’ve really appreciated the opportunity to present my research in a different and memorable way that can resonate with a wide audience and engage in the discussions that follow.

I am incredibly proud to have represented the university at the 3 Minute Thesis UK and U21 competitions, and delighted to bring the Highly Commended Award home to Edinburgh! Many thanks go to everyone from the School of Chemistry, the Institute for Academic Development, the University and beyond for all your support!”

Professor Jeremy Bradshaw, Assistant Principal Researcher Development, spoke of Euan’s achievement: “I am delighted that Euan has won this prestigious award, in what was a strong field of competitors. As an institution, we really value what benefits 3MT® brings to both the University and the individual.”

Universitas 21 Provost Professor Bairbre Redmond, said, “As a network, Universitas 21 strives to nurture global citizens, to promote internationalization and to communicate effectively across borders. The U21 3MT® contributes significantly to these goals by providing a key platform across which students can engage with different cross-cultural and disciplinary perspectives. It also offers U21 students an important opportunity to present their research to a wide, international audience while learning valuable communication skills in the process.

This is the fifth year of the U21 3MT® competition and it remains one of the highlights of the work of the U21 Researcher Engagement Cluster. This year the People’s Choice award again saw an increase of over 1000 online votes to reach 4600 votes overall. This increased reach is recognition of the high standard of presentations and engaging content that we continue to receive from our entrants. U21 students come from some of the finest universities in the world and, as we have grown to expect, the quality of their 3MT® presentations is truly impressive across a wide range of disciplines.” 

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