Three Minutes in the Spotlight

12 July 2011

The Three Minute Thesis (3MT) Challenge provides an opportunity for higher degree by research students to communicate their research to a wider, non expert audience. The competition concept originated at the University of Queensland in 2008 and is designed to develop the relevant communication skills needed to effectively communicate your research in engaging and appropriate language suitable for the audience. It expanded to a national level in 2010, with 33 universities in Australia and New Zealand competing. The University of Sydney 3MT will be held in second semester with the winner competing in the national finals hosted by UWA in September 2011.

The Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources held its first 3MT competition on Friday 8 July 2011 as the final session in its annual Faculty Research Symposium. An audience of almost 200 including staff, students, alumni and friends, and external business / industry links watched seven presentations spanning across soil carbon management, planting of trees and mining-agriculture-wetlands. This emerging research has the capacity to impact upon the most pressing issues in society, and even change the way we live . Agriculture is still, and will continue to be, the cornerstone of society..


The goal of the competition is to assist research students to develop academic research and communications skills. Competitors were judged on communication style, comprehension / clarity and engagement. The challenge was the ability to take complex research and communicate it in an engaging fashion that a non-specialist audience can understand. Only one static power point slide was allowed. Presentations were restricted to three minutes or less.

The winner received $500, the runner-up $250, and the winner of the People's Choice Award (voted by the audience) $250.

Faculty Finalists:

  1. Kanika Singh

Soil carbon management

  1. Chun Liang

Can planting trees make it rain? The impact of forest on rainfall

  1. Robert Pallasser

Soils ain't soils nor is the carbon

  1. Astha Singh

Do glucosinolate levels in broccoli get affected by white rust? Why?

  1. Adrienne Ryan

The (dust) devil in the detail? Exploring the mining-agriculture-wetland relationship

  1. Deviga Vengedasalam

The pay-off to Malaysian rice research versus rice imports

  1. Ichsani Wheeler

Auditing soil carbon sequestration on farms

Judging Panel

The Dean was joined on the judging panel by three alumni from diverse career paths.

Professor Mark Adams (Chair)

Dr Alison Anderson
University medallist Dr Alison Anderson graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture in 1992, followed by a PhD in the Department of Agricultural Chemistry and
Soil Science in 1997 . Alison Anderson served as NSW Vegetable Industry Development Officer in the NSW Farmers Association for more than eight years, assisting vegetable producers to improve industry best practice and awareness of production issues. She has published research papers with Professor John Crawford, and been a key contributor to the manual SOILpak, a guide to best practice soil management for the
Australian cotton industry.
Alison's current role at the NSW Farmers Association is Senior Policy Officer: Horticulture and Agricultural Chemicals.

Dr David R. Leece, PSM, RFD, ED
David Leece is a former executive director and chief scientist of the New South Wales Environment Protection Authority and chairman of the
Radiation Advisory Council of New South Wales. He is an author, board member of the Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture, and contributor to Agricultural Science (Journal of AIAST). David graduated with a Master of Agriculture in 1968.

Phil Mulvey
Phil graduated from The University of Sydney with a degree in Soil Science in 1981 , and a Master in Hydrogeology from UNSW in 1985.
He is the CEO, Managing Director, Principal Soil Scientist and Contaminant Hydrologist with Environmental Earth Sciences, an international consultancy company with more than 100 staff worldwide. He is also an author, speaker, and trainer; and a founding member of the Agriculture Alumni Steering Committee. He is the 2011 recipient of the Faculty Alumni Award for Outstanding Professional Achievement.

2011 Winners

In what was a close competition Ms Adrienne Ryan's exploration of the mining-agriculture-wetland - "The (dust) devil in the detail" - was successful in taking out First Prize from the judging panel, as well as the People's Choice Award. The runner -up was Ms Deviga Vengedasalam who spoke about Malaysian rice research versus rice imports.

Adrienne felt that the benefits of the Challenge were broad as participants gained an insight into the research of colleagues, and at the same time were compelled to demystify their own work.

"The Challenge was a useful exercise in focusing my research questions. It forced me to re-assess the big picture, and breakdown the key elements of my research. Answering the 'what, how and so what' factors of my work actually re-energised my passion for the topic! To be able to articulate why my research mattered was empowering", said Adrienne, " and I recommend the experience to other PhD students - go for it!".

Contact: Ms Skaidy Gulbis

Phone: 02 8627 1006

Email: 58205946572b7a1f361e002739190b3b20581f2f661c0b234f3f40