How a competition changed my academic life

Posted 05/07/2019 by 9a4fa0b2-a68f-44ca-95b6-a2b900c1471a

Jamie Khoo

Jamie Khoo, Vitae Three Minute Thesis competition, People's Choice Winner 2018

It might be a bit of a hyperbole to say that the Three Minute Thesis has changed my academic life – but it really has!

I had actually only applied to the University of York’s 3MT competition because I was feeling stuck in my PhD writing and applications opened at a time when I was looking for a distraction (or procrastination!). I was feeling very muddled about the directions that my thesis was taking and thought that having time away to look at it from a different perspective might be helpful.

It ended up being much more helpful than I imagined. Learning how to ‘shrink’ everything about my thesis into three minutes (about 430-450 words) was the most helpful exercise for sharpening my focus and defining the directions I would take in my analysis. I’ve gone back to writing with a refreshed head and lot of clarity. Whenever I’ve felt uncertain about my writing, I’ve found it helpful to go back to my 3MT pitch: it works every time to anchor me back to my research goals.

The training we received to write succinctly and appeal to diverse audiences has also been immensely helpful for all other presentations and public engagement projects – writing conference papers, public talks, blogs and articles are much easier now. Shortly after the 3MT national finals, for example, I wrote an article for The Conversation UK which went on to garner over 33,000 views and gave several talks in the span of a few months.

More importantly, the 3MT has opened doors to so many other opportunities and given my academic career a huge boost. I’ve been invited to speak at various events, including a doctoral programmes conference, a guest lecture at the University of Wolverhampton and a live seminar for a social entrepreneur group on Facebook. (There have been other invitations too, which I’ve had to turn down to focus on finishing my PhD).

Participation in the 3MT has also helped me develop work experience in the area of researcher/doctoral training, a career I hope to pursue after completing my PhD. Since the competition last year, I’ve had valuable opportunities to work with the University of York’s research training division, helping in the coordination of PhD public engagement and training activities, such as the PhD Spotlight Competition and How to Survive your PhD, a student-led workshop for new doctoral researchers. I’m currently also helping with promotion and coordination of York’s 3MT competition 2019, and have been invited to be on the judging panel.

From presenting at the national 3MT finals at Vitae’s annual conference last year, I was also able to make a lot of new contacts whom I’ve stayed in touch with over social media. They been an invaluable part of helping me prepare to meet my career goals post-PhD. All this simply wouldn’t have been possible if I hadn’t gone on this 3MT journey.

Most of all, I believe the competition has given me a level of confidence both in my research and in my presentation capabilities. I’ve found that elements from both are needed and come up throughout the PhD journey. It’s definitely helped me get further with my research and career goals, and I’m excited to see where it takes me next!