How 3MT® helped me develop as a science communicator

Posted 11/02/2021 by Sarah Nalden

 Shruti getting 3MT award in 2019

Shruti Mandhani, Sheffield Hallam University, catches up with us about the opportunities that have come her way since winning the Judges Choice prize in the Vitae 3MT® competition 2019.

My first formal experience with science communication was at an event hosted by my university during British Science Week. My PhD supervisor and I set up a stall to explain our research to children. It didn’t take long to realise that 10-year olds didn’t care about my latest mathematical equations remotely as much as I did. What I did realise, however, was that they loved the colourful stickers, the Hoberman sphere, and the various sporting equipment we had on display. That’s when it clicked. As much as I can ramble on forever about the intricacies of my PhD, if I want my audience to listen, I need to speak their language.

I used what I learnt to write my 3MT® talk. It was, however, quite challenging to strike the balance between a talk that not only contained the key aspects of my research, but also left the audience wanting to know more.. and in just three minutes! I practiced my talk with peers and friends with various backgrounds and used their feedback to fine-tune it to hit that ‘sweet-spot’. Ultimately my efforts were worth it! Not only did I win the judge’s vote and a public engagement grant, winning the competition unlocked various opportunities I wasn’t even aware existed.

Since then I’ve been invited to speak at several events including a panel discussion hosted by a previous 3MT® winner, Jamie Khoo, on tips for successful public engagement. I also got the chance to both host as well as judge the 3MT® finals at my university and even review prestigious grants for public engagement. Perhaps the most unexpected highlight has been that my university’s vice chancellor nominated me to attend one of the annual Royal Garden Parties held at Buckingham Palace in recognition of winning the 3MT®! I was supposed to attend in the spring of 2020 but like the rest of the world, I was cooped up at home in my pyjamas instead.

Shruti 2019 Winner presenting at PE event in a pub

I (wrongly) assumed that not being able to attend events in person meant I was losing out on opportunities that may have come my way if it wasn’t for the pandemic. Whilst the past year has certainly been challenging, it has cemented my belief in the need for more science communication. Fortunately two world leading organisations in this field - Global Young Academy and the National Center for Science Communication (NaWik) - came across my 3MT® talk online and gave me the chance to do exactly that! I will be moderating and presenting a series of videos ranging from ethics in science to practical tools for effective science communication. All of this has also resulted in me joining the campaign ‘Women of Science’ as a board member! Shruti 2019 3MT winner at Winter poster event

Needless to say, none of this would have come my way if it wasn’t for the 3MT®. Not only have I been able to experience new and exciting opportunities, I’ve also been able to learn about my research from an entirely different perspective. I’m excited to see where my public engagement journey takes me, and I look forward to encouraging PhD researchers to give 3MT® a shot!