A PhD thesis in three minutes: 18 UJ students intrigue in 3MT

Eighteen PhD candidates revolutionised the way they talk to ordinary people about their research on Friday 7 September at the University of Johannesburg (UJ). Each had just three minutes to explain in everyday English what their research is about, and why it is significant.

They were competing in the UJ event of the 3MT PhD thesis presentation competition. It is the first stage of a global competition, started in Australia, held in over 200 universities all over the world.

Vice-Deans of Research, Heads of Department and thesis supervisors had nominated the competitors as the best representatives for six UJ faculties. The competition was facilitated by the University’s Postgraduate School and the training sessions for the participants were coordinated by the School’s Dr Patricia Hamilton.

“Today these students presented four to five years’ worth of research in just three minutes. Another way to look at it: an 80 000 word thesis would take nine hours to read out loud from cover to cover,” said Dr Pia Lamberti, Head of Research Capacity Development at the UJ Postgraduate School.

Competitors are allowed one slide with no animations or movement as part of their presentation. Singing, dancing, costumes and props are not allowed. Going over three minutes results in disqualification.

“Today the standard was outstanding. I think, best ever – and the judges who have been here before are nodding. Thank you to the students for a most entertaining afternoon,” added Dr Lamberti.

Uj Pgs 3mt 2018

The 18 competitors in the 2018 UJ 3MT PhD thesis presentation competition


Overall winner

The overall winner was Ms Oluwedemilade Fayemiwo, from the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment. Her topic was “From wine to water: Searching within for clean water”. She also scooped the Audience Vote.

“This was a very tough exercise for us,” said Dr Anthony Ambala from the UJ Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture (FADA), who was one of the judges..

“We ended up with a large pool of top scorers. However the winner was an outright winner, it was a unanimous decision by the judges. But the rest were pretty close, so it was quite a challenge for us.”


The runner-up was Mr Watson Munyanyi, from the College of Business and Economics. His topic was:”The influence of organizational capabilities on small and medium enterprises operational performance.”

Next round

The winner and runner up go forward to the national 3MT competition on the 26th of October at the Free State University. The winner of the national 3MT is filmed, and their video clip goes to the virtual, global U21 3MT competition.

The judges

The judges were Dr Anthony Ambala, Head of the Multimedia Department (FADA); Mr Lebogang Seale, Senior Manager in Strategic Communications; Prof Liz Gunner, Visiting Research Professor in the School of Languages (Humanities); Prof Llewellyn Leonard, former Vice Dean: Research (CBE) ; Dr Daniel Madyira, Senior Lecturer in Mechanical Engineering Science(Engineering); and Prof Reinout Meijboom, Head of the Chemistry Department (Science).


Uj 3mt

The Judges of the 2018 UJ 3MT PhD thesis presentation competition

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