College hat trick in Three Minute Thesis Competition

Postgraduate research students from the College of Human and Health Sciences claimed the top three spots in an interdisciplinary Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition, held at Swansea University in February.

Rebecca Prachett who is studying for a PhD in Social Work and Social Care claimed first place in the competition while Rhian Cuthbertson and Elaine van Rijn who are both studying for PhDs in Psychology claimed second and third place respectively.  

Rebecca’s thesis is entitled: "Better the family you know? Exploring outcomes of children and young people in kinship care in South Wales”. Rebecca said: “Working in collaboration with two local authorities in South Wales, this project aims to examine how kinship care can influence a wide range of factors in the lives of looked after children and how any positive effects can be maximised. This pioneering research uses a mixed-methods approach to understand the complexities of kinship caring relationships and to make recommendations for implementation in social work practice."

Rhian Cuthbertson’s thesis looks at The Emotional Impact of Sudden Death. She said: “My research aims to identify the psychological and physical health impact of failing to resuscitate an emotionally close individual following an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest.  People who either fail to resuscitate or fail to attempt resuscitation of a loved one, particularly if they have been given instructions to provide CPR, may be at high risk for developing depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress and complex bereavement.  These outcomes are likely to be associated with poor physical health and high health care usage.  However, definitive data about the severity and prevalence of such problems is lacking.  Using questionnaires and face-to-face interviews, the prevalence and predictors of distress will be assessed over a six month period in those who have witnessed an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest and did, or did not attempt resuscitation, or did not witness the arrest. The findings of this research will be used to inform the development of a simple, cost-effective intervention that can be of benefit to them.

Elaine Van Rijin’s thesis surrounds sleep, memory consolidation and dreaming. She said: “I’m studying how sleep can help process and store memories in the brain, or in other words, consolidate memory. I’m looking at the effect of sleep on different types of memory, including memory for learning Welsh words, but also false memories, which are memories of events that did not actually happen. I’m also looking at the role of dreaming in memory consolidation. We tend to dream about events that happened to us during the day, and I’m researching if the content of dreams also reflects memory consolidation.”

The Three Minute Thesis (3MT) Competition is an exciting event that tests postgraduate research students from all research disciplines.  Researchers explain their work while sticking to three simple but strict rules:

  • Presentations are strictly limited to 3 minutes
  • Presenters can use a single, static PowerPoint™ slide using a standard 3MT template
  • No other media or props are permitted

The competition was organised by Development and Training Services (DTS) and the Research Institute for Applied Social Sciences (RIASS) at Swansea University.

Professor Nuria Lorenzo-Dus, Academic Director of DTS said: “It’s a challenge, but one well worth the effort.  It gives researchers the chance to take part in a multi-disciplinary research event that will sharpen their presentation skills in order to engage with an audience which is an essential skill for their future career.”

Rebecca said: "The 3MT format has become quite notorious for the challenge it poses in summarising 3 or 4 years of research into a 3 minute presentation. There is so much that you want to convey and the challenge is made harder by the fact you’re presenting to a non-specialist audience. Immediately, the opportunity to use technical shorthand to bring the presentation time down is out of the window. It’s a great format to get you thinking about the actual point of your research and why anyone outside of your field would care about what you’re doing. Given that my project is looking at the outcomes for young people in the social care system, I felt it was important that I learned to convey the main message of my thesis in a simple and brief way. After all, practitioners in the field rarely have time to sit down and read entire theses.

“The event itself was a fantastic day with some great presentations. I found it fascinating to see how others had also worked to share their specialisation in an easy to understand way. Presenting on stage in the Taliesin was slightly daunting, but the audience were supportive and the atmosphere was very friendly.

“I am presenting at a few conferences this year in order to disseminate my research further. I’m fortunate in having two local authorities as funding partners so I get to see the effects of my applied research in action, but it would be great to have a wider impact. I think it’s important to stay aware of how the work we do on a day to day basis may impact the world around us, and I think 3MT is a great way of getting research students to pause and consider that. Regardless of what stage of your PhD you are at, I would recommend entering."

Rebecca was awarded with £150 and will now go forward to the Vitae 3MT UK semi-finals which take place this summer.