UCL Department of Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering


UCL CEGE's inaugural 3 Minute Thesis departmental competition success

17 April 2020

February 2020 saw nine doctoral students participate in the first ever UCL Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering 3MT heat, with two winners chosen from among the outstanding candidates.

UCL CEGE's 3MT departmental Heat competitors 2020.

Founded by the University of Queensland, Australia, in 2008, the Three Minute Thesis competition (3MT) now has over 900 universities from all over the world taking part each year. Since 2014, UCL has run its own 3MT event, where departmental and Faculty heats take place between February and May, leading up to a June final. This year, CEGE’s inaugural departmental 3MT heat was instigated, designed to not only select two students for the UCL Engineering Faculty heat, but also to showcase the breadth of research taking place in the department. The event was a joint effort between CEGE’s Engagement Committee and CEGERs, the department’s researchers’ society. 

To take part in any 3MT heat, students must present the story of their thesis in three minutes, of course, with only one PowerPoint slide (sans animations) to help them. With poems, raps, costumes and props are strictly prohibited, the presentations are judged both on the content and the presenter’s communication skills. 2020’s CEGE presentations were judged by a panel comprising Dr Manni Bhatti, Prof Nicola Christie, Dr Lena Ciric, Ms Sunita Malhi and Dr Utku Solpuker. The audience was also asked to vote for their favourite presentation. 

Chaired by Dr Ciric, CEGE’s departmental competition included a beautifully varied set of topics ranging from mining failures, green infrastructure in favelas, autonomous vehicles, novel concrete materials, artificial intelligence for cities, solar energy for the developing world, surface cleaning and slope stability. The competitors were Abigail Cartwright, Loan Diep, Aly Elshafei, Guohao Fang, Mohamed Ibrahim, Vivien Kizilcec, Stacey Rawlinson, Pooneh Shah Malekpoor and Giulia Trabacchin. 

The event was extremely well attended, with standing room only left by the start. It was wonderful to see so many CEGE research students, their supervisors and other departmental staff come to watch the competition, and support the competitors.

As Prof Christie commented, the 3MT heat "was an excellent opportunity for students to tell a very short story about years of work – something we all find difficult to do!”

Despite fierce competition, the two winners of CEGE’s departmental 3MT Heat 2020 were Stacey Rawlinson and Giulia Trabacchin. Stacey presented her work on the collection of evidence regarding how best to carry out surface cleaning in hospitals, in order to prevent the spread of superbugs. Giulia talked about her study on the bond between durable basalt FRP bars and novel geopolymer concrete.

Stacey noted that herself and her fellow PhD students "are all so excited and passionate about our work. As such, it can be extremely challenging to explain said research in just three minutes. Personally, this presented a great opportunity for me to take a step back and take another look at the key messages I wanted to present from my work. The competition was fantastic! All of the speakers were very engaging and inspiring, and it’s really nice to hear what everyone is working on in our fantastically multidisciplinary department here in CEGE. I really enjoyed not only getting to present my work, but to have the opportunity to present to a varied audience and my peers."

Expanding on how difficult it is to "condense your research into just three minutes", Giulia explained how she relished the challenge of keeping her 3MT presentation "understandable but still engaging for such a varied audience. At departmental level the competition was tough, and everyone did a very good job in presenting such interesting research topics."

Stacey and Giulia both received gift vouchers for winning the CEGE 3MT heat, and in ordinary circumstances would have gone on to represent the department in the Faculty 3MT heat, which was sadly cancelled due to coronavirus. Everyone at CEGE wishes all our 3MT competitors well with their ongoing research. 

By Dr Lena Ciric


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  • Caption: All of CEGE's 2020 3MT participants enjoying a moment of relief and laughter after their presentations.