Gwendolyn Foo in her 3 Minute Thesis video entry “E-waste is like a box of chocolates”.

PhD student from the School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering’s Sustainable Manufacturing and Life Cycle Engineering (SMLCE) Research Group, Gwendolyn Foo, has taken out joint third place in this year’s 3 Minute Thesis competition. 3 Minute Thesis (3MT) is an academic competition that showcases UNSW’s innovative PhD candidates, who have just 3 minutes to explain their world-changing research and why it is important. It is a great opportunity for students to develop public speaking and communication skills, creativity, and reflect on the importance and impact of their research.

Due to COVID-19 lockdown situations in NSW this year, the competition was held virtually with participants submitting their 3-minute video entries online. Despite this, there was a high calibre of presentations. Gwendolyn’s entry presented her PhD research in dismantling e-waste using robotic and automation methods, relating the challenge of handling e-waste by playing on Forest Gump’s iconic quote “Life is like a box of chocolates”.

Judges Liza-Mare Syron (Indigenous Scientia Senor Lecturer), Robyn Williams (ABC science journalist), and Sarah Pearce (Deputy Director of CSIRO Astronomy & Space Science) found all the submissions extremely competitive this year. “The science is there, and so is the passion. But there is also the argument, why this is important! From the politics of energy to the understanding of the sense of touch, from veggies on verges, to the handling of e-waste, each speaker showed how their work can be spoken about to family, future employers or even sceptics in bars. That’s the point of the comp: a vital new skill. And it’s always a privilege to hear tomorrow’s intellectual talent,” said Robyn Williams.

UNSW’s Pro Vice-Chancellor of Research Training & Entrepreneurship and Dean of Graduate Research, Professor Jonathan Morris, congratulates all the finalists: “Our PhD candidates are engaged in world class research, and the 3MT competition showcases their work in a really engaging and accessible way. I want to congratulate all of our outstanding finalists for their efforts. Each has provided a window into their exciting work and highlighted their ability to communicate and show their passion for their research.”

With entries exploring novel research in a number of fields from health, law, to arts, Gwendolyn led the School of Mechanical & Manufacturing Engineering into the top three. Gwendolyn found the experience “challenging yet rewarding and I recommend anyone to participate, especially if it’s out of your comfort zone. I’m so happy and proud to be able to share my research with the world because it’s important – treatment of e-waste is a huge challenge and vital for a sustainable future in today’s consumer focussed society”

Well done to Gwendolyn and all the winners of the 3 Minute Thesis competition. Check out Gwendolyn’s entry “E-waste is like a box of chocolates” and this year’s other video entries.