UNSW PhD candidates were given the opportunity to showcase their innovative research at the annual UNSW 3 Minute Thesis (3MT) finals on Wednesday. Twenty-one PhD candidates had just three minutes and one PowerPoint slide to explain their innovative research and its impact on the world. 

The annual competition brings together outstanding PhD candidates who have three minutes to pitch their doctoral research to a broad audience. This year’s presenters explored a wide range of topics including constitutional governance in Sri Lanka, artificial intelligence's ability to track emotional states from speech and the impact of business relationships on wellbeing.  

The judging panel included Founder and Chair of StartGiving and Co-founder and Partner of Emeritus and Airtree, Daniel Petre; Founder of Stoke and Co-Founder of Cruxes Innovation, Emily Chang; Arts, Design & Architecture Associate Dean Engagement and Impact, Professor Christy Newman; and UNSW’s Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Attila Brungs. 

“This year’s 3MT competition demonstrates not only how broad and innovative our research is at UNSW, but the incredible talents, creativity and passion of our students and early career research community,” said Prof. Brungs.  

“The event is a fantastic way for candidates to gain exposure for their research and experience in presenting their thesis to an audience. We are very proud of the quality and real-world impact of this year’s winners.” 

UNSW's innovative PhD candidates

Dr Sascha Spencer from the School of Clinical Medicine at UNSW Medicine & Health took first prize with her presentation on improving the education of doctors specialising in the treatment of eye conditions.

“My thesis is looking at the global state of this problem and if my project can help at least one person’s vision from being saved then that’s an incredible reward for me,” Dr Spencer said. 

“For me and my supervisors, it’s so important that patients are kept safe and that every doctor has the ability to figure out what the red flags are and what treatments need to be delivered urgently. That’s the aim of the project.” 

Dr Spencer was presented with the top prize of $3000 and will now represent the University at the 2023 Asia Pacific 3MT Final hosted by the University of Queensland, and the Universitas 21 3MT Final.  

Apeksha Goswami from UNSW Engineering took out second prize and was awarded $1500 for her talk on her research into meat marbling. The third prize of $500 was awarded to Jordan White from UNSW Arts, Design & Architecture for her presentation on exploring children’s care and custody pathways. 

Wendi Wijarwadi from UNSW Arts, Design & Architecture took out the People’s Choice Award and $1000 for his talk on improving language teaching through collaboration between teachers and students in Indonesia. 

Brian Barbour from UNSW Law & Justice received a highly commended mention from the judges for his talk on building new state asylum systems from the ground up in Asia. 

Research to change the world

“It’s humbling to see the depth and breadth of the research projects that are being undertaken here. Everyone is super focused on making the world a better place. I spend my days in the business world and seeing the energy, enthusiasm, passion, care, and the deep intellectual engagement of these students fills me with hope for the world,” Mr Petre said. 

Professor Jonathan Morris, UNSW’s Pro Vice-Chancellor, Research Training & Entrepreneurship and Dean of Graduate Research, said the highlight of this year’s 3MT competition was seeing the 21 finalists showcase their research and demonstrate mastery of their topics in three minutes. 

I was really impressed by the insightful talks from this year’s event, exploring topics such as cochlear implants and the treatment of eye disease, demonstrating that the work our people are doing is going to have a profound impact,” Prof. Morris said. 

This competition is the highlight of the higher degree research calendar and it’s one of the University’s premier events because it showcases the quality of our research students.” 

Videos of the 2023 3MT presentations will be published on the UNSW 3MT website.