By Veronika Dzetkuličová, PhD student at the Leverhulme Research Centre for Forensic Science and winner of the 2019 Dundee Three-Minute Thesis competition

Three-Minute Thesis is a competition in which PhD students from across the world attempt to sum up their projects in an accessible, comprehensive, and interesting manner to an audience comprised of the general public. Oh, and it all needs to be said in three minutes. Sounds like an easy job.

It. Was. Not. At least not for me, so I was surprised to be named the winner of the recent Dundee heat of the competition and to go forward to the national finals. I was doubly surprised because my fellow contestants all gave excellent presentations that distilled their research for the audience.


Veronica and runner-up Katie Larner 

Communicating your research to a non-specialist audience has never been more important so I would encourage all PhD students to think about participating in the next Three-Minute Thesis competition. Here are some of the things I observed during my preparation and participation in the event that may help you if you do decide to take part. Some might sound very clichéd and some belong to a ‘Captain Obvious’ category. You have been warned.


Trying something new sometimes hurts. I do not enjoy learning my presentations word by word. I prefer to talk about my research in a more relaxed manner, having ‘bullet points’ in my head, not memorising text chunks. Having only three minutes for a nutshell presentation of a three-year-long project in a foreign language without the use of jargon was impossible for me to do without word-by-word text preparation and memorisation. I did not enjoy that, but it brushed dust off underused parts of my brain, and this will hopefully be to my advantage in years to come.


Practising brings people together. (Especially if it is for something you do not like 😊) Taking part was a mandatory requirement for me and a few of my colleagues who are enrolled in a PG Cert qualification so we practised together. For ‘only’ a three-minute-long talk, we managed to practise in front of each other for hours. Yes, it was a hard work, but it was also fun.


Time is relative and three minutes can be quite a long time. Never has a moment felt shorter than when I stood in front of the audience. Just before my three minutes started, I realised all the people were waiting for me to say something. I was overwhelmed by the amount of thoughts passing through my head during that moment. The flip side of the coin was the actual talk. Those were the longest three minutes I have experienced so far.


Go on even if you think you are failing. They tell you ‘memorise the first and last sentence of your talk by heart, so you start with confidence and can finish any time it is required’. What did I mess up? Yes, the very first sentence. I panicked inside a little bit, attempted a smile, took a breath, and went on. I won the university heat. By a hair. I still do not know how, but the message here is: go on even if you think you are failing, the end-product might surprise you 😊.

The Dundee 2019 Three-Minute Thesis contestants with the organisers and Roy Mudie, 2018 winner.

The Dundee heat of Three Minute Thesis is run by the Leverhulme Research Centre for Forensic Science (LRCFS), in conjunction with the Organisational and Professional Development unit (OPD). Information about the 2020 event will be released in due course.