2015 Winners

The first prize, highly commended and people's choice winners from the 2015 U21 3MT competition.

Universitas 21 are pleased to announce the 2015 winner of the annual U21 3MT® (Three Minute Thesis) competition as Eamonn Fahy from the University of Melbourne for his thesis ‘Catching the Silent Thief of Sight’ – a presentation on his PhD research into glaucoma and methods of early detection.


First developed by the University of Queensland in 2008, the Three Minute Thesis competition (3MT®) challenges research students to communicate the significance of their projects to a non-specialist audience in just three minutes.

Following a successful launch in 2013,the U21 3MT competition 2015 pitted the leading presenters from U21 member universities against one another. Each participating member held their own internal 3MT® competition to select a local winner who was then be put forward for the U21 final, to be judged by an international panel consisting of industry and academic professionals.



#U213MT Winner 2015

In his winning presentation, Eamonn described how more than 300,000 Australians alone have glaucoma, but only half of those had been officially diagnosed, highlighting a major issue of our ability to detect the disease before it is too late.


Eamonn explained that whilst we can clinically detect and diagnose glaucoma, the signs of the disease can take up to 10 years to develop, by which time the damage has already been done – hence the disease being coined the ‘silent thief of sight’. His doctoral work is to seek to identify ways of detecting the changes in the eye before sight is lost.

Eamonn’s research identified electrical signatures in comatose ganglion cells which could awake from loss of function and recover at a later stage.


An international judging panel made up of experts from around the world came together to discuss the presentations and decide on a winner. The panel included Dean of Graduate Studies Caroline Daley from the University of Auckland, Associate Dean of Graduate Studies Mee Len Chye from the University of Hong Kong, U21 Executive-Director Eva Wiberg and Shane Rodgers from ‘The Australian’ newspaper.

After viewing all 26 U21 3MT® entries from around the world, Eamonn was crowned the winner.


"What a challenge to condense a PhD down to three minutes! This is an incredible honour to receive first place, among a group of fantastic competitors,” Eamonn said.


“I’d like to say a big thank you to my supervisors at the Centre for Eye Research Australia, the University of Melbourne and the Melbourne Centre for the Study of Higher Education for all of their support.”

Professor Dick Strugnell, Pro-Vice Chancellor for Graduate Research at the University of Melbourne, spoke of the university’s immense pride in Eamonn’s achievement.

“Eamonn is an outstanding communicator.  Not only does he provide wonderful clarity regarding his own research topic, through the U21 3MT and subsequently through engagement with the media, Eamonn has been a fantastic advocate for public investment in research in Australia.

The University of Melbourne is immensely proud of Eamonn Fahy.”



Highly Commended Award

Highly commended was Zoe Lam from the University of British Columbia for her thesis on the ‘Perception of Lexical Tone by Heritage Speakers of Cantonese’.

Zoe was delighted with the news of her commendation and spoke of her enjoyment of the competition.

“What I love about the U21 3MT is its power to break the stereotype images of graduate students engrossed in their own research bubble, or in journal papers that the rest of the world will never read.”

“I feel honoured to have played a part in the U21 3MT and would like to thank everyone who gave me constructive feedback during the process, including colleagues in my home department, UBC staff, friends from UBC St John's College, as well as family and friends from Hong Kong,” Zoe said.

Dr. Susan Porter, Dean and Vice-Provost for UBC Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies said she was thrilled at Zoe’s achievement in the U21 3MT and congratulated her on her outstanding performance in the competition.

“We’re delighted she so well represented UBC to the global community,”  said Dr Porter, “The 3MT experience is a wonderful way for students to gain experience informing and engaging broader audiences, and bringing to light the important work being done by our graduate students.”



People's Choice Award

This year’s People’s Choice Award went to Carly Muletz Wolz from the University of Maryland for her presentation on the ‘Presence of antifungal bacteria associated with salamander resistance to infection by deadly fungal pathogen’.

“The U21 3MT is a very cool competition and I’ve really enjoyed taking part!” Carly said.

“It really challenged me and it took a lot more time and planning than I thought it would! In entering the competition, I now see the importance of clarifying what it is that I am speaking about in my research, and not to assume that people understand the importance of your research.”

Professor Caramello, Dean of Graduate Studies for the University of Maryland said that it was important for doctoral students to be able to convey the significance of their research outside of their specialities and that U21 3MT helps develop this skill.

“Carly’s research on salamanders explores a critical problem, and her findings have potentially broad and important application in the development of probiotic therapies to treat diseases in other species and, therefore, in wildlife conservation in general. Carly presents her research on a topic that initially might seem obscure in a way that clarifies its substance and importance and engages her audience,” he said.

Universitas 21 Secretary General Jane Usherwood, said, “This year the Universitas 21 3MT® competition has witnessed unprecedented levels of support from within the network as well as the higher education community.

“We have had many engaging and informative presentations from students around the U21 network which made for an exciting and closely run contest.

“As a network, we strive to nurture global citizens and promote internationalisation and international collaboration – the U21 3MT® provides a fantastic platform for students to engage with cross-cultural perspectives whilst presenting their research on an international stage and challenging themselves personally.”

The 3MT® provides doctoral students with the opportunity to develop their communication skills by explaining their research to an intelligent but non-specialist audience. The local competitions will challenge the students to present face-to-face, and additionally the virtual final will hone skills associated from being filmed for an international audience, receiving international peer review, and gaining skills surrounding the presentation of their research to a wider audience.



U21 Three Minute Thesis (U21 3MT) Winner 2015

'Catching the Silent Thief of Sight' - Eamonn Fahy, University of Melbourne