U21 Global 3MT winner 2020 announced

U21 is delighted to announce that the winner of this year’s U21 3MT® competition is Ciaran McGeady from the University of Glasgow with his presentation ‘Listening to Butterflies with Brainwaves’.  

Ciaran McGeady from the University of Glasgow
Ciaran McGeady from the University of Glasgow

Ciaran’s three-minute presentation is focused on the development of brain-computer interfaces, a novel communication technology that uses brain activity recorded from electrodes to control computers and devices. His research is showing great promise for neurorehabilitation following stroke or spinal cord injury. Ciaran is developing signal processing and machine learning techniques to improve the detection of imagined arm movements in patients, restoring their control of their environment.  

Ciaran said:  ‘Presenting for a non-specialist audience pushed me to find the “big picture” of my research and allowed me to frame the talk in an accessible way. I'm delighted to win and honoured to be among this year’s incredibly strong finalists. Thank you to U21 for organising such an inspiring event and to the University of Glasgow for their support. I encourage all PhD students to enter, even if you think speaking isn’t your thing. You will not come away empty handed, and you might surprise yourself like me and go all the way to the final.’ 

Associate Professor Caroline Daley, previous Chair of the U21 Deans and Directors of Graduate Studies who oversee the competition commented: ‘The 3MT is one of U21’s flagship events for good reason. Each year the calibre of the finalists stuns the judges. Ciaran McGeady was the clear winner this year. His opening story about the journalist Jean-Dominique Bauby, who suffered ‘locked-in syndrome’ after suffering a stroke, drew the viewers into his research on using brain waves to assist those who are paralysed.’ 

The 3MT® competition, founded by the University of Queensland, is taken to a global level with U21. PhD students, having already been chosen as the 3MT® winner in their own University, are pitted against other winners from across the U21 network, to find an overall and a people’s choice winner. 

The People’s Choice Vote is awarded to Luis Guillermo Hernandez Rojas from Tecnológico de Monterrey. He wins US$1000 for his presentation on ‘Decoding of motor information from brain signals’ which looks at detecting areas of the brain that are processing movement, and what movement is being processed. Luis’s research has shown that the brain starts processing the movement about one second before the actual movement takes place, and therefore the detection of motor information that anticipates the physical action. Using artificial intelligence he is able to capture brain signals when the motor information occurs and recognise what movement the participant wants to make. This aims to allow people with motor disabilities to have a more natural control over their prosthetics and rehabilitation machines. 

This year’s Highly Commended prize was awarded to Bruno Vicari Stefani from the Faculty of Engineering at University of New South Wales, Sydney. His presentation ‘Low-cost solar energy with low-cost materials: A tale of three grown up pigs’ reimaged the classic tale of the Three Little Pigs to tell the story of how the efficiency of solar panels can be increased by not only extracting contaminants from the panels, but also by injecting panels with hydrogen to fix the problem of instability.  

Bairbre Redmond, U21 Provost congratulated all the contestants: ‘U21’s 3MT continues to be an important way to showcase the very considerable research talent that continues to be fostered in our universities. This year’s videos give a particular reason to be hopeful in these difficult days, as they provide impressive examples of the innovative power of emerging research excellence. My sincere congratulations to every student who entered this important competition’.  

See all entries here

R Edwards