HCA Student Wins Birkbeck Competition

Birkbeck’s first ‘Three Minute Thesis’ competition was recently held at the School of Arts, celebrating the exciting research conducted by PhD students at the College.

Students were challenged to present their scholarly research to a non-specialist audience in just three minutes. Students from a range of different disciplines took part showcasing their presentation skills for an enjoyable and interesting evening.

The winner and recipient of a £500 prize was John Siblon from the Department of History, whose research focuses on war memory and representations of black colonial servicemen in the aftermath of the First World War.

He said: “I felt honoured to take part in the competition among some of the best minds at Birkbeck who were bursting to reveal their theses to the audience. It was also nerve-wracking until the competition started.

“There’s no denying that it was hard to condense all my research into such a short time frame and I had to draft and redraft my notes and rehearse the script to ensure I could fit the main points of my thesis into the three-minute slot. The competition was incredibly useful as it focused my mind on why I undertook the thesis in the first place and what use my findings could be used for.

“I was surprised to win so I spent a lot of time grinning immediately afterwards! I felt that I had given an audience to my findings which was satisfying. Thank you, Birkbeck!”

The runner up was Dorota Gaskins from the Department of Applied Linguistics and Communication, who spoke about her research into dual-language acquisition of Polish and English. She said: “I’d always thought it would be fun to take part in this competition but never quite found time to do it while I was writing up my PhD. Once finished, I found it exhilarating to throw myself into writing once again! Rehearsing was daunting as my presentation always overran by a few seconds. I think we were all quite nervous on the day, but it was amazing to see the amount of effort everyone had put into their speeches.”

The audience also had the chance to have their say and choose a people’s choice winner to receive a special prize – a Birkbeck owl toy and £30 in book vouchers. This went to Cynthia Umezulike from the School of Law, whose research looks towards a rights-based approach to the involuntary feeding of anorexic bodies, exploring the ethical and legal consequences of treating those with anorexia against their will.

She said: “The three-minute thesis competition provided me with a unique and rewarding experience to further independently develop and enhance my thought process and critical thinking skills. I, therefore, embraced a newfound level of clarity in overcoming some obstacles I previously faced in areas of communication, precise writing and presentation.

“I am delighted to be the people’s choice winner because this shows that I was able to convey my research in a clear and logical sequence to a non-specialist audience.”

The competition was judged by a panel of Birkbeck academics: Professor Julian Swann (Pro-Vice Master for Research), Professor Miriam Zukas(School of Social Sciences, History and Philosophy), Professor Nicholas Keep (Dean of the School of Science) and Dr Luisa Calè (Assistant Dean of Postgraduate Research Programmes, School of Arts).

To see a video of John’s winning 3 minute speech, go to:




Image credit for stopwatch on home page: By Wouterhagens (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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