UQ PhD student Megan Rossi’s gut feeling about kidney disease helped her secure the win at last night’s UQ 3MT competition.
UQ PhD student Megan Rossi’s gut feeling about kidney disease helped her secure the win at last night’s UQ 3MT competition.
12 September 2014

University of Queensland PhD student Megan Rossi’s gut feeling about kidney disease helped her win UQ's Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition.

In a tightly fought contest at Brisbane's Customs House, Ms Rossi edged out runner-up Sachin Thakur from UQ’s School of Pharmacy, who is developing a delivery system to treat age-related blindness using ultrasound.

3MT is a competition that challenges research students to communicate the significance of their projects to a general audience in just three minutes.

The concept sprang from the UQ Graduate School in 2008, and competitions are now run in about 200 institutions internationally.

Ms Rossi said that participating in the 3MT had been a fantastic learning experience that had allowed her to develop better communication skills essential to researchers.

“As a dietician I find it completely frustrating that despite the incredible research being done, it’s the unfounded and potentially dangerous nutrition messages that influence industry,” Ms Rossi said.

“One of the reasons is that we, as researchers, struggle to condense our work into simple concepts, a trait all fad diets share.

“My dream is to change that, ensuring evidence is translated appropriately and I believe this is what 3MT has taught me.”

Ms Rossi studies the role of pre and probiotics in the management of chronic kidney disease.

“My research is focused on the community of bacteria that live in our gut and outnumber human cells ten to one,” Ms Rossi said.

“In kidney disease these bacteria are less healthy and are known to produce toxins that are thought to aggravate heart disease as well as lead to further kidney disease progression.

“While it is only early days our research has shown that manipulating the gut bacteria in this population may be a promising therapy for alleviating some of the health burden associated with kidney disease.”

Ms Rossi said she feels fortunate to be part of a supportive community in UQ’s School of Medicine.

“Learning first hand from my internationally renowned supervisors Associate Professor Katrina Campbell, Professor David Johnson, and mentor Associate Professor Maree Ferguson, has opened up a new world for me," she said.

“PhDs are full of highs and lows, and it’s the highs, like sharing what you’ve being doing 60 hours a week for the past three years in a language your friends, family and industry can understand, that makes it all worth it.

“This to me is what the 3MT is about.”

Steve Austin from ABC 612 Radio hosted the event and the judging panel included Queensland Chief Scientist Dr Geoff Garrett, Dr Robert Bell from CSIRO and the Network Ten science television program Scope. 

Dr Garrett said the 3MT competition played an important part in preparing research students for a successful career.
“Communication is a vital skill for everyone – especially scientists,” Dr Garrett said.
“There is a lot of world-class science taking place in Queensland, but unless we scientists can effectively communicate our work, we won’t excite people about the significant benefits it can bring to our state, our nation and our world.
“This year’s UQ 3MT contestants presented exciting solutions to some very interesting and important issues faced by the world today.
“Initiatives such as 3MT really help to prepare our brightest minds for a successful career beyond their degree.”

Listen to the finalists on ABC 612 Radio here.

​Dean of the UQ Graduate School and 3MT coordinator Professor Stephan Riek said that good communication skills are increasingly important for researchers.

“This competition allows students to communicate how their research will impact and inform society,” Professor Riek said.

“Researchers need to be able to communicate their work to a variety of audiences, from government funding bodies, to industry, and to the people who will benefit from their research.

“The challenge to present complex research to a general audience in such a short timeframe assists students to develop communication skills that will help them in their future careers.

“The calibre of the presentations has been improving each year, and I would like to congratulate this year’s finalists for doing such an outstanding job.”

As the winner of the 3MT UQ Final, Ms Rossi was awarded a $5000 travel grant and will face off against competitors from more than 45 universities across Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong and the South Pacific in the Trans-Tasman 3MT Final on 3 November 2014.

Ms Kelsey Kennedy represented the University of Western Australia (UWA) at last year’s Trans-Tasman 3MT at the University of Western Sydney on October 18 2013 and won both the People’s Choice and Judges Choice Awards for her talk Feeling for cancer: an imaging tool to make breast cancer surgery more effective.

Ms Kennedy's win means that UWA will host the Trans-Tasman 3MT on Monday 3rd November, 2014.

Rio Tinto was the sponsor of this year’s UQ 3MT, and other supporters included Data#3, UQ Alumni Friends, Campus Travel, Unity Water, the Institute of Continuing and TESOL Education, Co-op, 99Scholars and Bluestar Go.

For more information about 3MT visit http://threeminutethesis.org 

Contact: Janardan Kewin, UQ Graduate School Engagement and Development team, (07) 3346 0509 or 3mt@uq.edu.au