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DPhil student wins University of Oxford three-minute thesis competition

Dylan Sherman won first place and the People’s Choice Award in the global research communication competition for presenting a compelling talk on his thesis topic and its significance in just 180 seconds

Dylan Sherman, DPhil Candidate

Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) is a research communication competition developed by the University of Queensland. First run in 2008, 3MT® has grown to become a global competition, with universities around the world holding their own events. The exercise challenges doctoral students to present a compelling talk on their thesis topic and its significance in just 180 seconds.

The University of Oxford held its own Three Minute Thesis final on 31 May, when 8 DPhil students competed by presenting their thesis in only 3-minutes. The competition helps students develop their communication skills, seek support and obtain funding.

Dylan's DPhil research in the Multifunctional Materials & Composites (MMC) Laboratory (Department of Engineering Science) focuses on nanosheets of hybrid porous materials called Metal-Organic Frameworks (MOFs). They take advantage of the porosity by introducing guests into the frameworks that make MOFs more useful (functional), with a focus on guests that luminescence. This has created devices that emit white light, as a sustainable alternative to current LEDs, or act as sensors for temperature, pressure, or environmental pollution. They’ve also printed the luminescent nanosheets to form covert security tags or micro-OLED structures.

During his 3 minute talk, ‘Nano-sponges that light up your world’, Dylan drew an analogy with the guest @host metal-organic framework luminescent porous nano-structures to ‘glowing truffles in a spongy chocolate box’, which he likened to ‘a Willy Wonka creation, fit for the next internet sensation’.

When asked about the reason for participating in this competition, Dylan said: ‘‘It’s a great chance for storytelling: finding an engaging narrative that conveys your research to a common, global, audience. In many ways, I think it offers a process for humanising facts and figures, and making research relatable to an audience’s everyday experiences. It makes you think about why your research matters not only to the world, but the people who live within it.’’

‘‘It’s a pressured 3-minute performance being judged, so being involved can be tense”, he adds. “But, it’s also exhilarating and a powerful way to show your passion and enthusiasm for science.’’

As winner of the Oxford competition, Dylan will now go on to represent the University at the UK wide final run by Vitae later this year, where he says he is “excited at the chance to continue spreading the word about our research.’’

Second place in the Oxford competition went to Amirmohammad Farzaneh, also a DPhil student at the Department of Engineering Science, who spoke about ‘How to pack the network’.

Find out more about the competition here:

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