Three Minute Thesis - IUA National Final 2023

On 15th November 2023 IUA held the first ever National ‘Three Minute Thesis’ Competition and what a thrilling event it was.

If you missed it, you can now watch the playback recording below.

Lianne Shanley winner of the 2023 IUA National 3 Minute Thesis Competition

Lianne Shanley, TCD. Winner of the 2023 IUA National 3MT Final

8 winners of the individual university competitions were invited to compete in the IUA national final. An 80,000 word thesis would take 9 hours to present. Their time limit was 3 minutes! The winner of our first national competition was Lianne Shanley from TCD and runner up was Victoria Ward from University of Galway. 

Three Minute Thesis (originally developed by the University of Queensland) supports graduate research students in their development as confident research communicators. Participants are challenged to present their research in three minutes, using only one slide, to a non-specialist audience. In this competition entrants must distil their niche subjects and intensive research into bite-sized presentations that will inform and entertain the general public.

View the recording

View Our Finalists

Find Out More About Our Finalists

Lianne Shanley - Winner

Name and Title: Lianne Shanley - Winner
Representing Trinity College Dublin

Link: Watch Lianne's video

Description: Faculty: School of Biochemistry and Immunology

Discipline: Immunology/Bioengineering

PhD Project Title: Characterisation and modulation of the immune response to biomaterials for bone regeneration

Particular successes or highlights from your PhD journey so far:

"The publication of my first first-author research article was definitely a highlight. It’s hugely satisfying to see what is often years of work culminate in something tangible and valuable to your field, and having some of your work peer-reviewed by experts prior to going into your PhD defence is always reassuring."

Victoria Ward - Runner Up

Name and Title: Victoria Ward - Runner Up
Representing University of Galway

Link: Watch Victoria's video

Description: Faculty: School of Medicine

Discipline: Anatomy

PhD Project Title: Strategies to mechanically stabilise the myocardial wall following a myocardial infarction.

What advice or top tips would you give to other potential or current PhD students?

"I certainly smile at this question as I believe we are all hypocrites when it comes to giving other students advice with the routine “don’t work so hard”, “put the laptop down on the weekend”, “learn to switch off”. A PhD is an incredible mental challenge, as you are constantly battling with yourself on whether you have achieved enough in a day, and if your work is up to publishable standards. This is something I can still struggle with. My best advice to ease the stress, is to find something in your life which can override the work pressures, and make you forget about your PhD. We can’t change or avoid the constant stresses of a PhD, but we can put foundations in place to help us remove ourselves temporarily from the responsibility. For me it was triathlon races, I joined a club which meant I had to leave work to go train with people who knew nothing about my research, and I cannot understate how important that was."

Mairead Gallagher

Name and Title: Mairead Gallagher
Representing TU Dublin

Link: Watch Mairead's video

Description: Faculty: School of Chemical and BioPharmaceutical Sciences

Discipline: Chemistry and Microbiology

PhD Project Title: Synthesis of the metabolites of common antibiotics and investigation of their role in the development of Antimicrobial Resistance

What skills have you developed in undertaking the PhD - hard and soft:

"I’ve developed hard skills such as flash column chromatography, small molecule synthesis, aseptic techniques, and data analysis throughout my PhD. I’ve gained experience with the use and running of analytical chemistry equipment such as Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, Liquid Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (LC/MS), and Fourier-Transform Infrared spectroscopy (FTIR). I’ve developed soft skills such as time management, organisation, problem solving, effective communication, and scientific writing over the first three years of my PhD."

Sergey Katsuba

Name and Title: Sergey Katsuba
Representing UCD

Link: Watch Sergey's video

Description: Faculty: Sutherland School of Law

Discipline: Law

PhD Project Title: Institutional Discrimination as an Authoritarian Practice: A Case of Legislating Heteronormativity in Russia

Value of participating in your university’s ‘Thesis in 3’ competition:
" The UCD competition helped me to be concise and clear when presenting my research. It also helped to summarize everything I do in short presentation and to verbalize the impact that I am hoping to achieve with this research. This greatly contributes to the vision for the research project without which it is really hard to work every day."

Astrid Dedieu

Name and Title: Astrid Dedieu
Representing UCC

Link: Watch Astrid's video

Description: Faculty: School of Biological, Environmental and Earth Science

Discipline: Marine Ecology

PhD Project Title: Identifying and mitigating the impacts of offshore windfarms on seabirds breeding in Ireland.

Value of participating in your university’s ‘Thesis in 3’ competition:

"The Thesis in three competition is a terrific opportunity to communicate your research in a way intelligible to all. I firmly believe that science should always be communicated in an accessible way and this competition is a great example of how it can be done. Additionally, public speaking was
never my forte but with practice, thanks to events such as this, I have become more comfortable
with it which will come in handy come viva time!"

Bill Calvey

Name and Title: Bill Calvey
Representing Maynooth University

Link: Watch Bill's video

Description: Faculty: Hamilton Institute

Discipline: Data Science and Psychology

PhD Project Title: Still Feeling Healthy? The Identification of Health Optimistic and Pessimistic Older Adults

Value of participating in your university’s ‘Thesis in 3’ competition:

"I learned the skill of being able to communicate complex, subject-specific research to an audience who most likely have no prior knowledge about your subject. It is a valuable skill to acquire, whether you need to explain the importance of your research to friends and family, funders or media outlets. Competing in my university’s competition also taught me the importance of brevity. I am able to weed out any information in my presentations and research that is not important, and to ultimately tell a more cohesive story with my research."

Patrick Dolan

Name and Title: Patrick Dolan
Representing UL

Link: Watch Patrick's video

Description: Faculty: Education and Health Science

Discipline: Sport Science

PhD Project Title: Injury Epidemiology and Reduction in Men’s and Women’s Rugby Union

What skills have you developed in undertaking the PhD - hard and soft:

Collaboration is a word that comes to mind immediately and probably fills both the hard and soft skill buckets. It is a word we often use in sport but achieving it is another story. I was blessed to join a research project with experts from disciplines in physiotherapy, sport psychology, strength and conditioning, medicine, biomechanics, biomedical engineering, mathematics and statistics, and sport and exercise physiology. Having access to them is great, but learning how to communicate with them in a way that tangibly impacts the project at hand can be difficult. Everyone contributes through a different personal and professional lens, and so filtering through feedback to achieve the ultimate goal, in this case to benefit the players’ health and performance challenged many skills in time-management, inter-personal, statistics, research methods and more. Whether I continue a career in academia, return to industry, or bridge the two, I intend on leading a multidisciplinary team of experts and innovating methods by which we improve the health and performance of everyone engaged in sport.

Meabh Kennedy

Name and Title: Meabh Kennedy
Representing DCU

Link: Watch Meabh's video

Description: Faculty: School of Chemical Sciences

Discipline: Chemistry

PhD Project Title: Mechanobactericidal surfaces that target antimicrobial resistant bacteria; the key influencing factors for maximum antimicrobial activity

What's the nature of the research you have undertaken in your PhD to date:

"My research project has enabled me to gain insight and training in a variety of different subject areas and techniques. I have been very lucky to be trained by brilliant academic staff and have collaborated with other lecturers in my university. The nature of my research means that most of it has taken place in the chemistry lab thus far. I also plan to be trained in bacterial and mammalian cell testing."

Our Judging Panel

Dr Orlaigh Quinn

Name and Title: Dr Orlaigh Quinn
Independent Non-executive Director and former Secretary General at Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment


Description: Dr Orlaigh Quinn was appointed Secretary General of the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation in 2016. Her role was to support Government and lead the Department and its offices and agencies in encouraging the creation of high quality and sustainable full employment; by championing enterprise, supporting and incentivising a competitive enterprise base, and promoting fair and competitive employment and markets.

Prior to her Sec Gen role Orlaigh was an Assistant Secretary in the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in Ireland. As Programme Director of the Reform and Delivery Office, she led on Public Sector reform, including Civil Service Renewal and government reform and supported a wide range of organisations in driving change.

As a career, civil servant, she has worked in a number of public sector organisations, including the Department of Social Protection as HR Director and as Head of National Pensions policy and operations. She was also responsible for EU/International Affairs where she led the Department’s remit in the Irish Presidency of the European Union in 2013.She is a former Visiting Research Fellow of Trinity College Dublin and holds a Masters in Public Management and a Doctorate in Governance from Queen’s University Belfast. She is the author of two books on public policy topics.

Prof Philip Nolan

Name and Title: Prof Philip Nolan
Director General, SFI


Description: Professor Philip Nolan earned his degrees in Physiology (1988) and Medicine (1991) at University College Dublin (UCD) and was subsequently awarded a PhD in Physiology for his research on the control of breathing and the cardiovascular system during sleep. He is an accomplished researcher, with interests in physiological signal processing and control systems, and publications in the leading journals in the field. He joined the academic staff of the Department of Human Anatomy and Physiology at UCD in 1996, winning President’s Awards for both Research and Teaching. He was appointed Director of the UCD Conway Institute for Biomolecular and Biomedical Research in 2003, before becoming Registrar and Deputy President at UCD in 2004, where he led an institution-wide reform of the undergraduate curriculum, the UCD Horizons programme, and was responsible for access and widening participation, postgraduate studies, international partnerships, and library and information technology services.

In August 2011, Professor Nolan was appointed President of Maynooth University. Early in his tenure he established a new strategy for the University in its research, teaching and engagement activities, which saw unprecedented growth and diversification of teaching and research, and a doubling of the research capacity of the University. He has contributed to important developments in higher education in Ireland, specifically in reforming the transition from second to third level, in widening participation in higher education, and in promoting equality and diversity.

He has more recently been centrally involved in the management of the COVID-19 pandemic, as a member of the National Public Health Emergency Team, chairing its disease modelling subgroup.

He is a Member of the Royal Irish Academy, and an Honorary Fellow of the Faculty of Public Health Medicine of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland.

Professor Nolan took up the role of Director-General of SFI on 17 January 2022.

Jenny Darmody

Name and Title: Jenny Darmody
Editor, Silicon Republic


Description: Jenny Darmody became the editor of Silicon Republic in 2023, having worked as the deputy editor since February 2020. When she’s not writing about the science and tech industry, she’s writing short stories and attempting novels. She continuously buys more books than she can read in a lifetime and pretty stationery is her kryptonite. She also believes seagulls to be the root of all evil and her baking is the stuff of legends.

Danny McCoy

Name and Title: Danny McCoy
CEO, Ibec


Description: Danny McCoy is CEO at Ibec, Ireland’s largest business representative and lobbying organization. Prior to joining Ibec he was a senior economist at both the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) and the Central Bank of Ireland.

Jim Miley

Name and Title: Jim Miley
Director General, IUA


Description: Judging Panel Chair

As Director General, Jim leads the IUA as the representative voice for Ireland’s research-led universities.

Jim has extensive experience across a variety of commercial, communications and campaigning roles and provides leadership to the sector at a time of significant change and challenge.

An economist and Chartered Director, he was Project Director of The Gathering 2013, following a decade as co-founder and CEO of He has previously held a number of other senior roles including Business to Consumer Director at The Irish Times, General Secretary of Fine Gael and Chief Executive of Dublin Chamber of Commerce, having spent his early career as a journalist at RTE and a volunteer with Concern. Jim is also a Director of Sightsavers Ireland. He is a Rossie exile now living in Dublin!