Attendees at Churchill MCR’s two-minute thesis competition, ‘Super Short Summaries’, were treated to a fascinating, high-energy event on Saturday 19 November in the Wolfson Hall. Eleven of the College’s postgraduate students stepped up to the plate to explain their research to a general audience, with the help of one slide with no animations, in just two minutes!

The presenters were tasked with explaining to their audience what their research was about, why it was interesting, and what they had found. Since the event was aimed at a general audience, they were also asked to explain terminology, and avoid jargon.

Thanks to the generous support of Churchill alumni, a generous range of financial prizes were up for grabs:

  • First prize: The Raymond (U64) and Susan Williams Prize £175
  • Runner up: The IV men’s crew at 1969 May Bumps and Bevyn Jarrott (G66) Prize £100
  • Runner up: The Rosie Johnston (U73) Prize £100
  • People’s Choice award: The Audrey Canning (U75) Prize £100

The talks were judged by a panel comprising the Master, Prof. Dame Athene Donald, the Senior Tutor, Dr Rita Monson, the Senior Postgraduate tutor, Dr Mairi Kilkenny, and the MCR president, Michaela Taylor-Williams.

Presentations were heard in rapid-fire succession from ten PhD and one Masters student. They covered a fascinating variety of research subjects from Multidisciplinary Gender Studies to Polar Science and Linguistics. Once the presentations were completed the audience were also invited to take part by voting for their favourite presenter to decide the People’s Choice Award. Following a tense five minutes, the winners were announced, with the surprise addition of an extra runners up award funded by the judges, – such was the high quality of the splendid presentations!

First prize and the People’s Choice Award went to Katrina Kechun Li (G18), a fourth year PhD Linguistics student, for her clear and engaging explanation of the research she has carried out on the rhythm of tone languages. The runners up prizes were awarded to; Belquis Haider (G21), a second year PhD Student in Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology, for her talk on interacting with brains using microtunnels and mini-fitbits to understand how memories get lost in Alzheimers Disease, Gunnar Felix Lange (G19), a fourth year PhD Student in Physics, for his talk using the concept of quantum donuts to explain his research, and Ayanda Mhlongo, a first year PhD student in Multidisciplinary Gender Studies, for her talk about historical intergenerational trauma transcending intergenerational boundaries.

Congratulations were also passed on to all the participants for so ably taking on the very difficult task of summing up their research in two minutes, to a general audience. The competition was followed by the first MCR/SCR common table and participants were invited to attend this dinner for free with their assigned SCR Fellow

I’m so glad to be able to share my passion with my College community in my final year, as well as learning about other’s work in this inspiring way. Winning the first prize as well as the People’s Choice Award went completely beyond my expectations – I vividly remember how I struggled with presentations and communications in English when I first started the PhD. I wish to thank all who have witnessed this progress. It is an encouraging experience that I will treasure for life.   Katrina Kechun Li (G18)
I thoroughly enjoyed the Super Short Summaries event – hearing about the diverse range of research that Churchill PhD and Masters students are carrying out was both exciting and inspiring. Events like these that bring together our hugely talented postgraduate students and fellows are vital to the dynamic and collaborative atmosphere at Churchill College. Each speaker had 2 minutes and 1 powerpoint slide to convey their research project to a general audience – no easy feat! They all did brilliantly, it was a very tough decision for the judges, and we applaud everyone who took part.   Dr Mairi Kilkenny, Senior Postgraduate Tutor, Churchill College

The story behind the event

The event ran like clockwork thanks to the hard work of the MCR’s Academic Officer Lorrie Jacob (G21), whose idea it was to first hold a two-minute thesis competition (2MT) for the College’s postgraduate community. As Lorrie recalls, ‘one, two or three minute thesis competitions have been around for a while but I first learnt of the concept through my previous institution, the University of New South Wales, who take part in an international competition.

Lorrie ran the first 2MT event at Churchill in April 2022 to overwhelmingly positive feedback from participants and attendees, and the decision was taken to make this into annual occurrence each academic year. As Lorrie explains, ‘the overarching aim of the event is to provide a way of connecting the academic research community at the College, both MCR and SCR, and to enable the wider Churchill community to find out more about the research that our community of postgraduates are conducting’. The competition also provides an important additional benefit – skills development:

Communicating your research in an accessible way is an important skill to have, however it can be really challenging to do. This competition provides an opportunity for the postgraduates to practice this skill.   Lorrie Jacob (G21)