Institute for Academic Development
Institute for Academic Development

Alison Wheatley

Alison was a finalist in the 2013 competition.

Contestant details

Name: Alison Wheatley

Position: 2013 Finalist

PhD Topic:  The donor sperm industry in Denmark

3MT Talk Title: What makes good sperm?

Do you have any top tips for preparing for the competition?

Practice, over and over, until you can say it in your sleep. Write down things the way you would say them, not the way you would write them, so it feels and sounds natural. Nobody wants to listen to a stilted recital. Add some jokes. Pause for the laughter. Test out your speech on friends and family who are not in your field, since it's lay people that you need to be speaking to.

How has 3 Minute Thesis benefited you?

Being forced to condense my ideas and distil my thesis down into the most essential three minutes has been absolutely invaluable. I participated before I was done writing, so it was very helpful first off to ask myself: what actually is the point of this? Why should anyone care? What am I adding to knowledge? Having already thought about those things, I was in a stronger position when it came to prepare for my viva.

It’s also been directly valuable to me in getting a job post-PhD. Every job interview will ask you to summarise your PhD, and my current manager told me that it was my ability to talk coherently about what I did and why that put me ahead of the other applicants.

What was the most challenging thing about 3MT?

The most challenging thing was dealing with my stage fright! I’ve never been the most confident public speaker, but no other presentation I’ve given before or after was ever as scary as this one.

How have you used the skills gained in the competition?

Part of my current role is in Patient and Public Involvement and Engagement with research, and the skills I gained in summarising for a lay audience have been very helpful.

Why would you recommend 3MT to other doctoral students?

I’ve been evangelical about 3MT ever since I did it and I would genuinely recommend it to all PhD students. It will force you to clarify your ideas, to tackle public speaking (something which is unavoidable in an academic career!), and to think properly about how to communicate with a diverse audience.

Watch Alison's talk

Watch Alison's talk on TouTube