Three Minute Thesis Interview: Noora Nevala (2019 Winner)

The Doctoral School recently caught up (virtually) with Noora Nevala, the winner of the 2019 Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition, to find out about her 3MT experience and her top tips for those interested in taking part in this year’s remote competition.

If you’re feeling up to the 3MT challenge, researchers are invited to apply for a chance to win £500 towards research and a place in the Vitae UK semi-finals, with two additional prizes of £250 for the runner up and people’s choice awards. 

Noora (left) receiving her certificate and cheque for £500 from Dr Ruth Sellers (Senior Lecturer and ESRC Future Research Leader Fellow)

Hi Noora, could you tell us briefly about what your 3MT journey was like?

Well, I firstly have to say that the whole process was extremely rewarding and taught me much more than I expected. I had been recommended the competition through a friend, and as I already knew that I enjoy public speaking, I was keen to take part. Although I’m confident with public speaking and did all the training, I started to doubt my abilities after meeting the other participants! Everyone had such interesting topics and great ways to explaining them that it felt quite a challenge to make my own topic to stand out. Fortunately, we got such good feedback from each other and the trainer that it was easy for me to notice which parts I should focus on to get more practice.

How did the training help you prepare?

It really made me think how important it is to make your talk “alive” through hand gestures, facial expressions and tone of your voice. This can have a huge difference on how the audience receives what you say. The Doctoral School provided all the participants with a training day and some pre-work to help make us to think about our topic outside the box. As I’m not very artistic and haven’t done any “free writing” for over a decade, the pre-work felt surprisingly challenging when I needed to draw a picture of my thesis or write it as a script for a children’s book! However, these tasks forced me to get more creative and really think about how to capture people’s attention.

What did you gain from the experience overall?

I learned a whole new set of ways how to make my presentations more engaging and how to use these depending on the target audience. Before 3MT, I used to always prepare for a talk in the same way, but now I spend more time on thinking about what I should do new this time. This has proven to be quite important, since giving the same talk in the same way repeatedly makes giving the presentation quite dull, and the audience can easily pick up on that feeling.

What advice would you give to someone taking part?

My advice is to really think about the main reason why your research matters and why people should care about that too. Make sure that your excitement for the topic translates through your talk as that’s another important way to get people interested. As researchers, we are mostly trained how to give a talk to other researchers and experts. Even if we are experienced and good at giving these talks, 3MT and public engagement is something completely different.

Thanks for taking the time to speak with us today Noora. Will you be tuning into this year’s competition?

Of course! I can’t wait to see the amazing research and presentations at this year’s event.


Are you up for the 3MT challenge and following in Noora’s footsteps?

Get involved in this year’s (remote) competition by completing the short online expression of interest form and visit our 3MT webpages for full eligibility criteria and further information.

The deadline to submit your entry is Friday 15th May.