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Some of UNSW’s brightest PhD students faced a research battle of a different kind as they competed in the annual Three Minute Thesis competition.


And the winner is ... Sumaiya Ahmed

Twenty-two of UNSW’s brightest PhD students faced a research battle of a different kind as they competed in the annual Three Minute Thesis competition (3MT).

Hosted by the Graduate Research School, the competition was tough: in less than the time it takes to boil an egg, finalists had to explain three years of intensive research in an engaging way to a live audience.

Sumaiya Ahmed from the School of Marketing at the Australian School of Business was selected by the high-profile panel of judges – Emma Ayres, Mark Bouris, Dr Margaret Kiley and Dr Norman Swan – as the winner for her presentation: The waiting game in the movie industry: Timing decisions for DVD release.

By highlighting discrepancies in revenue and in the waiting periods from major blockbuster going from the big to small screen, Ahmed has developed a computer model to help the movie industry better plan DVD release dates.  

“This was the greatest feeling … because I was competing with extremely brilliant contestants who had such interesting research,” she said.

Ahmed won a $3,000 cash prize and will represent UNSW at the 2012 Australia & NZ final at the University of Queensland, competing against entrants from more than 40 universities. 

The runner-up was Billie Ganendran from the School of Physical, Environmental and Mathematical Sciences at UNSW Canberra for her energetic talk on the “curious mix of penguins and statistics”. 

Ganendran’s research examines the Little Penguin colony on Phillip Island, Victoria, which is increasingly threatened by environmental factors and a growing tourism industry. Her thesis project is the first to conduct a detailed statistical analysis of these threats – research she says is crucial to ensuring the birds’ survival.

Two doctoral candidates from the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences were also recognised.

Ludmilla Khodai from the School of Social Sciences won the People’s Choice award for her presentation Forced Gender Disguise in Afghanistan: Girls passing as boys.

For his presentation exploring the plight of climate migrants, Johannes Luetz, from the Institute of Environmental Studies, won the ASPIRE prize. This award was voted on by high school students taking part in the University’s ASPIRE program.

The 3MT competition requires candidates to communicate their research in an accessible way, which is an important skill for PhD students to develop, said Professor Laura Poole-Warren, Dean of Graduate Research.

“The competition demonstrates that excellence in communication is alive and well in our postgraduate researchers, who are working on innovative and inspiring research” said Professor Poole-Warren.

VIDEO: Watch highlights of the 3MT competition

Media contact: Myles Gough, UNSW Media Office, 9385 1933