Garvan student a double prizewinner at UNSW 3MT competition

Garvan PhD student Nancy Mourad has won the ASPIRE award and gained second place in UNSW Australia’s 3 Minute Thesis interfaculty final.
09 September 2016

An 80,000 word thesis would take nine hours to present. Their time limit...three minutes.”  

That’s the challenge for competitors in the 3 Minute Thesis (3MT) contest, which gives students just three minutes to present their research in a compelling way to impress a non-specialist audience.

Nancy Mourad, a third year PhD student in Garvan’s Bone Biology Division, was last night awarded second place (runner up; $1500) and the ASPIRE prize for her presentation entitled ‘Cancer: Bad to the Bone’ at the UNSW Australia 3MT interfaculty final. The ASPIRE prize, which has a value of $500, is awarded by school students in the UNSW ASPIRE program to the presenter whose talk they enjoy the most.

Nancy’s talk described her work on breast cancer cells that remain dormant in bone – often for many years or even decades – before reactivating to form new tumours.

Nancy also recently won both second prize and People’s Choice award at the St Vincent’s precinct 3MT competition, held at Garvan in June, and qualified for the UNSW 3MT final by winning the People’s choice award at the UNSW Faculty of Medicine heat in June.

This award is no mean feat.  In competition with winners of other faculty heats speaking on diverse topics from Art and Design to Business and Law and beyond, Nancy summarised three years of laboratory investigation in three minutes, and with the aid of just one static PowerPoint slide.

“It means a lot to have my hard work and my research acknowledged in this way,” says Nancy. “These rare cancer cells effectively hide in bone, unaffected by cancer therapies. It has been a long journey to find these cells and we are now trying to determine what brings them out of hiding to cause disease recurrence.”

The 3MT format has become a global phenomenon. Since the first competition was held at the University of Queensland in 2008, its popularity has steadily increased, and competitions are now held at over 350 institutions in 18 countries. 

Nancy strongly encourages other students to participate in future 3MT competitions.

“The 3MT experience has been amazing. Initially I was reluctant to enter, but my supervisor Professor Peter Croucher was very encouraging. The confidence I have gained and the communication skills I have built along the way will benefit me throughout my future career,” says Nancy.

Nancy’s prize continues a winning streak for Garvan students in 3MT competitions. Scott Youlten won the People’s Choice and ASPIRE award at the 2015 UNSW interfaculty final for his talk on Skeletal Marriage Counselling, and Kenny Sabir won the University of Sydney 3MT in 2014 for his work on visualising the 3D structure of chromosomes.

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