WCAIR Trainee Justice Akwensi reaches final of the Dundee 3-Minute Thesis competition.

“In 2014, I was working as a student on attachment in a rural hospital in Ghana. One day a child was rushed into the hospital in a taxi. He had malaria and its characteristic anaemia. The nurse on duty informed us to get some blood ready for transfusion. As I prepared the blood the nurse came in after some few minutes and said that will no longer be needed because the child had died. I was disturbed and couldn’t work. The [person] In-Charge of our unit came and asked if I had never seen child die of malaria and I said no. He then said, ‘Start Counting’.”

These words from Justice Akwensi – a PhD candidate from the University of Ghana on a practical placement at the University of Dundee’s Wellcome Centre for Anti-Infectives Research (WCAIR) – draw a clear picture of the dreadful impact of Malaria in the developing world: according to the World Health Organization, more than half a million people die from this disease every year, mostly children  less than 5 years old and pregnant women. As part of his practical placement at WCAIR, Justice is working on developing new antimalarial compounds based on an active compound provided by Medicine for Malaria Ventures (MMV) – a Switzerland-based organization that aims to find new effective and safer treatments for the disease. His work is also funded by the Wellcome Trust and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

When the 3-Minute Thesis (3MT) competition was launched by the University’s Doctoral Academy, Justice jumped in at the opportunity to speak about his work. The 3MT is an academic competition developed by The University of Queensland, in which PhD candidates have to describe their whole PhD thesis work in just 3 minutes or less, using a language appropriate for the general public. Considering that an average PhD thesis consists of 80,000 words, it would take 9 hours to read the text word for word! One can quickly see that delivering a summary of such a massive document in just 3 minutes is quite a challenge!

Justice participated in internal 3MT sessions in which the rules and the purpose of the competition were explained to all the competitors. With the help of the WCAIR trainers, some coaching sessions (and lots of practice!), he delivered his talk describing the work he has been carrying out at WCAIR.  Justice made it through the qualifying session and was shortlisted for the final presentation to which he won the People’s Choice Award.

Abdullah Al Matrafi, who presented his work on cancer treatments was selected as the runner-up and Fiachra McEnaney, who presented his research on the effects of social anhedonia in mice, won the University’s competition and will represent the University in the national round. Well done to all competitors!

A line up of participants in the University of Dundee 3-minute thesis competition
Photo credit: Doctoral Academy / University of Dundee
Justice Akwensi is 5th person from left in the line-up
Centre of line up: Prof. Iain Gillespie, Principal and Vice-Chancellor, University of Dundee
To the left of Prof. Gillespie, Abdullah Al Matrafi and to the right of Justice is Fiachra McEnaney.
Heather Doran (2nd from left) hosted the event. Heather is Public Engagement Manager at the Leverhulme Research Centre for Forensic Science.