Cathy Rogers: Why I took part in the 3 minute thesis competition

Before doing my PhD, I spent two decades working as a TV producer, with a particular interest in science programming, so over the years I interviewed a lot of scientists. They used to drive me nuts! They would be working on such interesting projects and seeing the world through a completely fresh lens – but they were often just awful at talking about their research, at least in a way anyone could understand. They were unable or unwilling to say anything with certainty, they always insisted more research was needed and in the worst cases they even wore their inability to ‘dumb things down’ as a badge of pride.

So now I am on the other side. In some respects, I can appreciate more viscerally scientists’ stance. As you learn more and more about a subject, you appreciate more and more of its complexities and sometimes you feel you fully understand less and less. Saying things with certainty requires a 100% that science, with its 95% benchmark, will never (or very rarely (see there I am giving the caveat)) meet. But I still believe that if you can’t explain the essence of what you are doing and why you are doing it in a way that anyone interested can understand, then either you don’t understand it yourself, or it isn’t worth doing.


To me, that’s what the 3 minute thesis competition is all about. Going back to the big questions of your research – why do you care? Why should anyone else care? And how are you going to go about inching forward knowledge with that bigger picture in mind.


Cathy Rogers (Department of Psychological Sciences) was awarded runner-up and a £250 prize for her talk “Freedom and control: how do children achieve their creative goals?”

You can watch her full talk here.

Winner Keith Jarrett on Three Minute Thesis Competition 2018

There is one question in particular I dread: What’s your PhD on? It usually follows the other eye-rolling what do you do? I know it should be simpler, much simpler; I know the person asking doesn’t want my life story; I know why colleagues make up answers at random, and I nearly always regret not making something up too, or at least having a more straightforward project.

I’m what’s called an interdisciplinarian, that rare species who doesn’t feel fully at home in one department or another, who can’t remember if he should be using MHRA or Harvard referencing – the two departments are at odds with each other over this – and, worse still, whose practice-led research provokes shouts of You get to write a NOVEL for your PhD?! (Two other impossible questions follow: What’s your novel about? How many words have you written?)

I sign up to the Three Minute Thesis competition mostly because I’ve been challenging myself do things I’m not comfortable with. Explaining Oneness Pentecostalism and its migratory journey from the US via the Caribbean into London, and the subsequent effect on cultural and religious identity in the capital is one such thing. There’s jargon to unpick and I struggle to get to the point.

The point I’m trying to get to now is that it takes effort to communicate succinctly, especially when you’re in the middle of a PhD that completely takes over your life.

In the workshop, all participants are told to create a three-point story of our research. I listen to the fascinating work my colleagues are doing, colleagues who are also passionate, who also want to be able to share their world with wider audiences. I feel proud to be part of this community of student researchers. There are three whose work is so compelling to me – and completely unrelated to mine – that I read further about it. Later, at the competition, I see how they’d developed their stories into presentations, engaging with an audience who want to hear what they do, as much as I do. I was surprised to win, elated.

I hope even more PhD students get involved in the competition next year. I recommend it for everyone, as we all need to be able to present in from of mixed audiences. I’m also looking forward to following the competition, looking at more of the other videos from participants around the world.


Keith (Department of English and Humanities) was named overall winner for his entry, “The migration of meaning: writing a new London Caribbean culture”.

You can watch the full video for his talk here.

Birkbeck Three Minute Thesis & Poster Competition

On Wednesday, BGRS hosted the second annual 2018 Three Minute Thesis and Poster Competition at the lecture theatre and foyer within the Clore Management Centre. There was a great atmosphere of interest, enjoyment and celebration among those who attended and took part.

Keith Jarrett (Department of English and Humanities) was named overall winner for his entry, The migration of meaning: writing a new London Caribbean culture by the panel of judges, which included representatives from all five Birkbeck Schools.

Cathy Rogers (Department of Psychological Sciences) was named runner up, for her talk Freedom and control: how do children achieve their creative goals? and Pavni Kohli (Department of Geography) and  Raul Valdivia (Department of Cultures and Languages) were named joint winner of the People’s Choice Award for their talks Looking beyond fear in Delhi: Mapping women’s everyday life, and Picturing Utopia: Photography against the odds in a Peruvian sunset, respectively.

The Poster Competition was won by Ajitesh Ghose (Department of Psyhcological Sciences) for a poster titled Grounded Semantics: A Neural Network Approach.

The full News Item for the event can be found here.

Videos of the talks will be coming soon. In the meantime, you can watch videos from the 2017 competition here.

Celebrating research student public engagement successes

Birkbeck Public Engagement Awards

Monday 19 March 2018

On 19 March Birkbeck celebrated the public engagement successes of researchers at an inaugural award ceremony. The event showcased research which has been successfully communicated to a wider audience and among the 25 projects considered the following awards for PhD/ Early Career entries were recognized. Awards in this category were made for inspiring public engagement work undertaken by researchers in the early stages of their research career.

Winner: Tottenham’s Trojan Horse? Stadium-led regeneration in North London

  • Dr Mark Panton (School of Business, Economics and Informatics)

Dr Mark Panton recently received his PhD for his thesis entitled ‘How do Stakeholders Influence Stadium-led Regeneration? The Story from East Manchester and Tottenham.’ Dr Panton’s research focused on understanding local communities’ and stakeholders’ perspectives on stadium-led regeneration. Through the research, Dr Panton was privy
to the stories of real people, those in danger of losing their homes, their livelihoods and their connections in their community due to regeneration. Now members of the community have helped to shape a graphic
book telling their stories, amongst the complex ideas and relationships involved in large-scale redevelopment.

Highly Commended: Recovering women in the digital age: editing the long nineteenth century

  • Flore Janssen (PhD Candidate, Department of English and Humanities), Alexis Wolf (PhD Candidate, School of Arts) and Beatrice Bazell (School of Arts).

Flore has worked with co-founders Alexis Wolf and Beatrice Bazell to run a series of Wikipedia editing workshops designed to support new Wikipedia contributors – both academic researchers and members of the public – in
producing well-researched pages on forgotten women of the long nineteenth century. The team has been supported in their efforts by partners from the Pre-Raphaelite Society and Wikimedia UK.

History Acts

  • Guy Beckett (PhD Candidate, Department of History, Classics and Archaeology) and Dr Steffan Blayney (Research Assistant, University of Sussex).

Guy Beckett is a PhD candidate in History who runs History
Acts, a radical history forum that explores the links between history
and activism. Guy works with Dr Steffan Blayney, a research assistant at the University of Sussex, to run monthly workshops that bring together
activists organising in an area of contemporary political relevance
with historians working on a related topic. The forum is based
at the University of London, with support from partners, the
Raphael Samuel History Centre and History Workshop Online.

Birkbeck Public Engagement Awards

Birkbeck PhD students invited to submit applications to inaugural Public Engagement Awards

About these awards

These Birkbeck Public Engagement Awards will build on the College’s tradition of socially engaged research and its historical mission to engage with a wide and diverse range of people outside of academia, to recognise and celebrate those researchers who have undertaken innovative and exemplary public engagement activities.

Applications have now opened and entrants can be at any level in their career. Public engagement activities on any scale are welcome.

Lunchtime launch and Q&A

The Launch is taking place at RUS (30) 101 on Monday 27 November 2017 from 12pm-2pm, and will introduce the Awards, give an overview of the application form and address any questions you may have about the application process. Attendees need to register here by 20 November.

Deadline for entries: 29 January 2018

Gilchrist Educational Trust PhD student prize – call for entries

Call for entries

The Birkbeck Graduate Research School (BGRS) aims to highlight the activities and successes of our research student community. We are pleased to announce a £300 book voucher prize which will be awarded to a Birkbeck PhD student able to demonstrate the most notable contribution to their field while undertaking their postgraduate research in 2016/17. Examples or successes or activities might include:

  • A publication with a highly ranked publisher (or which has resulted in a high level of citations if this is appropriate to your discipline)
  • An invitation to speak at a conference
  • A conference, workshop or event that you have played a key role in organising
  • Any other notable successes or awards.

The competition is open to all current part time and full time PhD students at Birkbeck.

How to apply

If you would like to be considered please complete this entry form and send it to by the end of Friday 6 October.

The form requires a brief statement from the student and the supervisor which can be understood by a non-specialist.

The winner will be awarded the prize at the BGRS Winter party later in the year and will be featured on the BGRS blog.