UCD PhD student wins Universitas 21 Three Minute Thesis Competition

Posted 15 October, 2021

A PhD candidate at University College Dublin has won this year's Universitas 21 Three Minute Thesis (3MT) – which challenges entries to present a compelling 180 second presentation of their research to a non-specialist audience.

Morgan Morris was awarded the top spot in the highly competitive competition for his presentation ‘Lactose: A Cash Cow for Targeting Tumours’, that exampled how lactose can be used to target cancer drugs to specific cells in the body and reduce side effects from systemic drugs.

“I am so thrilled to have won this year's Universitas 21 3MT among so many outstanding finalists,” said the PhD candidate at the UCD Centre for Synthesis and Chemical Biology.

“[The competition] really challenged me to understand my research in a wider context and I hope that my presentation has managed to highlight just some of the incredible work being done in the Irish bioeconomy, as well as globally.

“Thank you again to U21 for arranging this incredible event and to all the team in University College Dublin and my research centre BiOrbic who have supported me throughout this process. I look forward to continuing our research and developing the next generation of targeted anti-cancer drugs for patients."

A graduate from the UCD School Of Chemistry, Morgan's PhD studies at the UCD are exploring the use of lactose as a drug delivery system in the treatment of liver diseases.

This work involves exploiting receptors which recognise lactose and are overexpressed in only certain parts of the body, bypassing some of the harmful side effects of current therapies.

The 3MT is an academic competition developed by The University of Queensland in Australia designed to encourage research students to effectively explain their work in three minutes in a language appropriate to a non-specialist audience.

The U21 3MT challenges pits students from across the world against one another, encouraging them to condense their research into a short and straightforward presentation.

The finalists each has their entry judged by a panel of international industry experts and academics.

"The breadth and the quality of the research discussed was truly impressive. All of the participants displayed impressive presentations skills and engagement with the material,” said Professor Jonathan Morris from UNSW, Chair of the U21 Deans and Directors of Graduate Studies.

Andy Coxall, Chief Executive of Common Purpose and a member of the U21 judging panel added: “I was blown away by these amazing students from across the Universitas 21 network.

“They had an ability to take cutting edge ideas and break them down in a way that as a layperson you could totally understand, and get massively excited by, their ground-breaking work.

“All were committed to tackling the critical issues of the day, that will have a huge impact in the world, it was truly inspiring and humbling in equal measure.”

In 2018 UCD PhD student Roshaida Abdul Wahab won the People’s Choice Award at competition for her thesis 'The Truth, the Whole Truth and Nothing but the Truth' - which focused using biomarkers as a new method of capturing people’s dietary intake.

By: David Kearns, Digital Journalist / Media Officer, UCD University Relations