“An 80,000 word thesis would take 9 hours to present. Your time limit …… 3 minutes.” This is what the Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) Competition is about. Developed by the University of Queensland, 3MT® is a research communication competition that “cultivates students’ academic, presentation, and research communication skills” and “increases their capacity to effectively explain their research in three minutes, in a language appropriate to a non-specialist audience”.

On October 20, 2021, two-time Runner-up of the HKUST 3MT® Competition, Usman Bin Shahid, Chemical and Biological Engineering PhD student under the supervision of Professor Minhua Shao, entered the final round of the 2021 Asia-Pacific 3MT® Competition as one of the eight finalists selected from 54 competitors of 54 universities in Australia, New Zealand, North-East Asia, Oceania, and South-East Asia. Usman, an engineering researcher, impressed the audience with his 3MT® presentation “Electrochemical ammonia synthesis: Towards a brighter and cleaner future”. “Your audience can be anyone – literally anyone – from an eight-year-old kid to an 80-year-old academician and be able to impart my research so that they can understand it successfully,” as Usman says. With his audience in mind always, after an hour and a half’s competition, Usman won the People’s Choice Award of the 2021 Asia-Pacific 3MT® Competition. Not only is he the first HKUST student who entered the final round of this competition, but he is also the first student from a Hong Kong university that was awarded at the Asia-Pacific 3MT® Competition since its launch in 2010 (known as Trans-Tasman 3MT® Competition before 2016). Asked how 3MT® has benefited him, Usman said, “my first impression of 3MT® was that it required you to trivialize your research so that people can understand it better. However, as a participant, I realized it’s definitely not the case. In fact, it helped me put in perspective three very important things: Why? What? How? A simple answer to these three questions is what 3MT® is all about, and that is what helped me realize the purpose of my PhD and helped me maintain focus all these years.”

Congratulations, Usman!