Communicating research and change-making

Advice from researcher, social entrepreneur and 3 Minute Thesis winner, Thomas Fudge

Research helps us to understand and shape the world we live in – it can be used to advocate for change and develop new ideas to improve the lives of individuals and communities. To help your research have this impact, it’s worth considering how you’re going to tell people about your research first.

So, how can you be proactive in communicating your research? How can you get non-specialists to understand and engage with your work? We asked Thomas Fudge, Judge’s Choice winner of Vitae’s 3 Minute Thesis (3MT) competition for advice.

We were proud to sponsor the event (and go along to watch the dazzling presentations). Watch Thomas’ winning presentation on wastewater treatment in developing communities below.

 


 

From Thomas Fudge, Brunel University

“I am a PhD student at Brunel University London and the founder of WASE, a social enterprise developing decentralized sanitation systems for refugee camps and underserved communities.”

My research is around wastewater treatment in developing communities using a circular economy approach to recover the valuable elements within wastewater (water, nutrients and energy). I’m currently focusing on Biological Electrochemical Systems, which uses a combination of bacteria and electrochemical reactions to break down the organic compounds in the wastewater whilst producing energy in either the form of electricity or hydrogen based biogas.

“I thought I should enter 3MT to practice my presentation skills, that are necessary for conferences and disseminating my research”

I was only three months into my PhD at that point, but I thought I should enter 3MT to practice my presentation skills that are necessary for conferences and disseminating my research, especially outside of academia, which is something I’m really passionate about.

I was excited when I found out I’d made it to the semi-finals and then the finals. When I arrived at the venue for the final I was nervous but extremely excited about the event, and looking forward to the opportunity to present to such a large crowd. Everyone presented so well, especially considering some of the contestants had such complex topics to cover in just three minutes.

“You need to relate to experiences or scenarios the audience can relate to as non-experts in the field.”

When I do a presentation, especially a short one, I try to paint a picture of the issues surrounding the research and why it’s important. The beginning is where you can really engage the audience with what you are saying, or potentially lose their interest. Once you get their attention, you can start to go into more depth, but you need to relate to experiences or scenarios that the audience can understand as non-experts in the field. This can be one of the biggest challenges when communicating research – we need to excite people (including future researchers), and involve them at a level that taps into their imagination.

“We need to help them see where the research could go, awakening new possibilities and ideas and helping them blossom into future change makers.”

I remember the first time I presented in my first year at university, I was so nervous my legs wouldn’t stop shaking. Being scared of public speaking is normal – you become the center of attention and don’t want to look foolish, but you shouldn’t let this stop you. This moment is special, and you will rarely get the opportunity to talk about something you care or are passionate about with people listening intently. It’s an opportunity to get people thinking in your mindset which can have huge impact on others work, especially if they are from different disciplines and wouldn’t normally see your work.

Want to find out more about 3MT? Watch the presentation from Euan Doidge, the People’s Choice Winner here, and read his top tips for hooking an audience.


Thomas Fudge is a PhD student at Brunel University and founder of WASE. His goal is to be a part of the solution that helps to solve the sanitation and energy crisis that the world is currently facing.