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Research students’ creativity pays off at quick-fire challenge

09 August 2023

From volcanic hazards to student engagement in performing arts, the UC’s fast-paced Research Student Showcase highlighted a range of outstanding research topics.


Hosted by Research FirstTe Kura Tāura | UC Graduate School and Puna | UC Library, Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha | University of Canterbury (UC)’s Research Student Showcase is an event that provides postgraduate students with the opportunity to showcase their creativity in ways that allow them to better engage a wider audience with their research.

This year the showcase included the finals of UC’s Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition alongside viewing the work of its Visualise Your Thesis (VYT) finalists, and prizegiving across both categories.

SDG 4 Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 - Quality Education

"The Research Student Showcase provides an excellent opportunity for students to share the fascinating and world-class research that they are advancing here at UC. Their presentations highlighted the depth and breadth of graduate research at the University,” says Professor Megan McAuliffe, Dean of Postgraduate Research.

"Communicating complex research concepts in a way that is accessible to the wider community is a key skill for their future careers.”

Henry Hoult, a PhD student from the Faculty of Science’s School of Earth and Environment, placed first in the UC 3MT competition for 2023 receiving a $5000 prize for his entry, “Mt Taranaki has a plumbing problem”.

Hoult says Mount Taranaki has a 40% chance of erupting in the next 50 years, which could cause billions of dollars’ of damage to Aotearoa New Zealand.

He says Mount Taranaki’s pipes are blocked, which could increase the severity of a future eruption as volcanic activity can change quickly with little to no warning. 

“The good news is I am a volcano plumber,” Hoult says. He explains his research looks at pieces of the volcanic plumbing system thrown out during previous eruptions. This could help predict Mount Taranaki’s eruption style and help other researchers better understand volcanoes worldwide.

Hoult believes participation in 3MT helped him appreciate the wider societal implications of his research that can otherwise feel very niche.

He will represent the University at the Asia-Pacific 3MT Competition Final hosted by the University of Queensland on Wednesday 18 October.

Master’s student Gladys Tan from the Faculty of Science’s Rose Centre for Stroke Recovery and Research, was the People’s Choice at UC’s 3MT final, placing second. She took home a $2000 prize for, “Does the amount of citric acid matter?”.

“Coughing is actually a very important thing we do to keep our lungs safe and healthy,” Tan says. She explains that it is common for patients to lose the cough reflex after suffering a stroke, which can have tremendous consequences.

Tan says a cough reflex test used to identify these patients doesn’t consider people’s differences in breathing. Her research investigates whether different amounts of citric acid used in the reflex test are an important consideration.

Tan will represent the University at the virtual New Zealand 3MT finals, hosted by the University of Auckland.

PhD student Kate Revell of UC’s Faculty of Health, placed first in the UC VYT final for “Year 7/8 Student Engagement in Performing Arts”. She received a $1000 prize and will represent UC at the International VYT Programme in October, hosted virtually by the University of Melbourne.

Her research investigates why students disengage in performing arts and the innovations that could strengthen how the arts are taught. She is hoping to see tamariki more engaged in participating and accessing the arts, and creating social change.

“Making an animated video was a really steep learning curve but the time and effort I put in was definitely worthwhile. I encourage future participants to take advantage of the help provided by UC Library and not be afraid to step out of their comfort zone. During the introductory session to VYT we were encouraged to think about our points of difference; as a performing arts teacher I knew straight away that I wanted to do a song,” Revell says.


3MT winners:


VYT winners:

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