Deakin's next generation of researchers get it done at 3MT/VYT finals

Research news

04 August 2023

From antimicrobial food packaging, the battle plan of our ‘natural killer’ cells and being better prepared for thunderstorm asthma, to the role youth can play on the disaster agenda and teachers as playwrights, the diversity of Deakin University’s rising research stars was on full display at yesterday’s Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) and Visualise Your Thesis (VYT) Grand Final.

Sixteen contestants took to the stage or screen in front of a sold-out live audience and the Master of Ceremonies, comedian Colin Lane, to explain their research project in three minutes (3MT®) or in a one-minute digital presentation (VYT).

Watch all the 2023 3MT® presentations on Deakin Research YouTube.

Watch all the 2023 VYT presentations on Deakin Research YouTube.

Research communication is a winning ‘core skill’

‘The 3MT and VYT competitions are now part of Deakin’s proud tradition of showcasing the diversity and value of graduate research and promoting the importance of research communication,’ says Deakin’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Iain Martin.

‘Research communication is a core research skill. Researchers need to learn how to speak about their research to their peers, but also how to explain their research projects, and the benefits and impact of their research to a broader audience.’

How we’re upskilling our graduate researchers

This year’s Grand Final competition was the culmination of the inaugural 3MT/VYT Research Communication Skills program. Coordinated by Deakin’s Graduate Research Academy, the four-month program included 3MT School/Faculty and Institute heats and finals and provided graduate researchers with one-on-one coaching sessions, workshops, and online courses and resources to help grow their capacity to articulate clearly the value and prospective impact of their research for funding bids and develop skills in engaging effectively with industry and government.

‘The Deakin 3MT and VYT Grand Final stands as one of our flagship events, shining a spotlight on graduate research across the entire University,’ says the program’s coordinator, Dr Daniela Kavela, Program Manager, Researcher Development.

‘It provides a unique opportunity for collaboration with a vast array of stakeholders and a platform where we can witness our graduate researchers’ passion, learn about their upcoming innovations and collectively celebrate as a community the significance of their research.’

Introducing our Deakin 2023 3MT/VYT Grand Final winners

Deakin 2023 3MT Winner

Agnes Ruramai Mukurumbira, Faculty of Health – Investigation of essential oils as antimicrobials for application in food packaging

Supervisors: Dr Snehal Jadhav, Professor Russell Keast, A/Prof Robert Shellie, A/Prof Enzo Palombo (Swinburne University)

Watch Agnes' winning presentation on Deakin Research YouTube.

A PhD candidate with Deakin’s CASS Food Research Centre, Ms Mukurumbira’s research focuses on what the future of food packaging could look like, asking us to imagine packaging that is not only sustainable and biodegradable but also able to kill bacteria and fungi growing on food. These food microbes are responsible for over 1.3 billion tonnes in food waste and 600 million cases of foodborne illnesses annually.

Ms Mukurumbira is developing a prototype for just such an antimicrobial packaging, using the native Australian essential oils Tasmanian mountain pepper and lemon myrtle. Her first study revealed these essential oils are potent antimicrobials against common food spoilage and pathogenic bacteria and fungi and even more effective than tea tree oil, historically used as an antimicrobial.

The next step was to address the oils’ chemical and physical instability using a technique called encapsulation, which stabilises the oils, allows controlled release and enhances their antimicrobial activity.

Ms Mukurumbira is now working on integrating the encapsulated essential oils into biodegradable plastic formulations to produce packaging that will release the essential oils, killing bacteria and fungi growing on food and extending product shelf life.

Ms Mukurumbira now moves onto the next stage of the international 3MT® competition – the 2023 Asia-Pacific 3MT Semi-Final Showcase on 25 September.

Deakin 2023 3MT Runner-up and People’s Choice Award winner

Kira Morgan Hughes, Faculty of Science, Engineering and Built Environment (SEBE) –  A breath of fresh air: reducing the risk of thunderstorm asthma

Supervisors: A/Prof Cenk Suphioglu, Dr Angel Torriero, A/Prof Matthew Symonds, Dr Dwan Price

Watch Kira's 3MT presentation on Deakin Research YouTube.

A Research Scientist and Site Coordinator for Melbourne Pollen and Deakin AIRwatch, Ms Hughes is working to develop modernised technology to improve our ability to detect airborne allergens and provide better warning systems for thunderstorm asthma.

Current technology is outdated, slow and requires that samples be manually analysed. Ms Hughes has constructed a sensor based on a tiny electrode that works as a miniature scale specifically built to weigh pollen or spores. Instead of using outdated machines that take 24 hours and require manual work, this sensor will be able to automatically detect allergens in less than an hour. This will not only significantly shorten detection time but will provide a more effective real-time warning system for thunderstorm asthma that could help to save lives. In addition, because the sensors are so small, eventually Ms Hughes hopes to develop a portable version that people could wear to detect rising allergen levels around them.

Deakin 2023 VYT winner

Kaushalya Perera, Faculty of Health – Spotlight on NK cells: super immune warriors

Supervisors: Professor Alister Ward, Dr Clifford Liongue

Inside our body there’s a continuous battle between our immune system and the pathogens that try to invade. Ms Perera’s research focuses on natural killer or NK cells, that are both fast and powerful defences of our immune systems. In finding out more about these valuable cells, Ms Perera uses zebra fish, as their defence system is similar to that of humans. By placing fluorescent trackers on NK cells to help study their every movement, Ms Perera hopes to uncover the potential of these cells to protect us against pathogens.

Her winning VYT presentation is now through to the international round of the competition, 'Trending on VYT 2023', sponsored by Figshare. The participant achieving the highest number of views for their video on the VYT 2023 Figshare repository between Monday 2 October and Friday 6 October 2023 will receive a Research Impact Academy 1-year Gold Membership.

Deakin 2023 VYT Runner-up

Kirstin Kreyscher, Faculty of Arts and Education – The invisible protagonists: Youth's lived realities in hazard environments in the Philippines

Supervisors: A/Prof Constantinos Laoutides, Dr Nazanin Zadeh-Cummings

Watch Kirstin's presentation on Deakin Research YouTube.

When we think of disasters, our thoughts typically go to floods, typhoons, landslides and earthquakes. We also tend to think of them as natural tragedies we can’t do anything about and those who are affected as unlucky and passive victims. But Ms Kreyscher’s research has shown that not all hazards have to turn into disaster if we listen closely to those most at risk, as everyday vulnerability is created by man-made and social forces well before catastrophe hits.

Ms Kreyscher is working with Filipino youth, who are disproportionately affected by the social dimensions of hazards and particularly marginalised by adults. Her work is revealing that youth have unique and creative contributions to make and should be recognised as important actors on the disaster agenda.

Deakin 2023 VYT People’s Choice Award

Asher Johnson, Faculty of Arts and Education – Teacher-As-Playwright: an approach to writing for performance education to enhance the social impact of students and community

Supervisors: A/Prof Joanne O'Mara, Dr Jo-Anne Raphael

Watch Asher's presentation on Deakin Research YouTube.

Mr Johnson’s research is focusing on how teachers can overcome the restraints of budget, inexperience and other factors affecting school drama performances to enhance the social impacts for students and the school community.

Congratulations and well done to all our finalists!

Deakin 2023 3MT Finalists

Jagvinder Brar, Faculty of Business and Law - Humour and person-supervisor fit

Isuri Perera, Institute for Frontier Materials (IFM) - Cobalt: a critical metal for clean energy, but at what cost?

Jennie Darcy, Faculty of Arts and Education - Shaping Lives: English teachers and the powers of literature

Ramunas McRae, Faculty of Health - Childhood access to sign language and mental health outcomes in deaf adults

Sarah Brill, Faculty of Science, Engineering and Built Environment (SEBE) - Am I safe to cross? Planning for a driverless future

Tim Gregory, Institute for Intelligent Systems Research and Innovation (IISRI) - From Iron Man to real-life superheroes: designing exoskeletons for a safer future

Hayley Keane, Faculty of Arts and Education - Organisational learning, e-learning and agency in low technology roles

Sharine Bendulo, Institute for Frontier Materials (IFM) - Vitrimers: moving towards reshapable composites

Jai Kannan, Applied Artificial Intelligence Institute (A2I2) - Why context matters in AI development: adapting context helps make better decisions

Madeleine Hale, Faculty of Business and Law - Free speech, democracy and social media

Deakin 2023 VYT Finalists

Lukasz Kufel, Institute for Frontier Materials (IFM) - Next-generation batteries for a sustainable future

Reshma Kunjumon, Institute for Intelligent Systems Research and Innovation (IISRI) - 3D object detection by camera and lidar sensor fusion

Hayley Keane, Faculty of Arts and Education - Organisational learning, e-learning and agency in low technology roles

Haoxu Zhang, Institute for Intelligent Systems Research and Innovation (IISRI) - Interaction-aware teleoperation systems based on artificial intelligence

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The diversity of Deakin University’s rising research stars was on full display at the Deakin 2023 3MT® and VYT Grand Final.

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The diversity of Deakin University’s rising research stars was on full display at the Deakin 2023 3MT® and VYT Grand Final.

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