Press release

From solving the mystery of batteries to Bornean primates - announcing the winners of the 2020 Three Minute Thesis online competition

3 December 2020

Springer Nature supported this year’s event, where PhD students in Japanese universities competed to communicate their research vision online in three minutes.

Tokyo, December 3, 2020

For the first time in its history,  the HIRAKU 3MT (Three Minute Thesis) Competition 2020 took place online on November 21, 2020, but that did not stop the sixth annual competition from showcasing the highly diverse work of our next generation of researchers, as doctoral students from across Japan took to the online stage to present their research visions in three minutes. This 3MT Competition was hosted by HIRAKU, the Home for Innovative Researchers and Academic Knowledge Users (host institution: Hiroshima University) and was supported by Springer Nature.

With the competition being held online this time, participation from all over the world became possible, with a total of about 500 people from 14 countries joining as the audience on the day. Applicants came to the session with an array of high quality and interesting research topics. The judges were particularly impressed with the research from winners, who were recognized for their presentations on the research of batteries, Bornean primates and how to make water from air, respectively.

The Japanese section was streamed live at the Science Agora 2020 hosted by JST.

The winner of the Japanese division was Koki Yamada at Yamaguchi University for his presentation titled Solving the mystery of batteries with light! - aiming for the perfect battery -. He was also selected as a winner of the Mazda Video Award.

Koki Yamada commented, “For those of us researchers who study the needs of society, it is very important to gain understanding from the society. I prepared my presentation by looking at my research from a completely different perspective, wondering how I could communicate my complicated research in a clear and attractive way in three minutes. As a result, I am very honored to have won the "Grand Prize" as well as the Mazda Video Award from among the applicants. By participating in this competition, I was able to reconsider the rather rigid thinking of a researcher from a broader social perspective, and felt that I was able to grow as a researcher”

The winner of the English division was Kenneth Keuk at Kyoto University for his presentation titled “Cheesy epidemiology: studying the biodiversity-disease relationship in Bornean primates”. He was also selected as a winner of the Springer Nature Award.

Kenneth Keuk commented, “Science is best when it reaches everyone. I heard about the HIRAKU 3MT competition through the Center for International Collaboration and Advanced Studies in Primatology (CICASP) at Kyoto University's Primate Research Institute. It's a fun challenge, presenting effectively to a broader audience, with everyone's time being so limited and precious, and not wasting a second! Being a finalist was a surprise. This was the first video I ever produced. Recording and attending the finale was an adventure, and an opportunity to use the DIY green screen I hand-stitched after the rise of virtual meetings. I am honored to have been chosen for the Springer Nature and English division awards, and I hope my contribution convinced people of the importance of studying diseases in the wild”

The winner of the Japanese Division’s Nature Digest Video Award, Chugai Technos Award and the Audience Award was Norihiro Moriyama at Hiroshima University for his presentation titled “Membrane separation technology to make water from air”.

Norihiro Moriyama commented, “I would like to express my appreciation for selecting me as a winner of the Nature Digest Video Award. Technologies to purify liquid water through membranes, such as seawater desalination and river water filtration, are already in use. However, I felt that these technologies are not the perfect solution to water shortage, because they can only be used in places where liquid water exists. In this research, I focused on the traces of water that exists in the air and developed a system to separate and collect it using membranes, in order to be able to obtain "water from anywhere". I would like to make further efforts for practical application of this research, aiming for a future where drinking water can be produced anywhere in the world”

In this year's competition, the scope of application was expanded to include students from all over Japan. As a result, there were 62 applications from 24 universities. The 20 finalists, who were selected through a video judging process, conducted oral presentations online with a single slide during the final stage, in either the Japanese or English divisions. The jury panel judged the presentations in judged the research presentations according to criteria such as vision, attractiveness and clarity in communication.

Antoine Bocquet, Managing Director of Springer Nature in Japan and a jury member at the English division of the 3MT competition said, “This year’s HIRAKU 3MT Competition really tested the dynamic skillset of our entrants, as all had to adapt to presenting in a totally digitally online forum. We were delighted to see such a high number rise to the challenge, and despite being online could feel the enthusiasm of everyone who presented. Every year, I am astounded by the high level research accomplishments of our early career researchers. Springer Nature has been participating in this competition since 2017, and we are pleased to support the challenges of young researchers from all over Japan, who are working on innovative research topics through this new competition style”

The jury panel of the competition consisted of experts from various sectors, including universities, research institutions, industries, who were invited from within and outside of Japan.

The chair of the English division jury panel, Shinichi Tate, Executive Vice-President of Hiroshima University commented, “The “Three-minute thesis competition” has been held at Hiroshima amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In this competition, Ph.D. students appeal their research through a 3-minute talk on their research goals from their motivations. The competition this year was held online for the first time. The participants in this competition used to be limited to the students in the Chugoku and Shikoku areas in Japan. However, this time, we had the presenters from Kanto, Hokuriku, and Chubu areas as well, which made the competition more exciting. The presenters have successfully elaborated the IT tools to make their presentation impressive, giving quite different impressions from those supposed to be on stage. I enjoyed the new styles of the research presentation that the students tried”

Developed by the University of Queensland in 2008, 3MT® events are now held in over 400 institutions across six continents. The 2020 Asia-Pacific 3MT Competition sponsored by Springer Nature has been held online on October 1, and has brought together the 2019 university 3MT finalists from across Australia, New Zealand, Oceania, North-East Asia and South-East Asia.

The HIRAKU program is promoted as part of the “Program for Developing Next Generation Researchers” of the “Building of Consortia for the Development of Human Resources in Science and Technology,” implemented by the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. Focusing on the “Home for Innovative Researchers and Academic Knowledge Users (HIRAKU)” as its main theme, the program is jointly operated by Hiroshima University (the Lead Partner Organization), Yamaguchi University and Tokushima University (the Co-Partner Organizations), in collaboration with public and private universities primarily located in the Chugoku and Shikoku regions, as well as a growing number of institutions/corporations in public and private sectors. The word, ‘Hiraku’ means to ‘open-up’ or ‘bloom’ in Japanese. For more information, please visit here.

Springer Nature is a leading research, educational and professional publisher, providing quality content to our communities through a range of innovative platforms, products and services. Every day, around the globe, our imprints, books, journals and resources reach millions of people – helping researchers, students, teachers and professionals to discover, learn and achieve more. Through our family of brands, we aim to serve and support the research, education and professional communities by putting them at the heart of all we do, delivering the highest possible standards in content and technology, and helping shape the future of publishing for their benefit and for society overall. 

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Ayako Miyazaki
Springer Nature
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