Press release

From oral health for children to X-ray technology to visualize atoms - announcing the winners of the HIRAKU Three Minute Thesis Competition 2021

24 November 2021

22 Finalists from graduate schools throughout Japan competed in a three-minute speech competition to present their research in an easy-to-understand manner to a public audience.

Tokyo, November 24, 2021

The 7th annual HIRAKU 3MT (Three Minute Thesis) Competition 2021 took place online on November 3, 2021. Over 20 doctoral students from across Japan presented their research visions in three minutes. This year’s winners impressed the judges with their research on oral health for children in Cambodia, ultrasmall mirrors for X-ray to visualize atoms in organisms, and the elucidation of placenta dysfunction during pregnancy. Approximately 350 people from 10 countries joined as the audience on the day. 

The winner of both the Japanese division and the Nature Digest Award was Ms. Yuria Asao of the Graduate School of Biomedical and Health Sciences at Hiroshima University for her presentation titled, “Nurturing Children's Future through Oral Health”. 
Ms. Yuria Asao commented: 
“Thank you very much for awarding me the Nature Digest Award. I am also very honored to be the winner of the Japanese division as well. As of 2021, the effects of the past civil war still remain in Cambodia, but there are also similarities with Japan, which has made recovery after the war. There are many diseases that can be prevented through the dissemination and retention of correct knowledge. My goal is to create a future full of smiles for people through a research approach that looks at overall health from oral health. I am very happy to have the opportunity to present the contents of my research, which is based on dental care support activities that many people within and outside of Japan are involved in, in front of people from various fields.”

The winner of the English division was Mr. Takenori Shimamura of the Graduate School of Engineering at the University of Tokyo for his presentation titled, “Atomic-scale “chest X-rays” with ultrasmall mirrors“.
Mr. Takenori Shimamura commented: 
“I am honored to be selected as the winner of the English division. Four months ago, I competed in another 3MT competition, so this is the second time I have tried to share my research with non-experts. It was—and remains—incredibly challenging for me to introduce people to the unfamiliar research field of X-ray optics and the background, novelty, and societal benefits of my research. This second round took a lot of effort and focus on limiting jargon, communicating more intuitively, and telling my research story with its beginning around daily life. I sincerely thank my friends who continued to refine my speech together slowly but steadily until the day of the Competition. I hope that you are all curious about the benefits and future of my ongoing research.

The winner of both the Springer Nature Award and People’s Choice Award of the English division was Ms. Lita Rakhma Yustinasari of the Joint Graduate School of Veterinary Medicine at Yamaguchi University for her presentation titled, “A Mysterious Messenger in Placenta Break Down the Problems in Preeclampsia: Possible?”.
Ms. Lita Rakhma Yustinasari commented: 
“Simplifying something complex to make it easier to understand is always a challenge, especially when conveying to a general audience who have different fields. The HIRAKU 3MT Competition enabled me on how to tell a research story clearly about what I did, why, and how to do so in an attractive way within three minutes! So, I described the idea of the similarity of the postman’s job to the mysterious messenger called exosomes that are released from the placenta. These exosomes carry miRNAs which played an important role in preeclampsia. I am honored that the idea led to me being the winner of the People’s Choice Award as well as the Springer Nature Award. I am so grateful with this wonderful experience and hope there will be more applicants for next year!”

This year's competition received 130 submissions from 28 universities across Japan. The 22 finalists, who passed the video screening, delivered a one slide presentation at the final stage of the Japanese and English divisions. The winners were selected from these 22, judged on the vision and appeal of the research and their communication of complex scientific theories and approaches. 

Dr. Antoine Bocquet, Managing Director of Springer Nature in Japan and a member of the Judging Panel of the English division commented:
“Lita’s presentation stood out immediately, where she clearly explained the current knowledge about preeclampsia, the hypothesis for her research and how she planned to carry it out. It is easy to be convinced by her presentation that she will be successful in finding clues to create new treatments for this condition and so wins the Springer Nature Award. I was extremely impressed to see the high quality of the research presentations in this competition, with the students trying different approaches to make their presentations attractive and easy to understand.

“As an academic publisher with over 3000 journals and working with 1 million authors each year, our focus has always been to support our community with the journals for and platforms to publish their high quality research. We very much hope that Lita and other presenters of the HIRAKU 3MT Competition will consider Springer Nature when the time comes.”

Mitsuyo Utsugi, Managing Director of Nature Digest, the Japanese monthly magazine published by Springer Nature, and a member of the Judging Panel of the Japanese division commented about the winner of the Nature Digest Award: 
“What was wonderful about Ms. Asao's research was that she realized that these efforts needed to be continued by the local people, so she created a system to pass on the knowledge, and over the course of several years, she was able to produce results. I believe that this research, which was able to improve the health of Cambodian people through the power of science, is needed in other places as well. I am looking forward to Ms. Asao's future ideas and research.”

The chair of the Japanese division Judging Panel, Dr. Misako Aida, Executive Advisor to the President, Hiroshima University commented: 
“The HIRAKU 3MT Competition has been held annually since 2015. Up until 2019, the competition was held live on-stage and the audience felt the enthusiasm of the doctoral students through their presentations, which were full of gestures and used only a single slide, within three minutes. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the competition has been held online since 2020, which has resulted in an increase in the number of applicants from universities across Japan. As a result of the Video Presentation Screening, 11 finalists were chosen. Given the differences between presenting online and on-stage, and the fact that we have become more accustomed to online interactions, the finalists have improved their presenting capabilities by enriching their facial expressions, making themselves easier to understand.”

The chair of the English division Judging Panel, Dr. Manabu Abe, Executive Vice-President of Hiroshima University commented: 
“In the English Division of the 2021 HIRAKU 3MT Competition, 70 applications were received from universities across Japan, and finalists were selected based on video screening. The finalists consisted of 11 doctoral students: two each from Nagasaki University, Hiroshima University, and Kyoto University, and one each from Kanazawa University, Shizuoka University, Yamaguchi University, the University of Tokyo, and Tsukuba University. A wide range of researches from linguistics to advanced medical devices were passionately discussed, and the competition was on how to attract the audience in three minutes, and three students won the Winner, Runner-Up, and People's Choice awards. The results of the judging were unbeatable, and I would like to award special prizes to all the finalists. I hope that they will take this opportunity to deepen their research and become researchers who will attract people and society.”

This 3MT Competition was hosted by HIRAKU, the Home for Innovative Researchers and Academic Knowledge Users (host institution: Hiroshima University), and has been supported by Springer Nature since 2017.

Winners and members of the Judging Panel for the Japanese division

Winners and members of the Judging Panel for the English division


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 the program website.

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Ayako Miyazaki
Springer Nature
Corporate Affairs
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