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3MT event puts PhD research centre-stage at Waikato

17 August 2021

Isaac McIvor 2
Isaac McIvor was the winner of the Three Minute Thesis (3MT) Doctoral Final at the University of Waikato last week.

A speech on the development of ancestral Waikato pā using both a mātauranga Māori and archaeological approach won the Three Minute Thesis (3MT) Doctoral Final at the University of Waikato last week.

Isaac McIvor, a PhD student from Te Pua Wānanga ki te Ao - Faculty of Māori and Indigenous Studies, was one of 10 PhD students who were challenged to present their doctoral research in less than three minutes using only one slide, to a large crowd gathered at the Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts.

The 29-year-old spoke about the ‘ancestral places at the interface of mātauranga Māori (traditional Māori knowledge) and archaeology’, and how that dual approach can provide researchers with a deeper understanding of these sites.

For his PhD research on Waikato pā, Isaac has been speaking face-to-face with members of iwi and hapū across the Waikato region and consulting written sources of information including kōrero tuku iho (oral narratives), whakataukī (proverbs) and pēpehā (tribal sayings).

His work is within a broader Marsden-funded project that is using archaeological techniques such as surveying, excavations, dendrochronology (tree ring dating) and radiocarbon dating to understand when and why pā were constructed in Waikato and how they influenced the development of Māori culture.

The 3MT competition, now in its 12th year at Waikato, is open to all PhD and higher degree research students at the University.

“PhD students are the engine house of University research. Over their three-year programme they learn to think deeply, to formulate and answer important questions, to manage their time effectively and many other skills that add to the actual research project they are driving forward”

Professor Bryony James, Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research.

“One of the most critical skills of all is communication, and the 3MT competition refines this in the crucible of public scrutiny. Under the spotlights, with just three minutes to tell their research story, our students leant into the challenge, and gave us the equivalent of 10 short TED talks that traversed the breadth of world-leading research here at Waikato,” says Bryony.

Ten finalists were whittled down from a series of heats.

Isaac was awarded the Professor John D. McCraw Memorial Trophy for outstanding oratory and $1000 to put towards his research.

The Runner Up was Te Huataki Waiora School of Health PhD student Sana Oladi, who spoke about ‘landing safely from accidental falls’. She received $500 to put towards her research.

A Highly Commended award was given to So Hyun Park, PhD student from Te Huataki Waiora School of Health, who talked about her research into ‘the effect of uniform colour in sports’. She received $250 for her research.

Audience members also voted on their favourite speech, with the People’s Choice Award and the $500 cash prize going to PhD student Simon Connolly from Te Aka Mātuatua - School of Science for his presentation, ‘sexual cannibalism in New Zealand nurseryweb spiders’.

Winner and judges
L-R: Dr Keaka Hemi, So Hyun Park, Isaac McIvor, Sana Oladi, Simon Connolly, Dr Alan Goodey and Raewyn Kirkman.

The presentations were judged on engagement and communication, and comprehension and content.

The three judges were Dr Keaka Hemi, Assistant Vice-Chancellor Pacific, Dr Alan Goodey, Medical Trustee from the Braemar Charitable Trust and Raewyn Kirkman, Chief Executive of the DV Bryant Trust.

Dr Hemi said it was a very difficult decision for the judges, due to the very high standard of presentations.

“We heard from some wonderful orators who spoke confidently, who drew us in and spoke with passion for their subjects, and made us laugh. There is a lot of passion for the research and a lot of good research is going on at Waikato.”

The 3MT is one of many ways the University of Waikato nurtures and supports emerging researchers.

The winner’s trophy, named for the University’s founding professor of Earth Sciences, Professor John McCraw, recognises the importance of communicating science and research to a wide audience. The trophy, a tiki wānanga, was hand-carved and donated by Wiremu Puke (Ngāti Wairere, Ngāti Porou), who also spoke at the event.

Isaac will represent the University of Waikato in the Asia-Pacific Virtual 3MT Competition semi-finals on September 27 hosted by the University of Queensland.

The evening was hosted by Associate Professor Mark Houlahan, and sponsored by Hamilton-based accounting and business advisory firm, Barraclough & Associates.


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