Research students serve up food-related topics in 3MT final

04 August 2023 | News

An array of food topics was on the menu at this year’s Three-Minute Thesis Competition, which drew to a close on Wednesday evening with an impressive grand final event.

The contest requires participants to present their work in only three minutes, using just one slide to explain their entire PhD or Master’s project.

Developed by the University of Queensland, the lively research communication competition is now held annually at more than 900 universities across the globe.

Year after year, Lincoln postgraduate students relish the opportunity to practise using concise and compelling communication techniques to explain complex research.

All four 2023 winners are sinking their teeth into food-related subjects with an emphasis on sustainability, from edible insects to the impact of yeast on flavour, the connection between soil and people in terms of food production, and the effect of spider biodiversity on crop ecosystems.

PhD student Caitlin Hyde scooped the grand prize for her lively and engaging presentation on the socio-cultural factors surrounding edible insects in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Edible insects are becoming increasingly popular as a sustainable and nutritious source of protein, but they remain largely taboo in the West.

With the industry struggling to expand in New Zealand, Caitlin's research seeks to understand the social and cultural factors behind this reluctance to incorporate insects into our diets.

Her thesis, entitled ‘Grub’s Up: Insects as Food in Aotearoa New Zealand’, encourages us to rethink our approach to food and embrace the sustainable options available to us. It will serve as an important contribution to the growing field of sustainable food sources and highlight the need to understand the socio-cultural factors that shape our food choices.

Caitlin is set to represent Lincoln at the inter-university U21 Three-Minute Thesis Competition.

In first place for the Master’s category was Jay McKendrey, for his excellent presentation on yeast population identification, with a thesis entitled ‘A City of Saccaromyces’.

Jay’s research, which could revolutionise the food industry, examines the potential impact of yeast strains on the flavour and aroma of plant-based foods.

He will represent Lincoln in the 3MT Inter-University Master's Final.

Lincoln PhD students Julie Gillespie and Nicola Sullivan, who came second and third respectively, are both carrying out their research via the Food Transitions 2050 Joint Postgraduate School.

Julie’s thesis explores the connection between people and soil through food production, using the history of kumara-growing on Banks Peninsula as a case study. She says people are becoming more disconnected from where their food comes from and the demand for fertile soil is putting pressure on food security.

To tackle this challenge, her work includes developing a framework to help identify the strengths and weaknesses of various food production systems, allowing for better decision-making in this area.

Importantly, Julie’s research incorporates matauraka Māori and aims to adapt science to fit traditional Māori practices, helping to bridge the gap between science and indigenous knowledge.

Third prize winner Nicola Sullivan is researching the impact of spider biodiversity on crop ecosystems and looking at how spider populations can be protected and even enhanced for more sustainable agricultural practices.

She explained during her presentation that spiders help to control the population of harmful insects in crops, decreasing the need for chemical pesticides that can harm both the environment and human health.

Lincoln University Provost and renowned marine biosecurity researcher, Professor Chad Hewitt, addressed the audience, commending the exceptional calibre of all the student presentations.

After presenting certificates to the 10 finalists, he bestowed awards on the worthy winners.

From left, PhD students Julie Gillespie and Nicola Sullivan (second and third place), Master's winner Jay McKendrey and grand prize winner Caitlin Hyde.