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28 August 2019 | Story Zama Feni | Photo Charl Devenish
From the left: University of the Free State (UFS) students, Chantelle van der Bijl (Master’s Category) and Keafon Jumbam (PhD Category) emerged victorious at the annual institutional Three-Minute Thesis (3MT) Competition held on Friday, 23 August 2019.

Two University of the Free State (UFS) students, Keafon Jumbam (PhD) and Chantelle van der Bijl (master’s), emerged victorious at the annual institutional Three-Minute Thesis (3MT) competition held on the Bloemfontein Campus on Friday, 23 August 2019.

The 3MT is a research-communication competition which was developed by the University of Queensland (UQ), whereby PhD students are given three minutes to present a compelling oration on their thesis and its significance. 

Winning students

Jumbam, who is a student in the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, cleaned the table in the PhD category, which had six contestants from various faculties. She walked away with a cash prize of R14 000.
She presented a thesis titled: Social, ecological and personality factors influencing bat-eared fox foraging behaviour.
Asked about the secret to her victory, Jumbam said: “You must ensure that you publish your work, because that gives a person a competitive edge, globally.”
In the Master’s Category, Chantelle van der Bijl grabbed the first spot, beating four other contestants in this category, winning an amount of R10 000.  Her thesis title was: Doctor Mothers: Infant feeding intentions and behaviours.
“I am excited to have won this. I am very grateful for the support I got from my family and faculty staff,” said Van der Bijl.

Idea behind the 3MT

The 3MT challenges students to consolidate their ideas and research discoveries in order to be presented concisely to a non-specialist audience. The 3MT was designed to develop skills that will give students an important career advantage once they complete their studies. 
The competition was originally reserved for PhD students, but the UFS Postgraduate School decided to include master’s students so as to prepare them in case they wanted to do their PhDs after their studies. 
The UFS winner in the Master’s Category (Van der Bijl) will not represent the university in the national final 3MT competition on 25 October 2019, but the 1st runner-up in the PhD category (Lourens Strauss) – as per the rules of the competition.

Nothing but research for better future
Giving a word of encouragement to the contestants on the importance of research, the Senior Director for Research Development, Dr Glen Taylor, said: “When our generation of practitioners and leaders (students) engage in research with its deliberate process and requirements for critical thinking skills, they become better students and are best prepared for the challenges and opportunities of the future. Research is an opportunity to make a difference; it is open to everyone and thrives on a diversity of approaches and perspectives.”

Taylor said universities have to be vital sources of new knowledge and innovative thinking, providers of skilled personnel, attractors of international talent and business investment into a region, agents of social justice and mobility, and contributors to social and cultural vitality.

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