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York postgraduate student secures place in national competition with cancer research

Posted on 19 June 2014

A postgraduate student from the University of York researching how to improve the experience of children undergoing treatment for cancer has won a place in the national semi-finals of the Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition.

Jenn Chubb and Bob Phillips

Bob Phillips, from York’s Centre for Reviews and Dissemination (CRD), is investigating a straightforward way of predicting which children with fever on treatment for cancer require extensive hospitalisation, and which would be better off at home.

Earlier this month, he impressed an audience at the York Three Minute Thesis competition with an explanation of his research in just 180 seconds, securing himself a place in the national semi-finals on 14 July.

Bob, who will graduate with a PhD in July, said: “I am delighted to have won this competition. It's vitally important that we make our research accessible - there's little point just sitting in universities talking to each other. We have got to make sure our research has an impact on the world.”

Three Minute Thesis (3MT) is an academic research communication competition designed to improve participants’ presentation and communication skills and raise awareness of their research area to a general audience. The public event, which is open to all, challenges the students to present their work in an engaging way, using plain and simple English in just three minutes.

Last year’s national final was won by York PhD student Frank Soboczenski, from the Department of Computer Science.

This year’s national semi-final will be hosted by Vitae and the University of York, with Bob Phillips facing strong competition on his home ground from doctoral researchers from up to 34 other UK institutions. The top six researchers from the semi-finals will go on to the national final in Manchester in September.

Bob’s research has combined information on 5,000 individual patient's episodes of fever from 22 different research groups to determine a straightforward way of predicting which children with fever, on treatment for cancer, require extensive hospitalisation, and which would be better off sent home.

He said: “We now need to make sure that the system is acceptable to families and clinical teams, then put it into practice to shorten or avoid hospitalisation and reduce antibiotic use, improving the experience of undergoing treatment for childhood cancer.”

The York 3MT competition, organised by the University’s Researcher Development Team, in collaboration with the Graduate Students Association (GSA) and the Ron Cooke Hub, is just one of a suite of training events aimed at equipping doctoral researchers with professional and transferable skills.

Ten students took part in York 3MT, with Catherine Laing from the Department of Language and Linguistic Science taking second place and Daniel Jowett from the Department of Chemistry coming third.

Jenn Chubb, from the University’s Researcher Development Team, said: “It's been another great year for Three Minute Thesis at York. Our ten finalists engaged the public with a wide range of subjects and the standard was incredibly high. I am really pleased for Bob and wish him all the best for the semi-finals of the UK national competition in July."

The national semi-finals of 3MT will take place on 14 July at the Ron Cooke Hub, University of York. The event is open to all. To book a free ticket visit

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