Develop your public engagement skills and raise your research profile

The York Graduate Research School (YGRS) invites all University of York Postgraduate Researchers (PGRs i.e. PhD, MPhil and Masters by Research candidates) to enter our annual PhD Spotlight Competition. This competition gives Researchers an opportunity to engage the public with original and cutting edge research, through the medium of an interactive display/experience, as part of the YorkTalks public engagement event on 10th January 2024.


Our 2024 Winners

A huge congratulations to our PhD Spotlight 2024 winners!

  • 1st Place - Sarah Veale, It Is Cheaper to be Fat, but What Does It Cost You? 

  • 2nd Place - Andrew Sage, Cancelled!

  • 3rd Place - Francisca D'Rozario, DNA: A New Strand of Data Storage

  • People’s Choice Winner - Francisca D'Rozario, DNA: A New Strand of Data Storage

How to Enter PhD Spotlight

Applications for this year's competition have now closed - many thanks to everyone who entered. Applications for our 2025 competition will open later this year.

The application includes: 

  • A 150 word summary of your research. This should be aimed at the public. You can look at our 2023 PhD Spotlight Finalists Summaries for inspiration.
  • A title for your display 
  • A 500 word display proposal. This should include:
    • How you intend to use the space (see “About your display” below), including whether you need any technology/equipment (we can’t guarantee to be able to accommodate all requests)
    • How you intend to engage the public with your display/experience (see judging criteria below)
  • You may include images/sketches/diagrams/video/concept art, or anything else that you feel will visually help your application, though this is not necessary.

Applicant Criteria

  • Any current University of York Postgraduate Researcher, at any stage, can apply
    • including enrolled PhD, Masters by Research, and MPhil candidates
    • including those in their continuation year
    • including if your study is split between two or more institutions
  • Joint applications will not be considered

About your display

We are looking for dynamic and creative displays and/or experiences. Each finalist will be offered a minimum of:

  • A pair of Nimlok (display) boards. 
  • One A1-sized printed image (You may use this as a poster, but we encourage you to think outside the box)
  • One large trestle table 
  • Free use of the floor space around your area
  • Access to an electrical outlet (plug socket)
  • A 24” display monitor (this is dependant on stock availability)
  • A small budget to buy props and print materials for your display. (£30 for props, £5 for printing)

We highly encourage you to consider using the resources provided in the Creativity Labs, including 3D printers, graphic and video design software when designing your display. If you are selected as a finalist and you plan to use the Creativity Lab resources, you may have to sign up for training or an induction before using them.

You do not have to use all the resources provided.

Judging Criteria

Applications and finalists will be judged according to the following:

  • Creativity: Produce a display or experience with visual appeal and coherence
  • Impact: Relevance of your display outside a single field/academia 
  • Communication: Inform the public and non-specialist audiences about your research in exciting ways
  • Originality: The display should be based on your original research and contribution to knowledge 

Due to the high quality and number of applications we receive, we will not be able to consider proposals which do not address the above criteria.

The Final

The final will be an all-day event in the Piazza Building on Wednesday 10th January 2024. Finalists will engage with the public throughout the day, primarily in the breaks between the YorkTalks events.

Important Dates

  • 23:59 GMT Sunday 12th November 2023: Applications for the competition close
  • 22nd November 2023: Results of applications will be released
  • 8th December 2023: Finalists will have submitted all their final preparation
  • Wednesday 10th January 2024: The final event will be held in the Piazza Building.

Further information

If you need more information, contact the BRIC team at


YorkTalks highlights some of the University's most innovative and challenging research in a series of accessible 15-minute talks over a single day. The poster competition takes place in conjunction with these talks, with three York PhD students from each of the three faculties presenting their research.