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PhD Spotlight competition

Applications are now closed. 

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The PhD Spotlight competition sees nine PhD students chosen to exhibit their research as part of YorkTalks, a key University research showcase event. This is a chance to develop your research communication skills and share your work with hundreds of people.

YorkTalks is styled on the highly successful ‘TED’ Talks and highlights some of the University's most innovative and challenging research in a series of accessible 15-minute talks over a single day. It is aimed at an academic, but non-specialist, audience. In conjunction with these talks, three York PhD students from each of the three faculties communicate their research in an exhibition using media such as posters, video and objects. 

Spotlight was a great opportunity... The more people I talked to, the more confident I became at explaining my research and its impact. I really enjoyed talking to members of the public. I had many interesting conversations with people and received some challenging questions which was a really valuable experience.

- Jill Simpson, 2018 winner

There are prizes for the winner of each faculty, plus the overall winner.

YorkTalks 2018 was attended by more than 700 people. YorkTalks 2019 takes place on Wednesday 9 January 2019 in the Ron Cooke Hub.

About the competition

  • The competition is open to all University of York PhD students
  • The exhibition pieces can involve any medium (e.g., poster, film, objects/artifacts, etc.)
  • Applications must outline the original nature and potential outcomes/impact of the research and highlight its relevance outside a single field
  • Applications must describe how the exhibition piece will be designed in a way which will engage an academic, non-specialist audience from different disciplines
  • Nine finalists will be selected to take part in the competition at the YorkTalks event on Wednesday 9 January 2019
  • All finalists will receive support to develop their public engagement skills

Applications are now closed.

Application process

Complete the online YorkTalks 2019 PhD Spotlight proposal form and include:

  • a proposal title;
  • a non-specialist summary (outlining the original nature and potential outcomes/impact of the research, and highlighting its relevance outside a single field);
  • a description of medium(s) that will be used in your exhibition piece to make it engaging and accessible to an academic, non-specialist audience from different disciplines.

The deadline for applications is Friday 2 November 2018.

All proposals will be reviewed by the Dean of the York Graduate Research School and a panel of senior academics from each faculty, and nine finalists will be shortlisted to take part (three from each faculty).

Applicants will be notified by Wednesday 14 November 2018 as to whether they have been selected for the final event.

Finalists are required to attend a review session on Tuesday 20 November 2018 (9.30am-12pm) where they will have the opportunity to discuss their ideas with their peers and receive support from the RETT in developing their public engagement skills.

Finalists will present their showcase piece on Wednesday 9 January 2019 at the all-day YorkTalks event in the Ron Cooke Hub.


Proposals should provide meaningful information to help the review panel to understand the context behind and your ideas for your showcase piece, and particularly how you will attract visitors and passers-by to engage with you and your display. Please outline:

  • the original nature of the research and its potential outcomes/impact
  • the relevance outside a single field and appeal to those working in other disciplines
  • the reason(s) for the choice of medium (e.g., poster, film, object/artifact, performance piece etc.), particularly in relation to how it will make your work accessible to and engage an academic, non-specialist audience from different disciplines.

Showcase pieces should be visually appealing, well presented, and coherent (colour/contrast/font) and designed to engage an academic, non-specialist audience. Give some consideration to which medium(s), e.g., poster, film, objects/artifacts, performance piece etc., would best convey your research in this context.

Submit your application by Friday 2 November 2018.