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PhD Spotlight competition

Develop your research communication skills and share your work with hundreds of people.

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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. 

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. 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. 

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

YorkTalks last took place on Wednesday 8 January 2020.

PhD Spotlight 2020

PhD Spotlight 2020 winners 

Congratulations to the PhD Spotlight 2020 winners!

Arts & Humanities: 
Kristl Kirk, Music
Social Science: 
Petronel Geyser, York Law School; James Killen, York Law School (joint)
Evelyn Tan, Computer Science

Overall winner: Petronel Geyser, York Law School

PhD Spotlight 2020 Finalist Summaries (PDF , 2,679kb)

"PhD Spotlight is an incredible opportunity to spend a whole day discussing your research with a wide variety of people. They have given me valuable input and a different perspective on my research, that I would not have had otherwise.

PhD Spotlight has given me the opportunity to rethink the way in which I present the impact of my research. I am now confident that I can present my research and its influence in a clear and concise way that anybody can understand."

- Petronel Geyser, 2020 winner

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 YorkTalks 
  • All finalists will receive support to develop their public engagement skills


Applications are now closed

Complete the online 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.

Application process

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 Tuesday 12 November 2019 as to whether they have been selected for the final event.

Finalists are required to attend a PhD Spotlight Review Session on Tuesday 19 November 2019 where they will have the opportunity to discuss their ideas with their peers and receive support from the RET Team in developing their public engagement skills.

Finalists will present their showcase piece on Wednesday 8 January 2020 at the all-day YorkTalks event.


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.

What to expect

PhD Spotlight 2019


If you have any queries, contact