Otago PhD students make 3MT finals

Exciting research . . . University of Otago PhD students Laura Schilperoort (28, left), studying sociology, and Victoria Purdy (23), studying food science, have been chosen for the 3MT competition. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH

Not everyone understands PhD student Victoria Purdy’s research – but when she puts an image of a glass of beer up, they begin to get the idea.

The 23-year-old food sciences student is one of 11 students who have been selected as finalists in this year’s Three-Minute Thesis competition (3MT).

Their topics, which they have three minutes to present – using only one slide as a visual aid – range from expanding New Zealand’s hops industry, which is the subject of Ms Purdy’s research, to an array of issues looked at by humanities, health sciences and commerce students.

The final of the annual 3MT competition will be held on August 1, in the Quad 2 Lecture Theatre at the university.

Ms Purdy said she was “thrilled” to be chosen.

“I was not expecting it at all.”

Many people did not know what hops were.

Ms Purdy said they were a flower, produced by the humulus lupulus plant, and one of the main ingredients used to make beer. Originally, they were used to create bitterness.

“We produce less than 1% of the world’s hops. I’m hoping with my research we’ll be able to soon prove that New Zealand can generate really unique hops.”

Ms Purdy said her work had often been taking her up to Motueka, where the majority of New Zealand’s hops are grown.

Trying to condense her research down into three minutes had been a “tough but good” challenge.

Fellow PhD student Laura Schilperoort, who was working in the field of sociology, was looking at gender equality between church-going couples.

She had been carrying out research talking to 20 couples in the North Island, and said she was analysing the transcriptions of her interviews.

They ranged from 23 to 89 years old, and were all heterosexual, Protestant couples.

While LGBT couples had volunteered to be included in the study, she had been advised not to include them, since the small sample size could potentially breach their privacy.

Ms Schilperoort said it was “exciting” to be selected for the grand final, but she was a bit apprehensive as she would have to memorise her speech again.

She was interested in couples who were trying to be countercultural, and who were mindful of the patriarchal and more limiting gender roles they had inherited.

When it came to gender roles, religious beliefs could be constraining – however they could also be liberating. Winners of the university final will go to the Australasian 3MT final in October.