Catarina Botelho has been crowned winner of the first ever edition of 3 Minutos de Tese at the University of Lisbon.

A PhD student in the INESC-ID Human Language Technologies (HLT) research area and Instituto Superior Técnico (IST), Catarina won 1st place in yesterday’s live competition at Museu Nacional de História Natural e da Ciência (the National Museum of Science and Natural History) with a brilliant and effective three-minute talk covering her doctoral work on speech processing for medical diagnosis and monitoring — a talk that you can (re)watch here around minute 41.

Having originated at the University of Queensland in 2008, the 3 Minute Thesis competition is now run in numerous universities around the world. On winning 1st place at this year’s competition, Catarina said she felt “very fulfilled and happy […]. It is truly rewarding to see my PhD work recognized in this way. I would like to express my gratitude to my advisors, as well as friends and family for the feedback they provided me throughout the presentation preparation process. I would also like to thank ULisboa, Público and FLAD for organizing this fantastic event. In fact, the jury had a difficult task, as all the presentations were of a very high level. I feel happy to have been recognized among so many brilliant projects.”

Catarina competed with eleven other University of Lisbon doctoral students, amongst them Diogo Nunes, Catarina’s HLT colleague at INESC-ID, who delivered a superb talk on his work on chronic pain assessment from patient reports. This cohort of twelve finalists — five of whom are IST students — was chosen from 150 applications, making Catarina’s 1st place win the more extraordinary.

Distilling years of doctoral research into a three-minute talk isn’t an easy task though. “I’d say [the most difficult part] was turning the questions into answers (and limiting the answers to just three minutes!). As we study more and more about a subject, it seems that more and more questions arise. And in this presentation, although there are many open questions in my work, I wanted to convey the main objectives and promising results that I have achieved, but also explain that there are still challenges that we are currently working on. This was a very interesting (and difficult!) exercise.”

And what does Catarina take away from this experience? “Two main things: On the one hand, I developed the ability to reduce my work to the absolute essentials, for an audience that is not in the area. This gives me a new perspective on my own work. On the other hand, I got to know the amazing doctoral work of my colleagues, and I feel proud to belong to this community.”

By landing 1st place, Catarina won a monetary prize of 5.000€ as well. Second place, worth 2.000€, went to Patrícia Chaves (from Faculdade de Ciências) and third place, with a cash prize of 1.000€, went to another IST student, Matteo Pisano. Prizes will the officially granted in an award ceremony on 27 June 2023 at Reitoria da Universidade de Lisboa.

This first University of Lisbon edition of 3 Minutos de Tese was organized as a joint venture with the newspaper PÚBLICO — which has also reported on Catarina’s win — and Fundação Luso-Americana para o Desenvolvimento (FLAD).