As Training Coordinator in the library, I'm coordinating La Trobe's round of the Visualise Your Thesis (VYT) competition. VYT is a competition format developed by the University of Melbourne, and it's the first year that it's a formal inter/national challenge!
VYT requires graduate researchers to present their research in a 60-second, visually appealing, digital display. Cash prizes are available for the winners of La Trobe’s local competition and the winning entry will compete in an online international competition final.
While I’m excited to be coordinating our local competition, I must admit to being a little anxious as well. I want the competition to run smoothly and, more importantly, I want our graduate researchers to enjoy the experience and have fun while they’re honing their skills. We offer VYT workshops to support graduate resarchers in their potential entries, but putting your hand up and participating in the competition brings a range of rewards.
So, why should graduate researchers enter VYT? What’s in it for them, other than the cash prizes? I asked last year’s competition entrants to reflect on their experience of the competition. What did they learn? How did they benefit from entering the competition?
Here’s what our wonderful 2018 contestants had to say:
Kylie Carra, PhD Candidate, Rural Health School
"My entry to the 2018 competition provided me with the opportunity to develop my skills in visual media and communication. These skills have proved to be invaluable for my research and the process helped me to conceptualise my research in ways that can be understood by people outside of my field of study."
Coralie Boulet, PhD Candidate, School of Life Sciences
"Visualise Your Thesis is incredibly challenging: if you have already tried to summarise your research in three minutes, imagine shortening it further to only 60 seconds! Similar to the 3MT competition, it is a fantastic opportunity to take a global look at your project, and really extract the essence of it, while keeping it comprehensible for a wide audience.
But in addition to the 3MT, there is the visual aspect that comes into account. Personally, I had fun learning how to create a stop-motion movie, and am quite proud of the result - I even won one the VYT first prize last year!
The best part is that you get to keep this video: you can display it on your professional profile (ResearchGate, LinkedIn or La Trobe Scholars), and show it to your family and friends, so that they can finally understand what you really are doing during all these years of hard work."
Ebony Monson, PhD Candidate, School of Life Sciences
"There were a few things I learnt from the VYT competition:
It is really hard to describe your research in 1 minute, however this is such as important skill to have. More and more it is becoming apparent of the importance of being able to describe your research to the public, in a short direct 'elevator pitch' way. Deakin University Associate Professor John Lamp once said: "It's no longer a case of publish or perish - be visible, or vanish". As a way to be visible, this competition is an excellent opportunity. VYT is such a good way to be able to develop these skills that are becoming so relevant to a career in or around academia!
It takes a lot of time to put a 1 minute video together. Although the VYT competition requires a 1 minute video submission, the amount of work that it takes to create this is a lot more! I think that my VYT 2018 submission would have taken me upwards of around 20 hours to put together, and a lot of this time goes into planning, creating and putting everything together.
Lastly, there is no wrong or right way to but a VYT video together. Of course, there are rules and guidelines, however really letting your imagination run wild where the really good VYT videos come from. If, like me, you are not all that creative, it really helped me to see what students had done in the past so you can adapt and change it to fit your project.
I would encourage anyone thinking about submitting a VYT video to do so. To simply get the feedback for the video is really helpful and something to build on or aspire to in future years."
Mulusew Fikere, then PhD Candidate, School of Applied Systems Biology, now postdoctoral research fellow, University of Queensland
"Participating in VYT has helped me to critically think about my research and what messages I need to deliver beyond the academic and research community. What I understood is: VYT is more about engaging audiences and making them interested in finding out more about my research work. It was also an opportunity for me to see some wonderful research work carried out by other students across La Trobe Schools and Colleges.
More importantly, participating in various events including seminars, VYT and related talks helped me to develop my communication skills and research networks in my field of study."
As you can see, the experience from our inaugural VYTers suggests that participating in the competition is a worthwhile experience, an opportunity to challenge yourself, build research communication skills and increase the visibility of your research.
If you’re up for a challenge in 2019, why not take the plunge and enter the competition?