Three Minute Wonder Science Communication Competition

Three Minute Wonder is our UK and Ireland-wide science communication competition. It challenges researchers or project team members to explain their work to the public in just three minutes. Participants work in physics or physics-related fields in academia and industry.

*Please note: The remaining events for Three Minute Wonder are now no longer taking place. Please get in touch with your local contact for further information (details below).*


About Three Minute Wonder

Participants pitch their original research to a panel of  judges and a non-specialist audience. The aim is to bring cutting edge physics-related research to life for the general public. 

The competition involves a series of regional or national heats, depending on location.

Participants can use one slide, one video and as many props as necessary to publicise their work. Each contestant is scored by a panel of established science communicators. 

The winner from each national or regional heat goes through to the Grand Final. 

How to take part

You will be an early career researcher or project team member, presenting your own work, and have worked for no more than twelve years since your first degree (not including career breaks).

Sign up to participate in your local regional or national heat.

Competition heats: locations and dates

London and the South East

  • Winner of the heat held on 11 December 2019 was Gavrielle Untracht (University of Surrey). 

Merseyside

  • Winner of the heat held on 13 November 2019 was Hannah Dalgleish from Liverpool John Moores University. 

North East

  • Winner of the heat held on 5 November 2019 was Lewis MacKenzie from Durham University

Wales (also covering Cheshire and West Midlands)

  • Applications now closed.
  • Competition heat: 20 February 2020 at 5.15-7pm at Nick Whitehead lecture theatre, Wrexham Glyndwr University
  • Prize of £250 from the IOP Wales committee
  • Travel will be subsidised
  • Email committee contact: Alison McMillan ajmcmillan17@gmail.com
  • Email engagement officer for Wales: Claudia.Antolini@iop.org

East Midlands

Ireland

  • In Ireland, the winner of the 2019 (Sarah Markham from the University of Limerick)
  • 2020 Rosse medal’s competition winner will also be invited to compete in the Grand Final. Ireland heat date and location to be confirmed.
  • Email committee contact: Yvonne Kavanagh
  • Email engagement officer for Ireland: lucy.kinghan@iop.org 

East Anglia

        South Central

        South West

        • Closing date for applications: 15 March 2020
        • Competition heat date and location: Saturday 21 March, 11am, HH Wills Physics Lab, University of Bristol, Tyndall Avenue, BS8 1TL
        • Email committee contact: vincent.smith@bristol.ac.uk
        • Email national regional manager: miranda.addey@iop.org

        *Please note, this event will no longer be taking place.*

          Presentations

          Presentations by short-listed contestants can include:

          • one PowerPoint slide 
          • as many props as you want
          • one video clip you have made

          Prizes

          The organising branch or nation decides the prizes for the heats.

          Competition final

          The Grand Final for the winners of each heat will be in 26 May 2020 at the Royal Institution. 

          *Please note, this event will no longer be taking place.*

          Scoring for heats and final

          Each judge awards each presentation a mark out of ten. Scores are combined to give the participant’s total.

          Points are awarded for a contestant’s ability to communicate their work to the non-specialist audience. Judges consider:

          • physics content
          • presentation skill
          • entertainment value
          • level of engagement

          Points are deducted if presentations run longer than three minutes. Read more about the awarding of points in the rules.

          Watch the heats and final

          Support participants at your local Three Minute Wonder heats and at the live final in May 2020. 

          Heat events are added to our calendar as they are confirmed.

          Book your place in the audience on our events page

          More information

          Email: mark.telling@stfc.ac.uk Institute Vice-president, membership.

          Testimonials

          We continue to be overwhelmed by support from parents, students, and even publicity on the BBC World Service.

          • “My eight-year-old is passionate about science and physics in particular – he went to the 3MW national final at the Royal Institution last week and loved it.”
          • “Thanks to all involved for a great event last night! Educational, inspiring and entertaining all at once.”
          • “The event was fantastic and I can see it turning into something even bigger over the next few years.”
          • “Hi Mark, thanks again for a great event last night! Really well done to everyone involved. My daughter enjoyed the evening as much as I did.”
          • “Fantastic 1st half #3mwfinal @Ri_Science. Exo-planets, nanotubes, solar power, superconductors and aliens!”

          Support

          Woman giving physics demonstration.

          This UK and Ireland-wide Institute event is successful because of the inventive contributions from contestants in the regional and national heats and at the final. The aims of the event are realised with the generous support and effort of:

          • judges
          • participating nations and branches
          • the Institute of Physics staff and members

          Competition rules

          1. The competition is open to early career researchers working in any physics-related subject, ie a researcher or member of a physics-focused project team (including those in industry) who is within the first 12 years of their career (allowing for career breaks) following the award of a first degree.
          2. A participant may register for one national (Scotland, Wales) or regional heat (England) only. For the 2019/20 competition, the IoP Ireland entry to the Grand Final will be the winners of the 2019 and 2020 Rosse Medals.
          3. Participants will register their interest to compete via the 3 Minute Wonder website.
          4. The number of participants invited to present their work per heat will be limited to 10.
          5. The 10 participants invited to the live event will be chosen by the nation/region's branch committee. Participants will submit an abstract (50 words maximum) detailing their research. The abstract should be engaging and explain the topic in layman terms. The branch committee will use these abstracts to shortlist 10 participants.
          6. There should be a panel of four judges. If possible, this panel should represent a diverse range of science related professions, ideally with science communication experience; for example teaching, journalism, research and industry.
          7. Each presentation will be scored immediately with a mark out of 10 being awarded by each judge. Marks will be announced after all the presentations have concluded. However, judges can give immediate feedback and invite a couple of audience questions.
          8. In addition to the panel, the presentation will be timed by a timekeeper. After an initial buffer of five seconds over the three-minute mark, one point will be deducted for each five-second period that the speaker finishes beyond three-minutes. For example, a talk finishing between 3 and 3.05 will not be penalised. Between 3.05 and 3.10 a one point deduction will be made. Between 3.10 and 3.15, a two point deduction is made, and so on. The timekeeper will not mark the talks. Time-keeping points will only be deducted after all the presentations have been given.
          9. The presentations must be the participant's own research/work.
          10. The focus of the competition will be on science communication, not so much the science itself. Is the research bought to life by the speaker for the general public?
          11. As part of the presentation the speaker may choose to use: one PowerPoint slide (if 'transitions' are used to build slide content, existing content cannot disappear), a video clip (that the speaker has made), and as many props as the speaker wishes.
          12. For the 2019/20 competition, the winner of each national/regional heat will be invited to compete in the 3MW Grand Final in London.
          13. In the event of a tie the audience will be asked to decide the winner.
          14. The decision of the judges and timekeeper's is final.

          The story so far: background to the competition

          The idea for a UK and Ireland-wide science communication competition came from events held by the East Anglia Branch in 2012 and 2013. 

          These first events were held at the Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge. They gave members and the general public the chance to learn about cutting-edge physics-based research in an exciting and novel way.

          Potential

          In 2013, the London and South East branch chair, and central IOP staff, saw huge potential in developing the Three Minute Wonder format as a UK and Ireland-wide science communication competition. 

          The inaugural competition took place in late 2013, with seven heats being run across the UK. The top fourteen early career researchers competing at the grand final in May 2014. The final event was held in the Faraday lecture theatre at the Royal Institution, London.

          All presentations were highly entertaining and ranged from demonstrating, to a packed auditorium, how to ‘detect’ mechanical damage via a Mexican wave, to impact crater creation using a vat of tomato ketchup!