Kejia Wang’s wearable sensors for elderly

Engineering PhD student named runner-up at the 3MT thesis finals

Kejia Wang’s talk on wearable sensors for elderly earned her second place the University’s three-minute thesis competition.

Kejia Wang from the Graduate School of Biomedical Engineering was named runner-up by the judges at the University’s Three Minute Thesis (3MT) Competition for her talk on falls prediction in the elderly using tiny sensors – “the kind you find in your smartphone” – to map their gait. 

Twenty-four PhD candidates from across the University – all finalists from their respective faculties – pitched their bite-sized research summaries to a record turnout. The winner, from UNSW Medicine, was PhD candidate Susan Ireland who spoke about sugar alternatives and their interactions with receptors in the body which she likened to “a toddler who wants more cake”. Scott Youlten, also from Medicine, won both the People’s Choice ($1,000) and ASPIRE ($500) prizes, as well as a commendation from the judges for his crowd-pleasing talk using marriage as a metaphor for bone health.

Judges included Macquarie Dictionary editor Susan Butler, UNSW Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research) Brian Boyle, ABC science communicator Robyn Williams and UNSW Dean of Arts and Social Sciences Eileen Baldry.

“The most agonising thing of all was the nano-distance between them all, at least half of them were up there with the best,” said Williams, adding that research in Australia had been “transformed” by the Three Minute Thesis contest.

Kejia Wang says the competition has helped develop her as a public speaker. “As a researcher, the 3MT helps you solidify what your thesis is about. It also reinforces in my mind how important the work is that I am doing. And it’s a chance to show the world the cool and inspiring stuff that’s happening behind the scenes.”

UNSW President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Jacobs said the event showcased the depth and calibre of talent at UNSW and its deserved place as a world-class research university. “This university has massive aspirations for research quality… we aim to be in the world’s top 30 universities during the next decade,” Professor Jacobs said. “And if we’re going to do that, there are all sorts of things we need to do. But supporting and valuing and treasuring our PhD students is absolutely at the heart of our strategy.”

This was Wang’s second consecutive year at the 3MT Finals. Williams commended her clarity and poise as well as the significance of her work in awarding her the $1,500 second place prize.

“What gave me the edge?” said Wang. “I think it’s a combination of things. It helps if you can find an interesting way to make your talk relevant to the audience and if you can build a punchy story around that.”

With the prize money, Wang intends to spend some of it thanking and celebrating with her friends and colleagues that supported her.

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