By Perla Guarneros
The 3 Minute Thesis competition (3MT®) is a competition for Higher Degree Research Students (HDR) where the task is to explain your research in plain English and make it easy to understand for a non-expert audience, of course, in three minutes.
I participated in 3MT® for the first time in 2015. When I first heard about the competition, it sounded like an easy task, “it is just three minutes”, but it was definitely a harder task than I imagined. As researchers we specialise in our field and we are familiar with all of those confusing terms that surround our project. The 3MT® challenge is to explain our research in simple words; so when I started preparing my speech I had to look at my research from a different perspective, examining it from the outside in order to be able to explain why my investigation is important for everyone.
In 2015 I was awarded the position of runner up in the College of Arts, Social Sciences and Commerce (ASSC) semi-final but as my candidature had not been confirmed at that point, the rules meant I could not participate in the University Final. This year things were different, as my PhD candidature was confirmed in March 2016. In June I participated in the Law School competition, progressing to the ASSC semi-final in July. Four finalists were chosen to represent ASSC at the University final and I was one of them. On 7 September 2016, I had the opportunity to represent the Law School at the La Trobe University Final and I got awarded the position of First Runner Up. Yay!
My PhD: the Mexican State and the protection of illegal immigrants’ human rights
I started my PhD in March 2014. In simple terms (as in my 3MT® presentation), my research is about the international responsibility of the Mexican State to protect the human rights of illegal immigrants from Central America who are crossing Mexico in their way to the United States.
Immigrants are people who move from one place to another usually looking for better opportunities. Their reasons may be conflicts, oppression, poverty, violence or even natural disasters. Immigration is common, but when these people travel without legal documentation, they become ‘illegal’ and for that reason they are very vulnerable. My thesis focuses on the large number of Central Americans -approximately 400,000- who cross the southern Mexican border every year. They risk their physical and mental integrity and also their lives during a journey across a path clouded by drug dealing problems and gangs. The challenge is to try to evade migration authorities; but also to try to avoid becoming victims of crime and abuse in the hands of drug-related gangs (or corrupted officials), who may rob them, kidnap them, forcibly recruit them to carry drugs into the US, rape them, or even kill them. Many of these abuses constitute serious violations of human rights.
Mexico has signed international agreements for the protection of these rights; therefore, the government has an international obligation to protect those Central Americans, regardless of their legal status. This is what my research is about. In Mexico, despite of the existence of laws for the protection of migrants, blatant and even cynical violations of their human rights are still happening. The law is not working.
My project aims to find the missing link between the law and the social reality. Why isn’t the law working? I seek to find the particular deficiencies of the Mexican Government in the enactment of public policies for the protection of migrants, and how other countries and international institutions could demand from Mexico the fulfilment of its international obligations.
Illegal immigrants need protection and the Mexican Government needs to start doing something about it. As every to a social problem, political and economic factors play an important role, but when it comes to the protection of humanity, we ought to take every necessary step to reach our goal. My research is my first step.
The 3MT® competition: a great opportunity
I think the 3MT® is a challenge that every HDR student should try. Trying to encapsulate your research in three minutes, in language everyone can understand, is a really useful exercise; it helps you define your argument, improves your presentation skills, and grants you an audience in which to explain why your research is important and why everyone should know about it.
I am so happy to have achieved the First Runner Up position, but my 3MT® adventure does not end here, I am definitely trying it again next year. If you are a HDR student, you should try it too.