June 18, 2021

Make your thesis a show, the bet of the MT 180 competition

They are 16 tightrope walkers who, Thursday June 10 at 6.30 p.m., will compete for a 180-second crossing on the wire. Seven women and nine men in their twenties, competing to demonstrate perfect balance in mastery of science and humor.

They are mathematician, historian, physicist, ecologist, biologists… and work to drown there on specific subjects. As a valve to get out of their laboratory, these young researchers set themselves an additional challenge: to succeed in this exercise in popularizing science and learning about the scene that is My thesis in 180 seconds (MT 180).

This eloquence competition between young researchers, which this year will also be broadcast online, began in 2008 at the University of Queensland, Australia. In 2012, a Quebec association, Acfas, took up the concept to extend it to the Francophonie, and allowed the development of this competition in France, under the tutelage of the Conference of University Presidents and the CNRS. Since then, its success has grown.

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Going on stage was obvious for Bastien Romero, from Aix-Marseille University, also a clown and actor in the Houle Douce company. “Humor is the element that allows me to manage my stress, to pass the trials of life”, tells the new doctor in ecology (he defended his thesis on March 31). So, to spend four years without a hitch phosphorizing on the “Variation of fire-related traits and flammability in two species of obligatory germination pine as a function of different fire frequencies in the French Mediterranean region”, decompressing by launching alone on stage was a form of outlet and a continuation.

For others, joining the adventure acts as a machine for building self-confidence. “Speaking in public is not my favorite activity”, recognizes Diane Potart, doctoral student in cell biology and pathophysiology at the University of Bordeaux. Confronting stage fright, the gaze of others, and more particularly of one’s peers, is a challenge. “A personal challenge that I wanted to take on”, continues the young woman. She won the regional final in Aquitaine before qualifying for the national final.

What does the exercise consist of? It’s about “To express a complicated research subject in a synthetic and understandable way for everyone”, sums up Bastien Romero. So you have to write before playing. Max Meunier is working at Côte-d’Azur University on a new source of single photons, emitting at telecom wavelengths and compatible with the silicon photonics sector. He called on a science journalist to help him write his performance.

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