Eva Kjærgaard from the Department of Chemistry scoops both prizes at this year’s Three Minute Thesis competition

PhD student Eva Kjærgaard won over both the jury and the audience with her engaging and articulate presentation about her research into plastic air pollution at this year’s Three Minute Thesis competition at Aarhus University.

Photo: Jens Hartmann/AU Foto

This article was updated on 15.03.24. Eva Kjærgaard has informed the editors that the claim with which she began her presentation and which featured in the introduction to this article – that we inhale the equivalent of one credit card per week in microplastics from the air – has turned out to be incorrect. The claim originates from a popular science article that has since been retracted and is not based on Eva Kjærgaard’s own research. The organisers behind the Three Minute Thesis competition at Aarhus University have confirmed to Omnibus that Eva Kjærgaard remains the winner of the competition despite the retracted claim. 

There is plastic in the air, and we breathe it in. This was the main message when PhD student Eva Kjærgaard gave her presentation on plastic air pollution at the annual PhD competition Three Minute Thesis (3MT), which took place at Aarhus University on 13 March. 

Inspired by the way salt is dispersed in the air via ocean spray, she set out to investigate whether the same was true for plastics. And sure enough, she discovered that there are indeed small particles of plastic hiding alongside the salt crystals in ocean spray.

A total of 20 PhD students took to the stage to hold a three-minute presentation about their research, covering everything from the matriarchy of tiny flies to the mathematics of holes in steaks. And when the audience was asked to choose their favourite presenter, it was Eva Kjærgaard who took the People’s Choice Award.

Not long after this, Eva was asked to return to the stage when the jury announced that she had won the overall prize for best presentation. According to the jury, Eva Kjærgaard delivered a perfect presentation in which she communicated her academic research precisely whilst engaging the audience.

When Omnibus caught up with Eva Kjærgaard after the award ceremony, she was rather overwhelmed by all the recognition and attention:

“It’s amazing. I’m really proud of myself, and I’m almost lost for words. One of the highlights of this experience was being able to attend fantastic workshops. It’s impressive that AU manages to give us such good training in how to be good research communicators.”

In addition to the honour of winning, Eva Kjærgaard receives a travel grant of DKK 35,000 and now proceeds to the international part of the competition, where the winners from the 30 participating universities are narrowed down to three finalists – who are invited to battle it out at the international final in Turku, Finland, on 6 June. If she can pull off another victory, it will be the third consecutive year that a PhD student from AU has won the international Three Minute Thesis competition. In 2022, Omeed Neghabat brought home the trophy and, in 2023, it was Ida Cecilie Jensen who scooped the winning prize.

Translated by Sarah Louis Jennings.