Recapping research in 3 minutes wins top prize

March 22, 2013

Mike Henrey, an SFU engineering student, won top prize in SFU's inaugural 3-Minute Thesis (3MT) competition, which tests contestants' research recapping abilities, in lay language.


A Simon Fraser University engineering student’s research on testing simulated gecko adhesives in outer space has won the first-place award ($1500) and the People’s Choice award ($500) in SFU’s first 3-Minute Thesis (3MT) competition.

The competition, first held by the University of Queensland in Australia in 2008, has been taking Canada’s graduate studies departments by storm. The concept is simple: participating graduate students are asked to do an oral presentation explaining their research in just three minutes, in lay language, with the help of just a single slide.

In SFU’s inaugural version of the competition, which attracted about 50 entries, Mike Henrey, the top winner, presented how his thesis research solves satellite-repair issues in outer space. 

He explained how a six-legged robot that he built uses a simulated gecko adhesive to adhere itself to a satellite’s exterior. He also explained his testing of the adhesive in a space-like environment at the European Space Agency in the Netherlands last summer.

Henrey’s research paper will appear in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Aerospace Science and Technology.

Henrey, a graduate of RE Mountain Secondary School in Langley now living in Vancouver, believes he won the competition “because I put a lot of effort into trying to sell the robot. I framed it as a problem with an interesting solution that I thought would captivate people.”

Mary-Ellen Kelm, associate dean of students, Graduate Studies, organized the event.

“It was amazing,” says Kelm. “The students’ presentations said so much about the practical application of their graduate research to real world problems. They showed that SFU is living up to its motto of engaging the world.”

The judges were SFU President Andrew Petter, VP Academic Jon Driver, AVP Research Norbert Haunerland, VP Finance Pat Hibbits, and board of governors chair Brian Taylor.

Henrey and six other top presenters of this competition at other B.C. universities are mounting a road show in which they will strut their research-recapping abilities again. Three Minute Thesis, BC Winners’ Showcase will be a free public event at the University of British Columbia, April 3, 3:30 to 5 p.m.

Mike Henrey, 778.230.3479 (cell),, Skype: mike.henrey
Mary-Ellen Kelm, 778.782.7299,
Carol Thorbes, PAMR, 778.782.3035,

Simon Fraser University is Canada's top-ranked comprehensive university and one of the top 50 universities in the world under 50 years old. With campuses in Vancouver, Burnaby and Surrey, B.C., SFU engages actively with the community in its research and teaching, delivers almost 150 programs to more than 30,000 students, and has more than 120,000 alumni in 130 countries.