Student Profile: PhD Candidate and Asia-Pacific 3MT® Finalist Ceecee Zhang

We caught up with 3MT Asia-Pacific finalist Ceecee Zhang about her experiences in the competition, her studies and career aspirations, and her thoughts about public speaking.


Coming from New Zealand, Ceecee commenced her PhD two years ago at the University of Melbourne after completing her Bachelor of Optometry at the University of Auckland.

Ceecee’s research revolves around the role of Omega-3 fatty acids for improving peripheral nerve health. Peripheral nerves regulate our internal systems and help us feel and function in the world around us.

Although coming from a clinical background, Ceecee loves the research elements of her studies as it allows her “to explore questions, be creative and innovative, and find to solutions to help populations”.

Ceecee won the University of Melbourne Three Minute Thesis Grand Final for ‘An unnerving problem: a fishy solution', then went onto represent both the Department of Optometry and Vision Sciences, and the University of Melbourne in the Asia-Pacific 3MT® competition held at the University of Queensland.

These competitions ‘challenge’ research students to communicate the significance of their projects to a non-specialist audience in just three minutes.

Initially, Ceecee attended an earlier competition as a spectator to support a friend and thought it would be enjoyable experience as she is a keen presenter and public speaker.

“I enjoy breaking down a topic and explaining it in layman’s terms. I think that is a very good skill to have”.

The competition consisted of six heats and semi-finals, culminating in a grand final at the University of Melbourne. The winner joined those from 55 other universities, across Australia, New Zealand and Asia, to compete at the University of Queensland.

“I thoroughly enjoyed my day in Queensland. The day was intense, but an amazing opportunity to interact with PhD students from other universities, who are going through the same experience, and hearing about their interdisciplinary research.”

Her key tips on presenting and public speaking include:

  1. Know the key messages you are trying to convey.
  2. Have key words that trigger a sentence that comes naturally.
  3. If you feel you are tripping up, take a deep breath, stop, relax, and recalibrate.
  4. Above all enjoy yourself – you bring unique attributes to your presentation.

In addition to that, her career aspirations are to pursue further research in eye health, including how our eyes interact with our bodies health systems.

And Ceecee’s public speaking aspirations don’t stop there – she hopes to present a TED Talk one day!