Biology PhD student wins ANU Three Minute Thesis final

7 September 2017

ANU Research School of Biology PhD student Erin Andrew has won the ANU Three Minute Thesis (3MT) final.

The 3MT is an international competition for research students to explain why their research is important in plain language within three minutes.

Erin's PhD research is investigating how dead bacteria can be used to stimulate a response that can help to remove cancer.

For Erin, the win is personal. Having been diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma at the age of 16, Erin suffered through multiple rounds of chemotherapy.

"When I was 16, I was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma and had to go through chemotherapy," Erin said.

"I walked into the hospital as a 16-year-old girl who had a lump on her neck and would walk out feeling horrible."

Following her own difficult treatment experience, Erin wants to improve cancer therapies available to people.

"I grew to have this passion that cancer treatment shouldn't be the way it is," she said.

"The side effects are almost as bad as the cancer - and so I grew to love learning and getting an understanding of how the body worked and thought there must be an easier way."

Erin is part of a team that is conducting a clinical trial at the Canberra Hospital.

"For the last few years, we've been treating naturally occurring tumours in dogs and horses," she said.

"My thesis is trying to understand exactly how it works, what immune cells it's using to create the attack against the cancer, how it's doing it so then I can try and force this reaction of the immune cells in every patient."

Erin will be representing ANU at the Asia-Pacific final on Friday 29 September 2017 at the University of Queensland.

Congratulations to all 12 finalists:

  • Tina Gregor, School of Culture, History and Language, "Capturing Language"
  • Christiana McDonald-Spicer, Research School of Biology, "Refugia: Islands in the Landscape"
  • Peter Anderson, Research School of Engineering, "The Language of Sight"
  • Jessica Lowczak, Research School of Earth Sciences, "Mud and Molten Cocktails"
  • Anuparna Mukherjee, School of Literature, Languages and Linguistics, "Empire's Nostalgia"
  • Jacob Ross, Research School of Physics and Engineering, "Building the legoverse"
  • Itrat Batool, Research School of Management, "The package features that betray your senses!"
  • Bethany McBride, Research School of Chemistry, "Ceramics for Solar"
  • Erin Andrew, Research School of Biology, "Cancer immunotherapy: fighting back against cancer"
  • Leopold Sudaryono, School of Sociology, "Overcoming Prison Overcrowding in Indonesia"
  • Christina Griffin, Crawford School of Public Policy, "Potatoes on Volcanoes"
  • Ankita Gagrani, Research School of Engineering, "Green Energy: Is it completely green?"


Erin's clinical trial at the Canberra Hospital has been made possible through donations in memory of Janice Parker and Lea Chapuis. To help fund Erin's trial, make a donation to the Lea Chapuis Memorial Fund.