UTS 3MT winner investigates the outer limits of property rights

Matthew Johnson at last week's UTS Vice-Chancellor's Awards for Research Excellence, picture by Paul Santelmann

Matthew Johnson at last week's UTS Vice-Chancellor's Awards for Research Excellence, picture by Paul Santelmann

In summary: 
  • Matthew Johnson from the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences will represent UTS in Friday's Asia-Pacific Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition in Brisbane
  • Matthew won the UTS 3MT 2016 with his presentation on the sociological perspectives of property rights in outer space

Getting a planetary-sized subject down to a bite-sized three minutes has earned UTS PhD student Matthew Johnson a place in Friday's Asia-Pacific Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition in Brisbane.

The Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences research student wowed the judges at the recent UTS 3MT 2016 with the short story about his research into the sociological perspectives of property rights in outer space.

Starting from the notion of the "commons", Matthew is investigating recent moves by the United States to permit private companies to own resources obtained from celestial bodies, looking at the consequences for international politics, economy and society.

"The 3MTcompetition is beneficial because researchers can end up quite cloistered and limited to their own fields," Matthew said. "It allows scholars to practice explaining their research to a wider audience, which is particularly important given the need to secure research funding."

UTS held faculty specific 3MT competitions before the university-wide showdown took place. By that point the competition was stiff, with presentations ranging from different approaches to water management to developing an app for mental health awareness and treatment in children.

Matthew said he was surprised he won, especially as he had become a sleep-deprived new parent only four days before the final.

"It's been a really valuable experience for me. I thought three minutes wasn't too much to do, but it's actually quite difficult to express your research in enough depth in such a small time frame and to do it without using too much discipline specific language."

He admits he is not a confident public speaker and that taking part in the competition was partly to combat his fear. But in the end he says, "It was a good opportunity to get my name out there, to meet a few more people and to discuss my research with the broader community as well."

Matthew is looking forward to the 2016 Asia Pacific 3MT competition, being held at the University of Queensland. "It gives me the chance to meet people from the arts and humanities side of things and the broader PhD, higher degree research community across Australia and our neighborhood in the world. It's a fantastic opportunity. It's all a bit surreal."

Matthew's baby will be three weeks old at that point, so he's hoping for a slightly better night's sleep this time around.