Public Issue

Hamilton Woman Wins University's 'Three Minute Thesis' Competition

"I'm not a genius, I just can't bare to give anything less than my best, so I've put in a lot of work"

Representing the University of Waikato, 28-year-old Rachel Nepia of Hamilton, recently garnered top honours and a cheque for $1500 for her performance in the “Three Minute Thesis Challenge" (3MT).

In the challenge, the third-year PhD student was tasked with condensing years of study and work into a three-minute dissertation on bees and pollination using only one static PowerPoint slide. “If the time limit is exceeded by even one second, you are disqualified,” said Rachel.

The ability to communicate so much in such a short amount of time requires many hours and endless practice.

Rachel credits her circle of friends and family for their involvement in her preparation. "I have a big fan club of family and friends who've heard my presentation probably a hundred times,” she said.

Rachel knows that communication skills and the ability to get ideas across in a clear and concise way will contribute to her future success.


When asked what has driven and inspired her education goals, Rachel replied, “I’ve always had a love of learning, but it was at the Church College of New Zealand that I really started to excel.”

“I’m not a genius, I just can’t bear to give anything less than my best, so I’ve put in a lot of work.”

“I have come to understand that education is the key that opens up the wonders of the world to me. I’ve already been all over New Zealand as well as Australia and Japan, and I am sure there are many more wonders for me to discover—and that drives me to succeed.”

Rachel, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also learned about hard work and dedication as she accepted an invitation to serve a mission in the Florida Orlando Mission in the US. While there, she dedicated her time to serving the community where she resided and teaching the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.

When asked how her mission service helped her prepare for education and life, Rachel responded, “One lesson I learned from my mission that has helped me in my education is understanding when you create space in your life and in your environment for God, He can direct, calm and guide with great power.”


Speaking of her relationship with Kowhai, her husband she said, “Our journey feels like we are holding hands and just running together, rather than having one pull the other along. His emotional and spiritual support are so dear and valuable to me.”

“He calms me when I struggle with the huge expectations I have for myself. He reassures me that I am loved, that I am strong and that I am a daughter of God who can do anything!"

On 27 September, Rachel will travel to Brisbane to compete in the Asia-Pacific 3MT competition. 3MT competition winners from about 40 universities around Asia and the Pacific will present a 3-minute speech on their PhD research using the one PowerPoint slide. The winner of this competition receives a $5,000 research grant.

Read More in Stuff

For more information on Rachel’s research read her blog.

Watch a video on the benefits of education.


Mormons believe that education is a life-long pursuit that enables success and opens the doors to opportunity.

Style Guide Note:When reporting about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, please use the complete name of the Church in the first reference. For more information on the use of the name of the Church, go to our online Style Guide.