When Ibidolapo Adekoya first got the opportunity to research malaria proteins she "couldn't say no".
The Australian National University PhD student, who grew up in Nigeria, has had the disease several times and knows how horrible it can be.
It's this personal connection that has led Adekoya to research malaria, in the hopes that it will lead to new and better drugs which, unlike the current one, won't be resisted by the disease.
"I'm trying to understand the [malaria] protein's structures and their shapes because their structure means function," she says.
"When you know the way something looks like, then you have a better understanding of how it works. So if we know the structure of the protein and how it reacts to other proteins, then we will know how to design drugs to target this protein and lead to the death of the parasite."
Adekoya is one of the finalists in this year's ANU Three Minute Thesis Competition, which challenges PhD candidates to effectively explain their research in three minutes with only one slide to assist them. It's no easy task, as ANU director of research skills and training associate professor Inger Mewburn points out, as these theses can be anywhere from 80,000 to 200,000 words long.
"We use it to encourage candidates to be able to communicate with the public basically, which we think is an important part of getting academic research social license and all that sort of stuff," she says.
"But it's also good in terms of talking with their grandma or grandpa and actually having grandma and grandpa understand what they are doing, and the students tell me later on that grandma or grandpa sends them cakes and casseroles and stuff."
While the event is a good opportunity for PhD students to define the key parts of their research - and make sure their grandparents can understand what it is they do all day - the ANU also considers it to be a good event for the public. In fact, Canberra has really "embraced it to its nerdy little heart" and with it the most attended Three Minute Thesis Competition in the world, attracting anywhere between 800 and 1200 people in recent years.
"Canberra just loves it. And there's a whole range of different things presented," Adekoya says.
"You will get someone who is curing cancer - usually pretty successfully curing different types of cancer - and then you'll go back to other things like cousin marriages in the 16th century. One of them was how to better house animals in a zoo last year, another was why do people live on volcanos which is really interesting when you think about it. Why would you want to risk living on a volcano?"
- The Three Minute Thesis Competition final is at Llewellyn Hall at 6pm on September 4. Go to Eventbrite to register.