2 Aug 2018

Bake Your Thesis: Otago students serve up concepts as cakes

From Jesse Mulligan, 1–4pm, 1:36 pm on 2 August 2018

University of Otago Masters and PhD students yesterday turned out edible editions of their thesis, bringing a dash of extra flavour to what can be a dry intellectual meal. 

Dean of graduate research Rachel Spronken-Smith says the idea behind the event was to give students something fun and creative to do that got them out into the world.

“We hear about the very isolated journey around research where people are very focused, sitting in their office or lab and not getting out or talking to others," Prof Spronken-Smith says. 

"This is a different way of disseminating research so they can get out of the office and labs, meet other people, talk about their research and it just gives the opportunity to present it in a completely different way."

The event - which had 14 entries - also gave the students a chance to nail down their ideas into simple, straightforward language, she says.

“They have to explain in quite lay terms to other students from other disciplines what they’re doing, so it’s a great form of public engagement for them.”

The concept may be fairly novel, but it’s not new.

“One of our executive administrators at the school is a follower of this 'thesis whisperer' in Australia, and they recently ran the event at the Australian National University. 

“We found out actually quite a few universities do this all over the world." 

Professor Spronken-Smith says the Wellington and Christchurch faculties of Otago University are very keen on doing something similar. 

“So watch this space. There’ll be more of this, and I daresay we’ll be doing this again next year.” 

Overall Winner: "I incyst you try some" by Lorissa McDougall

I incyst you try some thesis representation for "bake your thesis" from Lorissa McDougall.

I incyst you try some thesis representation for "bake your thesis" from Lorissa McDougall. Photo: Supplied

"A slightly disturbing entry. [Lorissa is] a pathology masters student and she had two kidney-shaped cakes, beautiful chocolate cakes,

"They were covered in small fondant doughnuts filled with cream and lemon-curd ‘cysts’.

"Quite disturbingly, you could actually squeeze them. So one of the kidneys was very tasty, was surrounded by Smarties, it had been treated by the drugs, whereas the other one was untreated and had these oozing cysts. 

"I think they were being taken back to the lab to be eaten by her colleagues."

People’s Choice Winner: "Teach someone to cook and they will eat well for a lifetime" by human nutrition students Sarahmarie Innes and Katie Mahn.

Teach someone to cook and they will eat well for a lifetime thesis representation for "bake your thesis" from Sarahmarie Innes and Katie Mahn.

Teach someone to cook and they will eat well for a lifetime thesis representation for "bake your thesis" from Sarahmarie Innes and Katie Mahn. Photo: Supplied

"They really wanted to talk about their research about how if you teach teenagers to cook and eat healthily it will set them up for a lifetime." 

"Skull and cakebones" by anatomy student Jade De La Paz

Skull and cakebones thesis representation for "bake your thesis" from Jade De La Paz.

Skull and cakebones thesis representation for "bake your thesis" from Jade De La Paz. Photo: Supplied

"This was a chocolate cake skull that had iced muscles.

"[Jade] is doing a forensic anthropology thesis looking at whether you can determine the morphological sex by the muscle attachments on the skull."

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