Apply to Be a Presenter at the Three Minute Thesis Competition

Written by Chris Pasion, graduate assistant to The Graduate School.

The Graduate School’s Graduate Student Expo is a platform for all graduate students, regardless of discipline, to showcase their research to a wide audience. Here’s how The Graduate School is providing the tools for you to craft a stellar presentation.

A presenter at the 2018 3MT competition standing in front of her presentation.

In higher education, we go to great lengths to become experts in our chosen fields. This comes in the form of a combination of extensive research, scholarship, and experience. At times, it can be easy to get deep into the jargon and minutia of our fields; these details are often lost on a lay audience that does not specialize in the subject. Being able to translate our knowledge or research to a non-specialist audience and not have the importance of it be lost in the process is essential. The Graduate School’s Graduate Student Expo is your opportunity to hone these skills. 

The Graduate School will be hosting a Three Minute Thesis competition (3MT) as a part of the Graduate Student Expo. 3MT was borne out of Australia’s University of Queensland in 2008 from the idea that experts in a given field should be able to translate their work to any audience in a concise, engaging manner.

The 3MT competition challenges students to summarize their research or scholarship for a nonspecialist audience using only three minutes of speech and a single PowerPoint slide. The first place winner of the Graduate School’s 3MT competition will receive $1,000. Second and third place will win $600 and $400, respectively.

In addition, 3MT competitors will be eligible for Office of Innovation Awards, provided by the 1819 Innovation Hub’s Venture Lab. Venture Lab staff and “entrepreneurs in residence” will identify competitors with research ripe for development. Award recipients will receive automatic entry into the Venture Lab's seven-week pre-accelerator program (program participants are eligible for development funding of their project, up to $5,000); 1819 Innovation Hub and Venture Lab merchandise; and consulting from entrepreneurs in residence on how to develop research into business opportunities.  

In order to help you prepare you for UC’s 3MT competition, The Graduate School has arranged a workshop series that will detail best practices for communicating your topic to anyone. You must attend at least one of these workshops in order to have your application considered for the 3MT competition. 

A Workshop Series to Hone Your Communication Skills

The Graduate School has organized three separate workshops that will take place over the course of the semester. Each workshop will be hosted twice – first on the medical campus and then on west campus – to give everyone an opportunity to attend. In order to secure a seat at any of these workshops, you must register on The Graduate School’s website. 

The first workshop, Navigating Between Disciplines: How to Make Your Research Speak to Any Audience, will help you refine your written and oral communication skills. In order to prepare you for 3MT, this workshop will focus on structuring your approach so that any audience, regardless of field, can become savvy to your research. The skills you will gain from this workshop will be transferrable to life beyond 3MT; they will be useful in networking, grant and proposal writing, conference presentations, and many other scenarios where strong communication skills are valuable. 

The workshop will be led by Dr. Suzanne Boys on the following date:

West Campus:

  • Thursday, October 3rd
  • 1:00pm-2:30pm
  • AACRC Main Lounge

Register for the West Campus session (the Medical Campus session has already occured).


The second workshop, Visual Presentation Aids: Principles of Visual Communication, will give you the tools to create an engaging and informative visual aid. This will be especially valuable for your 3MT presentation, as rules dictate that only one static visual is permitted to accompany your presentation. The workshop will teach you how to create a visual that will be packed with information for your audience to glean understanding, but also be visually appealing in a way that does not inundate them with figures. 

Dr. Lora Arduser will be leading this workshop on the following dates:

Medical Campus: 

  • Tuesday, October 22nd
  • 11:30am-1pm
  • Medical Sciences Building (MSB), Room 6051

West Campus:

  • Wednesday, November 6th
  • 1:30pm-3:00pm
  • Teachers-Dyer Complex, Room 160

Register for the Medical Campus or West Campus session.


The final workshop in the series, Strategic Public Speaking, will tackle everyone’s favorite practice: presenting to a large audience. If you are planning on participating in the 3MT competition, this is the challenge you have accepted. Luckily, this workshop is designed to forge you into an expert presenter; you will learn how to project yourself – both vocally in terms of speed and volume, as well as physically in terms of body language and eye contact – and feel comfortable commanding a room. If you have been ever presenting and had to ask yourself “What do I do with my hands?”, this workshop will surely answer that for you.

Strategic Public Speaking will be led by Dr. Brian Calfano at the following times:

Medical Campus:

  • Tuesday, November 12th
  • 12:30pm-2pm
  • Medical Sciences Building (MSB), Room 2351

West Campus:

  • Wednesday, November 13th
  • 12:30pm-2pm
  • 400C in TUC

Register for the Medical Campus or West Campus session.

The Application Process for 3MT

The Graduate Student Expo is a great opportunity for you to showcase the outstanding work you have completed in your graduate career. The 3MT competition, as a key part of this expo, will be sure to a draw a large crowd who is eager to see the great things being accomplished by you and your peers. Students from all disciplines are invited to apply to present in the 3MT competition. In order to be considered eligible you must:

  • Be enrolled as a master’s or doctoral student during the 2019-20 academic year
  • Attend at least one of the workshops detailed above
  • Create a 30 second video which briefly explains why your research makes a significant contribution to your discipline    
    • This video will be reviewed by a selection committee for its ability to communicate your research (not the production quality of the video)

Applications can be directed to the Three Minute Thesis Application form via The Graduate School website. The deadline for your application to be considered is Sunday, November 24th by 11:59pm.

The Graduate School’s Graduate Student Expo and Three Minute Thesis competition will take place starting at 10am on February 20, 2020 at the 1819 Innovation Hub.