Got a minute? Grad students get three in thesis competition

A graduate student’s doctoral thesis might run to 80,000 words and take nine hours to present. But what if the student had just 180 seconds and a single PowerPoint slide to explain their research?

That’s the challenge posed by 3 Minute Thesis, a long-running academic competition that requires students to boil down their research to what amounts to an elevator pitch for lay audiences.

This year’s competition for UO master’s and doctoral students takes place from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. Nov. 17 in the Crater Lakes Rooms in the Erb Memorial Union. The deadline to submit proposals is Nov. 3.

The competition has separated from the Graduate Research Forum during spring term and is now a stand-alone event in fall term, in order to give winners more time to prepare for regional competitions, said Paolo Daniele, director of professional development and career preparation in the Division of Graduate Studies.

About 40 students participated last year and a similar number is expected this year, he said. Winners are awarded cash prizes — $500 for first place, $300 for second, $200 for third and are eligible to compete at a regional competition with the Western Association of Graduate Schools.

“3 Minute Thesis takes the audience on a journey through a complex project and makes it richly accessible,” Daniele said. “Competitors have to be able to make everything that is so complex about their research into something that’s digestible to the audience.”

The competition began at the University of Queensland in Australia in 2008 and now 3 Minute Thesis competitions are held at more than 900 universities in more than 85 countries.

Being able to explain and articulate research in a way that’s understandable to a lay audience is an important skill for anyone entering the workforce, Daniele said.

Last year’s winner was Filip-Bogdan Serban-Dragan, a master’s student in prevention science.

"The 3 Minute Thesis competition is a remarkable platform and a perfect opportunity to take your research and summarize it in a language that everyone understands, regardless of their academic background,” he said. “It challenges you to be a better public speaker and to persuade others in falling in love with your research.”

—By Tim Christie, Office of the Provost
—Top photo: A student giving a presentation at last year's 3 Minute Thesis competition.