Can you effectively explain your dissertation research to a non-specialist audience in 3 minutes or less?

Being able to communicate the importance of your work in a clear and concise manner to wide audiences is an important skill that can increase the success of job searches, funding proposals, and professional networking. The Three Minute Thesis (3MT™) is designed to give students a chance to polish these skills as part of an energizing, fun, and challenging academic competition.

What is 3MT™?

3MT™ is a research communication competition where PhD students present their doctoral research to a non-specialist audience using only one single visual aid—all in three minutes. This exercise encourages graduate students to think about their research from an outsider’s perspective, hones their presentation skills, and provides a forum for a cross-disciplinary exchange of exciting ideas and information.

How Does 3MT™ Work?

A preliminary elimination round was held Friday, March 3 at the Fairfax Campus. The Top 10 finalists advanced to compete in the final round March 25, at the Mason Graduate Interdisciplinary Conference in Arlington.

2017 Finalists (Link to video of the Final Round coming soon!)

Aiyoub Abbaspour – Volgenau School of Engineering
Soo Ahn – College of Education and Human Development
Andrew Armstrong – Schar School of Policy and Government
William Diehl – Volgenau School of Engineering
Erik Goepner – Schar School of Policy and Government
Heather Keenan – College of Education and Human Development
Rachel Golden Kroner – College of Science
Rahul Murmuria – Volgenau School of Engineering
Chelsie Romulo – College of Science
Bradley Snyder – Volgenau School of Engineering

2017 Winners

First Place: Chelsie Romulo – College of Science
Second Place: Rachel Golden Kroner – College of Science
Third Place:
Erik Goepner – Schar School of Policy and Government
People’s Choice:
Bradley Snyder – Volgenau School of Engineering

Special thanks to our esteemed panel of judges: Ms. Nazanin Azarian, Dr. Lewis Berman, Dr. Deb Crawford, Ms. Nicole Geller, and Mr. Cliff Wilke.


First Place: $1000
Second Place: $750
Third Place: $500
People’s Choice: $300

Rules for Presentations

Presentations exceeding 3 minutes in length will be disqualified.

  1. Presentations must commence from the stage.
  2. Presentations are considered to have commenced when a presenter starts the presentation through either movement or speech.
  3. A single, static PowerPoint slide is permitted. No slide transitions, animations, or “movement” of any description are allowed. The slide is to be presented from the beginning of the presentation.
  4. No additional electronic media (e.g., sound and video files) are permitted.
  5. Presentations must be spoken word (i.e., no poems, raps, or songs).
  6. No additional props (e.g., costumes, musical instruments, or laboratory equipment) are permitted.
  7. The decision of the adjudicating panel is final.

Judging Criteria

Comprehension & Content

  • Did the presentation provide an understanding of the background to the research question being addressed and its significance?
  • Did the presentation clearly describe the key results of the research including conclusions and outcomes?
  • Did the presentation follow a clear and logical sequence?
  • Were the thesis topic, key results, and research significance and outcomes communicated in language appropriate to a non-specialist audience?
  • Did the speaker avoid scientific jargon, explain terminology, and provide adequate background information to illustrate points?
  • Did the presenter spend adequate time on each element of their presentation, or did they elaborate for too long on one aspect, or was the presentation rushed?

Engagement & Communication

  • Did the presentation make the audience want to know more?
  • Was the presenter careful not to trivialize or generalize their research?
  • Did the presenter convey enthusiasm for their research?
  • Did the presenter capture and maintain the audience’s attention?
  • Did the speaker have sufficient stage presence, eye contact and vocal range; maintain a steady pace, and have a confident stance?
  • Did the PowerPoint slide enhance the presentation? Was it clear, legible, and concise?

For more information regarding the 3MT™, please contact Akitta Robertson at provgrad@gmu.edu. Visit Three Minute Thesis (3MT™) website to view winning presentations from around the globe.