Three Minute Thesis (3MT) at UVA



Whether you're networking, interviewing for a job, or just having a conversation at a party, it is essential to have an "elevator pitch" to describe your dissertation work. Three Minute Thesis (3MT) is an exercise that helps graduate students develop the necessary communication skills to effectively explain their scholarship in a clear and succinct way so that all people, from field-specialist to the lay-person, can understand the topic and importance of their work. Plus, it comes with the opportunity to win prizes!

We are pleased to announce the 2017 UVA 3MT Winners from the 5th annual UVA 3MT Competiton that was held on March 1st.
Click here to watch videos of the winners and all finalist presentations.

1st Place: Mohamad Alipour, Department of Civil Engineering, "The Citizen Engineer: Crowd-Sourced Data Analytics as an Infrastructure Monitoring Solution"

2nd Place: Elahe Soltanaghaei, Department of Computer Science, "Device-free Human Detection using WiFi Signals"

3rd Place: Xiang Wan, Department of Mathematics, "A Mathematical Treatment of Heating and Bending"

Audience Choice: Mohamad Alipour


Jon Bellona, Department of Music
Sarah Gray, Department of Pharmacology
Kathryn Kingsmore, Department of Biomedical Engineering
Robert Kubinec, Department of Politics
Kelley Virgilio, Department of Biomedical Engineering


What is the 3MT competition?
Important Dates!
What can I gain from participating?
Who is eligible to participate?
When and where is the competition?
How do I enter?
How did 3MT get started?
View last year's winners and archive of past competitions.




What is the 3MT?

3MT, or Three Minute Thesis, is a way for graduate students to learn how to deliver their work to non-specialists in a short period of time, with just a single visual aid.

UVA will hold its 5th Annual 3MT Competition on March 1st, 2017. The event will take place in two rounds. In the first round, entries will be divided into heats. Students in each heat will present their 3MT live to a panel of judges. The top presentations in each heat will be selected as finalists to advance to a Finals round. Finalists will be invited to present in the second round, at the UVa Live Final for a panel of interdisciplinary faculty judges and a live audience.

Important Dates!

Preliminary Heats will be held on: 
February 8th, 2017 at 1:00 pm
February 9th, 2017 at 1:00 pm
February 10th, 2017 at 10:00 am

UVA 5th Annual 3MT Final Competition: March 1st, 2017 from 3:00-5:00 pm in the Special Collections Auditorium

What can I gain from participating?

3MT participants consistently cite the event as directly responsible for helping them develop the abilities to communicate clearly and succinctly, and to engage both their field of research as well as the general public. Many participants reported that their experience of interviewing for jobs - both inside and outside of the academy - was greatly enhanced because they were well prepared to talk about their work in a variety of settings and for broad audiences.

Prizes for the 2017 3MT

Students who advance to the UVA Live 3MT Final will compete for the following prizes to be awarded by a panel of judges:

  • $1000 for the first place winner
  • $750 for the second place winner
  • $500 for the third place winner
  • $500 for the audience choice winner


Who is eligible to participate?

All current UVA doctoral students who have passed their qualifying exams are eligible to enter the 3MT competition.


When and where is the 3MT?

UVA 5th Annual 3MT Final Competition: March 1st, 2017 from 3:00-5:00 pm in the Special Collections Auditorium

How do I enter?

Entries for the 2017 UVA 3MT are now closed.


Specific rules for 3MT presentations:

  • The presentation must be no longer than 3 minutes in length, or the competitor will be disqualified. The presentation is considered to have begun when the student starts the presentation through movement or speech.
  • Presentations should include a single, static slide (no transitions, movement, or animation in the slide).
  • No script or cue cards may be used during the presentation; students must recite their presentation by memory.
  • No additional props are permitted (i.e. costumes, musical instruments, lab equipment).
  • Presentations must be spoken-word (i.e. no poems, raps, songs). Note that passages from songs, poems, etc. are acceptable if the presentation requires quoting from such sources, but we recommend that you limit your use of such quotations.
  • No additional electronic media (sound or video files) are permitted within the presentation.


How will my presentation be judged?

Presentations that do not meet the above specified rules will be excluded from competition. Each eligible competitor’s presentation will be judged using the criteria listed below. Each criterion is equally weighted.

Comprehension and Content

  • Did the presentation help the audience understand 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?
  • Was 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 and Communication

  • Did the oration make the audience want to know more?
  • Was the presenter careful not to trivialize or over-generalize their research?
  • Did the presenter convey enthusiasm for their research?
  • Did the presenter capture and maintain their 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?


How did 3MT get started?

The Three Minute Thesis competition (3MT) was developed in 2008 at the University of Queensland, Australia. Since then, 3MT competitions have been catching on all over the world. The University of Virginia held its first Three Minute Thesis competition in 2013, and has held it annually since.


Last year's winners and archive of past competitions.

Click here for an archive of all past UVA 3MT Competitions!

2016 UVA Three Minute Thesis Results

We are excited to announce the 2016 UVA Three Minute Thesis Results! Congratulations to all eight finalists who presented their dissertation research in an engaging and easy to understand three-minute format on Wednesday, March 2nd in front of a live audience and a panel of judges. The winners of the 4th Annual UVA Three Minute Thesis Competition are:

1st Place: Diana Dinescu, Department of Psychology, "Are single mothers more depressed? A cross-cultural analysis of mental health and public policy"

Tied for Second Place: Benjamin Huang, Department of Chemical Engineering, "A New Approach to Cooling Hypersonic Vehicles" and Bryson Reynolds, Department of Neuroscience, "1000 Impacts per Season" The Effects of Subconcussion"

Audience Choice: Benjamin Huang


James Ascher, Department of English
Melissa Frost, Department of Spanish, Italian and Portuguese
Trinh Le, Department of Physics
Ali Rohani, Deaprtment of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Sarah Thomas, Department of Psychology

Click here to watch videos of all 2016 Finalist presentations!

3MT 2016 Finalists

UVa 3MT 2016 Finalists (from L to R): Trinh Le, James Ascher, Benjamin Huang, Ali Rohani, Diana Dinescu, Bryson Reynolds, Melissa Frost, Sarah Thomas




Dianna Dinescu's Winning Video:

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