Three Minute Thesis

Second place winner, Danielle Twum, smiling and holding a large check.

An 80,000 word thesis would take nine hours to present. Your time limit ... Three minutes.

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On Friday, March 9, 2018, PhD research came to life in the university's second annual Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition. This competition, hosted by the Graduate School and Blackstone LaunchPad, featured PhD students communicating their research to non-experts and competing to win monetary prizes up to $1,000.

This event was free and open to the public. The audience was invited to vote on their favorite presentation to determine the People’s Choice Award winner. A panel of judges determined the first, second and third place prize winners.

About the Competition

The 3MT competition celebrates the exciting research conducted by PhD students. Developed by the University of Queensland, the exercise cultivates students’ academic, presentation and research communication skills.

Doctoral students who have filed an Application to Candidacy are eligible to participate in the 3MT competition. Participants are judged on the ability to effectively convey the essence and importance of their research in an engaging way to a non-specialist audience in just three minutes, with one PowerPoint slide. A panel of judges will determine the first, second and third place prize winners.

The first 3MT competition was held at the University of Queensland in 2008 with 160 students competing. In 2009 and 2010 the 3MT competition was promoted to other Australian and New Zealand universities and enthusiasm for the concept grew. Since 2011, the popularity of the competition has increased and 3MT competitions are now held in over 600 universities across more than 59 countries worldwide.

Prizes and Eligibility


  • $1,000  First Place
  • $750   Second Place
  • $500   Third Place
  • $250   People’s Choice Award  

In addition to monetary prizes, all applicants will learn how to:

  • Communicate your ideas effectively to the wider community.
  • Describe your research findings to a non-specialist audience.
  • Increase your profile within the UB research community.
  • Network with other UB doctoral students.
  • Develop an “elevator pitch” of your research.


Doctoral students currently enrolled at the University at Buffalo and actively engaged in dissertation research who have completed their Application to Candidacy are eligible to participate. A competitive candidate should have a well-conceived dissertation project, compelling data collected and a novel story to share. Work presented must have been conducted at the University at Buffalo for the student’s current degree program.

Participants must be available to present, in person, at the 3MT competition.

All presentations will be videotaped and will appear on the Graduate School's website.

Rules and Judging Criteria


  • A single static PowerPoint slide is permitted. No slide transitions, animations or ‘movement’ of any description are allowed. If material for public use is included on a slide, the reference(s) must be clearly cited on the slide. The slide is to be presented from the beginning of the oration.
  • No additional electronic media (e.g., sound and video files) are permitted.
  • No additional props (e.g., costumes, musical instruments, laboratory equipment) are permitted.
  • Presentations are limited to three minutes maximum and competitors exceeding three minutes are disqualified.
  • Presentations are to be spoken word (e.g., no poems, raps or songs).
  • Presentations are to commence from the stage.
  • Presentations are considered to have commenced when a presenter starts their presentation through either movement or speech.
  • The decision of the adjudicating panel is final.

Judging Criteria

  • Communication style: Was the thesis topic and its significance communicated in language appropriate to an intelligent but non-specialist audience?
  • Comprehension: Did the presentation help the audience understand the research?
  • Engagement: Did the presentation make the audience want to know more?

Preparation Workshops

3MT preparation workshops are offered each fall to help all graduate students learn how to communicate research to a non-specialist audience. Workshops are open to all graduate students and are a helpful resource for those PhD students preparing to enter the 3MT competition.

There are currently no workshops scheduled.

Take a look at some of our past preparation workshop videos, below.

Additional Resources

Practice your presentation

Video recording studios are available by reservation and free of charge in UB’s Silverman Library in Capen Hall. Watch yourself, assess your performance and share with others to get their feedback and improve your presentation.


Other Resources

Questions? Please review our Three Minute Thesis FAQs page.