Teaching & Learning

April 1, 2013

Grad students, post-docs take on Three Minute Thesis challenge

By Judi Pattison

Can you explain thousands of hours of research in just three minutes?

That’s the challenge for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows taking part in McMaster’s first Three Minute Thesis competition.

Participants will present complex research in an engaging, accessible, and compelling way to a panel of non-specialist judges, using only one static slide.

Competitors will take to the “stage” on April 11 in one of five preliminary heats throughout the day. The winners of those heats will go on to compete for McMaster’s 3MT title at 3:30 p.m. that same day.

The winner of the final heat will receive $1,000, and second and third place winners will receive $500 and $250 respectively.  A People’s Choice award winner will receive $250.

The top two winners will go on to compete at the provincial final at Queen’s University on April 18.

Allison Sekuler, associate vice-president and dean of graduate studies, took up the challenge, presenting her own 3MT.

“Taking years of research and boiling it down to just three minutes and one slide was a much bigger challenge than I expected,” Sekuler said.

“But it was a really useful exercise, and something all our graduate students and postdocs - and even professors - should try.  You know you really understand your research when you can present it so succinctly without over-simplifying it or making it overly complex.”

Thecompetition is meant to provide young researchers with an opportunity to refine skills that can be transferred to a variety of careers after graduation. Communicating clearly and highlighting the wider implications of research are important skills for post-graduate employment and public service.

“The competition also provides an opportunity to show why Universities matter, to showcase innovative and significant research to a wider audience, across disciplines within the university, and to the broader community,” Sekuler said.

The general public is invited to watch the event live on campus, and 3MT finalists will be posted on YouTube. The first heat begins at 9:30 a.m. in MDCL 1305.

The University’s competition is open to graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, but only PhD and thesis-based master’s students are eligible to move forward to the provincial finals.

The deadline to register for McMaster’s 3MT is April 5. For more information about eligibility or to register online, visit 3MT on the School of Graduate Studies website.

The Three Minute Thesis Competition was first developed in 2008 by The University of Queensland in Australia. Since then, universities from Australia, New Zealand, Japan, the United Kingdom, Austria and Canada have initiated their own competitions.