BYU grad students planning three-minute thesis competition

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Aaron Cornia/BYU
Theatre graduate student Haley Flanders presenting her thesis in three minutes and with one slide at last year’s 3MT Competition. (Photo by Aaron Cornia/BYU)

The BYU Graduate Student Society will host its third annual Three-Minute Thesis (3MT) Competition on March 10 in the Wilkinson Student Center Varsity Theatre.

Selected finalists from colleges across campus will have exactly three minutes to present thousands of hours of graduate research on a single static powerpoint slide.

Graduate Student Society President Tyler Smith, a law student from Sandy, Utah, said that the competition is the most valuable event for students that the society holds.

“This gives students a chance to look at their research from 100 miles above,” Smith said. “A microbiologist trying to explain to me, a law student, what he does and why it matters in three minutes — that’s a difficult task.”

The concept of 3MT was originally developed at the University of Queensland in Australia back in 2008. Since then, many colleges have adopted the competition. Some schools even require their students to participate because of its value in helping students to communicate their thesis in a simple way.

Last year’s People’s Choice winner, Lawrence Barrett, is now obtaining his PhD at Boston University and said that his experience in the competition prepared him immensely for life after graduation.

Aaron Cornia/BYU
Last year’s second place winner Philip Bennallack presenting research from the field of micro/molecular biology. (Photo by Aaron Cornia/BYU)

“Whether you are pitching a business idea, applying for grant funding, or anything that you will encounter later in life, it’s not just about being understood,” Barrett said. “It’s about making a mark.”

Barrett said that in preparing for his presentation about ultra-high capacity batteries, he had to find a way to make it engaging from the first moment.

“It can be difficult to stand out,” Barrett said. “I had to make sure that my presentation was remembered, unexpected, surprising, and entertaining. Most importantly, I had to ensure that I left people excited about what I was doing.”

Deans, distinguished faculty, and administration from the school are generally selected to judge the presentations.

TMA Graduate Coordinator Megan Sanborn Jones will judge the competition for the second year in a row. Jones said her favorite part of the competition is learning about the exciting range of studies that are happening on campus.

“BYU studies are doing groundbreaking work in many different fields,” Jones said. “It’s always a thrill to see new knowledge being created.”

Cash prizes ranging from $1,000-$5,000 will be awarded to the first, second and third place winners as well as the people’s choice winner.

The competition will be held in the Varsity Theatre of the Wilkinson Center on Mar. 10 from 11:00am-1:00pm. The event is free and open to the public. Coverage for this event will also be posted online after the competition.

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