Graduate students compete in Three Minute Thesis competition

Students present at and compete in the Three Minute Thesis competition in the Varsity Theatre of the Wilkinson Student Center. (Aaron Cornia)

David O. McKay School of Education graduate student Elisse Newey won BYU’s 6th annual Three Minute Thesis competition March 7.

Competitors qualified in departmental competitions before taking the stage in the Varsity Theatre on Thursday.

Newey’s presentation titled “From the Statehouse to the Jailhouse — Restoring Justice for Utah’s Teens” talked about the failure of a Utah bill meant to prevent students from entering the juvenile justice system on truancy charges.

Newey presented possible reasons as to why the bill failed and provided a brief synopsis of her solution — all under the allotted time of three minutes.

According to the BYU Graduate Studies website, 3MT is a contest among graduate students in which each competitor must present their thesis in three minutes or less. One static Power Point slide is allowed in the background, but no other props or tools can be used during the presentation.

As the first place recipient, Newey won $5,000. A second and third place prize of $2,500 and $1,500 were awarded respectively. All other participants walked away with $250.

Additionally, a people’s choice winner will be decided based on ballots handed out at the event. The winner will be announced later next week and will receive $1,000.

3MT is not just a competition for cash prizes. For third place recipient Michael Reynolds, a competitor from the Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering, 3MT taught him how to explain his research to an audience that might not know as much as he does.

“In your field you have so many terms and phrases that normal people wouldn’t understand,” Reynolds explained. “It’s been helpful for me to better explain what I actually (do).”

Brittany Knighton, a student in the College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences, said 3MT helped her understand and develop an elevator pitch for her thesis, which she would otherwise have a hard time doing.

“I’m in chemistry, and (people always) tell you that you need to have an elevator pitch,” Knighton said. “My brain understood that, but it was really hard to put my research into words that I could say quickly to someone in an elevator. This really helped me. I’m grateful I had something to force me to collect my thoughts.”

Graduate Student Society President Emily Lund said she loves how 3MT promotes interdepartmental communication, collaboration and understanding.

“The competition allows you to see what other people are researching, which you normally would not see,” Lund said. “Sometimes you can even find connections between their research and your own.”

The 3MT competition is very small, but Lund says the goal is for the program expand. Lund emphasized her hope for statewide competitions and workshops in the future.

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