Graduate School hosts seventh annual Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition finals
Matthew Broder | Friday, March 3, 2023
On Wednesday night, Notre Dame Graduate School hosted the finals for their annual Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition. The 3MT competition highlights research being conducted by graduate students on campus.
Participants are given no more than three minutes to explain their research to a diverse panel of judges and are evaluated based on their comprehension, the content of their presentation, engagement with the audience and communication. They are allowed to use a single static PowerPoint slide with no transitions, animations or movement of any kind. Participants exceeding three minutes are instantly disqualified.
“The exercise cultivates students’ academic, presentation and research communication skills,” Mary Ann McDowell, the associate dean for professional development at Graduate School and a main driver behind this year’s competition, said. “It supports their capacity to effectively explain their research in three minutes, in a language appropriate to a non-specialist audience.”
This year’s panel of finals covered a wide range of expertise within academia. Aside from professors within the Graduate School, judges included K Matthew Dames, a University librarian; Sarah Wright, a senior scientist at Merck and James Mueller, mayor of South Bend. Wright was herself a finalist in the 2018 3MT competition.
In the first round of competition, students competed within three divisions based on the colleges: Engineering, Science and Arts and Letters combined with the Keough School of Global Affairs. The top three contestants from each division competed in the final competition.
“What really stands out [about a finalist] is their passion for their research and the accessibility for a diverse audience,” McDowell said.
This year’s winner was Alex Boomgarden from the department of biological sciences, for his presentation “Looking for Cancer with CAPture.” He will have the opportunity to compete at the Midwestern Association of Graduate Schools (MAGS) competition at a later date.
The 3MT competition was originally developed at the University of Queensland. The first competition was held there in 2008, with 160 research graduate students competing. Since 2011, the popularity of the competition has skyrocketed, and competitions are now held at over 600 universities across more than 65 countries.
Notre Dame first hosted their own competition in 2016 and has held it annually since. This is the second year in which all graduate students are encouraged to participate. Planning for this event has been going on since early fall 2022. Four to six information sessions took place from November through January, as well as two prep workshops hosted by the office of grants and fellowships and the presenter center. Qualification rounds were held over the course of three nights.
“We partner with multiple graduate-focused areas on campus to ensure students have resources available to support their planning and prep,” Dawn Rizek said. Rizek, the associate director of Graduate Career Services, was heavily involved in planning the event this year.
Organizers say they are excited about the future of the 3MT competition here at Notre Dame.
“This is Notre Dame’s seventh year conducting the 3MT event, and as a principal Graduate School event, it will no doubt continue to be offered well into the future,” Rizek said.