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Mizzou 3 Minute Thesis (3MT)

Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) is an international research communication competition, designed to help students improve public speaking skills with public audiences.

At Mizzou, 3MT® is also a professional development program that includes training, practice sessions with feedback, and a public speaking competition.

The rules for the fall 3MT® competition are simple:

    1. You must be a doctoral candidate in a research-based degree program.
  1. You will have 1 slide and 3 minutes to effectively explain your research to a lay (non-specialist) audience.

2018 Competition Dates
October dates announced soon!

The public is invited to attend the final competition to vote on the People’s Choice Award!

Arrive early! All events begin promptly at 7 PM in the Leadership Auditorium, MU Student Center. 

official 3 minutes thesis logo from University of Queensland - stop watch

Learning Outcomes

The overarching aim of Mizzou 3MT® is for graduate students to acquire effective public speaking skills.

This professional development program includes storytelling training; presentation seminars; practice sessions with feedback; individual consultation with feedback; and a fall public speaking competition, Mizzou 3MT®.

A student who fully participates in the program will be able to:

  • capture and hold the attention of a large audience;
  • effectively use voice inflection, body language, and gestures to teach;
  • create an educational visual aid in support of a presentation;
  • deliver a message that will be retained by the audience; and
  • articulate how their research benefits society (broader impacts).

Mizzou 3 MT winner Arianna Soldati delilvering her presentation with the projection light across her face and slide behind her.

Reaping the Benefits of Public Speaking

Conquering your fear of public speaking – and honing your talent – will set you apart on the job market: Multiple surveys have shown that verbal communication skills are in high demand by employers across job sectors.

Once you develop the ability to communicate your ideas effectively, you will be able to apply the skill during job interviews, conference presentations, classroom instruction, or pitching your innovation to potential investors.

Eligibility & Rules

Official 3MT® Eligibility
According to the official 3MT® rules at the University of Queensland, “Active PhD and Professional Doctorate (Research) candidates who have successfully passed their confirmation milestone ([i.e., comprehensive exams;] including candidates whose thesis is under submission) by the date of their first presentation are eligible to participate in 3MT competitions at all levels… Graduates are not eligible.”

Mizzou-specific 3MT® Eligibility

Mizzou’s 3MT® competition is open to all PhD candidates in research-based degree programs who:

  1. submitted the signed consent form that includes the support of their primary dissertation advisor;
  2. passed comprehensive examinations and have a signed D-3 form on file with the Office of Graduate Studies;
  3. attend one of the mandatory Mizzou 3MT orientation sessions;
  4. complete Mizzou 3MT training & practice sessions or an equivalent public speaking program or a graduate course on research outreach; and
  5. meet all Mizzou 3MT deadlines.

Those who have successfully defended during the fall semester may still participate in 3MT, as Mizzou graduate degrees are not conferred until December commencement. Those who have have graduated are not eligible.

You MUST be available for orientation, the preliminary rounds, semifinals (if held), and finals. If selected as one of the Mizzou’s 3MT® winners, competitors must also agree to (a) further professional development to hone presentation skills and (b) participate in regional 3MT® competitions including the Conference of Southern of Office of Graduate Studiess or the Midwest Association of Office of Graduate Studiess. Travel expenses will be paid for by the University.

The presentation must be made in English.

Official 3MT® Rules*

  • A single static PowerPoint slide is permitted. No slide transitions, animations, or ‘movement’ of any description are allowed. 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 3 minutes maximum. Competitors exceeding 3 minutes (i.e., those who continue to talk) are disqualified.
  • Presentations are to be spoken word (e.g., no poems, spoken word performances, songs).
  • Presentations are to commence from the stage (or front of the room).
  • 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.

*Additional rules for Mizzou’s 3MT® contest: When the planning committee notifies you of your presentation time (about a week before the competition), you must re-confirm your participation AND submit your single slide for the competition. Failure to confirm or submit your slide by the deadline will result in disqualification.

What to Expect

Setting

The Mizzou 3MT competition rounds will be held in a campus auditorium. Depending on the location we are able to reserve, you may be presenting from a stage, but without a podium. Your one slide will appear on a screen behind you. There are no microphones, so be prepared to speak loudly so that you can be heard and understood clearly.

Types of 3 MT Rounds

The number of contestants will dictate the number and type of rounds we hold. Generally, we plan on several preliminary rounds, a semi-final round, and a 3MT final round.

Recommended Attire

We recommend professional or business attire. No jeans. Truman’s Closet is service for Mizzou students who wish to borrow business attire for special events and job interviews free of charge.

Procedure for all Rounds

  • You must present your 3 minute speech during your assigned dates/times.
  • On the date(s) of the competition, check in at the registration desk 45 minutes prior to your scheduled speaking time.
  • We will ask you to sign a photo/video release. You may decline, but mark your form accordingly.
  • Report to your presentation room 30 minutes prior to speaking. Check your presentation slide. (You submit your presentation slide at the time you confirm, so it will be pre-loaded onto a computer.)
  • You must remain in the room until dismissed.
  • A timekeeper will notify you when it is your time to present. Move to the front of the room.
  • When the judges are ready, the timekeeper will tell you that you may commence with your presentation.
  • Once you begin speaking, continue to deliver your entire speech. Even if you lose your place, the clock will continue to run. You cannot restart.
  • The timekeeper will hold up a 30-second warning sign to let you know that you are nearing the 3 minute mark.
  • The timekeeper will stop you at exactly 3 minutes. At that point, all you can say is “thank you.”
  • If you keep talking and exceed 3 minutes, you will be disqualified.
  • After each round, the panel of judges will convene to make decisions.
  • While the judges convene, you may leave the room. It is suggested that you stay nearby.

Announcement of Winners

  • Everyone will be invited back into the room for to hear the judging results.
  • At the preliminary rounds and semi-final rounds (if offered), the names of contestants who advance will be announced.
  • At the final event, plaques and prizes will be awarded for first place, runner up, and People’s Choice award.
  • The Mizzou 3MT winner will become eligible to represent the University of Missouri at regional and national competitions, expenses paid.
  • Prizes will be processed after the event.

Judging and prizes

Official 3MT® Judging Criteria

At every level of the competition each competitor will be assessed on two judging criteria. Please note that each criterion is equally weighted and has an emphasis on audience.

Criterion 1: Comprehension & Content

  • Did the presentation provide an understanding of the background to the research question being addressed and its significance?
  • Did the presentation clearly describe the key results of the research including conclusions and outcomes?
  • Did the presentation follow a clear and logical sequence?
  • Was the thesis topic, key results, research significance, and outcomes communicated in language appropriate to a non-specialist audience?
  • Did the speaker avoid scientific jargon, explain terminology, and provide adequate background information to illustrate points?
  • Did the presenter spend adequate time on each element of their presentation – or did they elaborate for too long on one aspect or was the presentation rushed?

Criterion 2: Engagement & Communication

  • Did the oration make the audience want to know more?
  • Was the presenter careful not to trivialize or generalize their research?
  • Did the presenter convey enthusiasm for their research?
  • Did the presenter capture and maintain their audience’s attention?
  • Did the speaker have sufficient stage presence, eye contact and vocal range; maintain a steady pace, and have a confident stance?
  • Did the PowerPoint slide enhance the presentation – was it clear, legible, and concise?

How Judges will be Chosen

3MT® competitions help doctoral candidates fine-tune their public presentation skills with a long term goal of improving public scientific literacy. Toward this goal, competitors are required to present their research in language appropriate to a non-specialist (lay) audience. Therefore, the Mizzou 3MT planners have invited people from a variety of backgrounds to judge the competition.

Mizzou 3MT® Prizes

  • First Place will receive a plaque and $500 in professional development funds. The first place contestant will represent Mizzou at a regional 3MT contest. Travel expenses will be paid for by the University.
  • Runner-up will receive a plaque and $300 in professional development funds
  • People’s Choice will receive a plaque and a $200 in professional development funds.

Elements of successful presentations

What does it take to win 3MT®?

First, understand the two official judging criteria because this is how your Mizzou 3MT® presentation will be scored by the judges.

Strategy: When you practice your presentation in front of family, friends, faculty, or research colleagues, give them a copy of the judging criteria. Ask them to rate your presentation. They should be able to respond to every question with a “yes.” Of utmost importance: Your ability to explain your research without technical terms and jargon.

Second, your slide must be engaging. It should enhance, not detract, from your educational message. Images should be top quality.

Strategy:  Ask your mentor, colleagues, and family to critique your slide. Do they respond favorably to the image(s)? Is any part of the slide confusing or difficult to see? Do they believe your slide enhances your public education message?

Third, in a 3MT® competition, what you say will be important, but how you deliver your message will be the key to winning.

Strategy: Critique several research-related presentations designed for public audiences. Identify what makes certain public speakers more effective than others, then practice those skills. As you watch and listen, ask these questions:

  • Note: At the start, what did the speaker say and do to immediately capture the audience’s attention?
  • Listen: How did the speaker’s tone, volume and tempo help sustain audience interest?
  • Observe: How did the speaker use eye contact, hand gestures, and/or body movement to emphasize points?
  • Evaluate: Did the presenter avoid jargon and explain technical terms?
  • Assess: How did the speaker make the research both meaningful and memorable for the audience?

Helpful Handouts and PowerPoints on 3MT®

Simon Clews from University of Melbourne: Making the most of your three minutes.

Danielle Fisher from UCSD 10 Hints for Improving Presentations for the Three Minute Thesis Competition

Dr. Inger Mewburn from ANU: “How to win the 3 minute thesis

UQ GradSchool: 3MT Student Handbook see pp. 9 & 10

Flinders University: Hot tips for students

Training, practice & events

Information Sessions

April 24, 2018 from Noon – 1:00 p.m., location TBA
July 2018 (details forthcoming)
September 2018  (details forthcoming)

Mizzou 3MT® Orientation (Mandatory)

Note: You MUST attend one of these orientation sessions:

October 2018 (details forthcoming)

Storytelling Seminars

Fall 2018 dates TBA

3MT Practice Sessions

20 minute sessions (present-feedback-present). Sign up form will be available to registered contestants in October.

3 MT Competition* 

2018 dates TBA

Frequently Asked Questions

Eligibility Questions: Candidacy, Required Forms, and Defense Dates

Are all degree candidates eligible?

To be eligible, you must be actively pursing a research-based doctoral (PhD) degree. Master’s students are not elegible. For this current competition, you must have your or D3 (doctoral) form and advisor consent form on file by the stated deadline.

What is the D3 Form?

These are forms that officially document you have reached candidacy status toward earning a degree. Once you have passed comprehensive examinations, the D3 must be filed with the Office of Graduate Studies. Check with your degree program office for more information.

I’ve already defended. Am I still eligible to participate? 

Yes. In accordance with official policy, you remain a degree candidate until the next commencement (in December), when your degree will be conferred. If you have already graduated, you are not able to participate.

I have my candidacy meeting scheduled after the September registration deadline. Can I still participate?

Yes, as long as your D3 form is turned in to the Office of Graduate Studies no later than 5 PM on the deadline.

I have plenty of research data, but I have not yet reached candidacy (i.e. no D3 has been filed). Will I be able to participate?

No. To participate, you must be a degree candidate (with a D3 form on file) by the deadline.

Eligibility Questions: Master’s and International Students

Are international doctoral candidates eligible? What if English is not my native language?

Yes, international students at Mizzou who are degree candidates in research-based graduate degree programs are eligible. The three minute presentation must be made in English.

Can master’s students who are pursuing research-based degrees participate? 

No. However, due to popular demand by students, we hope to create a Master’s Division in the future.

Application Questions

Why do I need my advisor’s signature on the Consent Form?

In some disciplines, research findings must be embargoed until the study is published. This is especially true of students working in classified labs. We need to make certain that your advisor is aware, and approves, of your participation in this event.

Competition Questions

What is the dress code? 

Dress is either business casual or business attire. No jeans, please! Here’s why: Mizzou 3MT® is a key professional development event for research-based degree candidates. Because of the significance, it is most appropriate for participants to dress as a professional – no different than attending a disciplinary conference or job interview. Another consideration: professional attire can potentially enhance your stage presence, especially because all of our judges are professionals too.

If cost for professional attire is prohibitive, Truman’s Closet is service for Mizzou students who wish to borrow business attire for special events and job interviews.

Do I have to use a slide as part of my presentation?

Yes, because the effectiveness of your visual is part of the judging criterion. Remember that the slide is static: No slide transitions, animations or ‘movement’ of any description are allowed. Also, the slide is to be presented from the beginning of the oration. Deadline: Submit your slide as a pdf file to mizzou3mt@missouri.edu by the published deadline. Note: If you move forward in the competition, you must use the same slide (i.e., you cannot modify your slide during the Mizzou competition.)

Do the judges “favor” presentations by STEM students over those in the social sciences or humanities?

Not at all! The competition is open to all research-based degree programs. The judges follow the official scoring criteria when making their decisions. No preference is given to one discipline over another.

Will you have separate rounds for life sciences, engineering, social sciences, humanities, etc.?

At Mizzou 3MT, everyone competes together. In the future, if the competition grows substantially, we may offer disciplinary preliminaries.

Why are people from higher education on the judging panel?

As you know, our intent with Mizzou 3MT is to select a winner who can best describe research to a lay (public) audience. Thus, we make every attempt to find people in the local community (outside of higher education) to serve as judges. This proved to be a challenge, so we also invited faculty and administrators from inside higher education to serve as judges. That said, all judges are volunteers (not paid) and they do their best to follow the scoring criteria. Be assured that they are committed to spirit and intent of the Mizzou 3MT competition.

Will I get to see the judges’ comments?

No, for several reasons. Foremost, Mizzou 3MT® is a professional development, public speaking program that culminates with a competition event. The training sessions (e.g., storytelling) we offer in the months prior to the event are designed for you to practice and receive constructive feedback in order to improve your public speaking skills. The second consideration is our volunteer judges, many of whom prefer to keep their comments confidential.

Remember that the results of any judged competition is based on subjective opinion. A 3 minute presentation that resonates with one judge may not appeal as much to second or third judge.

Tip: Please seek feedback on your slide, content, and presentation style before the competition. In the past, many of the finalists took advantage of the storytelling training and/or practice session. Their success proves it pays to practice!

Who Won at Mizzou?


Contestants in the Mizzou 3MT® 2016 competition.

2016 Winners


From Left: Megan Sheridan, Jacqueline Gamboa Varela and Dr. Michael K. Fink

See those Wrinkles? Blame your DNA!

That was the message delivered by the 2016 Mizzou 3 Minute Thesis winner Jacqueline Gamboa Varela, a doctoral candidate in Chemistry.

Second place was awarded to Dr. Michael K. Fink, a doctoral candidate in Area Pathobiology. Like other researchers in Medicine and Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Fink is pursuing a PhD degree after earning his professional degree. His presentation was entitled Treating Blindness with a Virus: Targeted Gene Therapy in the Cornea. Dr. Rajiv R. Mohan is his mentor.

The audience voted Megan Sheridan as the People’s Choice Winner. Hailing from St. Louis, MO, Ms. Sheridan is a doctoral candidate in Biochemistry. Dr. R. Michael Roberts is her advisor. The title of her presentation was Pregnancy, the Placenta and the Zika Virus.       

Other 3MT contestants:

  • Terese Zidon, Nutrition & Exercise Physiology. Mentor: Dr.  Victoria Vieira-Potter. Healthy Fat in Menopause: Is it true?    
  • Michelle Williams, Biological Sciences. Mentor: Dr. Pamela Brown. How to Stay in Shape: Lessons from Bacteria  
  • Nat Graham,  Biological Sciences. Mentor: Dr. James Birchler. Efficiently Building a Plant Factory
  • Felicia Chu, Psychological Sciences. Mentor: Dr. David Geary. Adding It Up: How Children Learn Math     
  • Durgesh Wagle,  Chemistry. Mentor: Dr. Gary A. Baker. Ionic Liquids: Problem Solvers.
  • Yuanlu “April” Sun, Nursing. Mentor: Dr. Jane Armer. Breast Cancer Lymphedema
  • Chantra Promnoi, Nursing. Mentor Dr. Lorraine J. Phillips.  How Physical Activity & Social Connections Are Related to Sleep in Older Adults
  • Sean Polun,  Geological Sciences. Mentor: Dr. Francisco Gomez. How Studying Rocks Anywhere in the World Helps Forecast Earthquakes

Judges for the evening were Alejandra Gudino, a diversity coordinator with food and nutrition programs for University of Missouri Extension; Ronald B. Kelley, PhD, MU School of Journalism executive director of student development, diversity and inclusion; and Wally Pfeffer, Mutual of Omaha and Boone County Chapter of the Mizzou Alumni and Alumnae Association.

MC for the evening was Dr. Michael J. Porter, MU retired faculty in Communication.

2015 Winners


Thirty doctoral candidates participated in the first annual Mizzou Three Minutes Thesis competition.

From two preliminary nights, 12 winners advanced to the semifinals: Nathaniel Graham, Madeline Miller, Surya Sapkota, Arianna Soldati, Tasia Taxis, Jessica M. Anderson, Lincoln Sheets, Sarah E. Smith, Page Quinton, Scott Askinosie, Sarah E. Lirley McCune, and Maria Jones.

The six who advanced to the finals were:

  • Jessica M. Anderson, Political Science: Is Justice Always Blind?
  • Scott Askinosie,  Biological Sciences: Can the eyes of a plant help feed the world?
  • Sarah E. Lirley McCune, History: Why Death Matters
  • Lincoln Sheets, Informatics: Using medical computing to predict health problems before they start
  • Sarah Smith, Biological Engineering: Humans inside green pigs
  • Arianna Soldati, Geological Sciences: How to stop a lava flow

At the Mizzou 3MT® finals, which were held at 4 PM on October 24, first place went to Arianna Soldati; second place to Jessica M. Anderson and the People’s Choice, to Lincoln Sheets, MD. Each winner received a crystal 3MT® trophy and cash prizes as follows: First Place ($500); Second Place ($300) and People’s Choice ($200). The overall winner also becomes eligible to compete at other 3MT® competitions.

A video of Arianna at the Conference of Southern Office of Graduate Studiess and photos from all rounds of the 2015 competition at Mizzou can be found on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Mizzou3MT

Watch the six Mizzou 3MT finalists

About 3MT® worldwide

Three  Minute  Thesis  (3MT®) is a research communication competition developed by The University of Queensland (UQ) in Australia. The exercise challenges doctoral* candidates to present a compelling oration on their thesis (dissertation) topic and its significance in just three minutes.

3MT® develops academic, presentation, and research communication skills and supports the development of research students’ capacity to effectively explain their research in language appropriate to a non-specialist audience.

View 3MT® presentations

To view winning presentations from around the world, go to the 3MT® Showcase on the official UQ site.