A Magazine for the George Mason University Community

Condensing Five Years into Three Minutes

By Arthur Wesley, BA '17 on August 9, 2017

Who says the fun of competitions has to be reserved for sports and reality television? Mason’s new Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition is changing that. An annual international competition that originated in 2008 at the University of Queensland, Australia, 3MT has quickly spread to more than 350 universities in 58 countries around the world. In it, PhD students compete to see who is best able to captivate an audience with their years of research in three minutes or less.

Students give their presentations in front of a panel of judges for the preliminary round of the Three Minute Thesis competition. Photo by Bethany Camp

Contestants must pitch their research as if presenting to an audience with no experience in the researcher’s field. They are only allowed one visual aid and must refrain from using any electronic media or props. Anyone who exceeds the allotted three minutes is disqualified.

The winners are awarded hefty cash prizes. At Mason’s inaugural competition, first-place winner Chelsie Romulo received $1,000,second-place Rachel Golden Kroner received$750, third-place Erik Goepner received $500,and a people’s choice award of $300 went to Bradley Snyder.

But this competition isn’t for the weak of heart. Condensing 5 to 10 years of research into three minutes is a challenge, but it helps students develop their ability to quickly communicate the value of their research to others outside their field.

“It was a challenge,” says Romulo, who is working on a PhD in environmental science and public policy. “You have to pick what stands out from your research that will be most interesting to a broad audience. It’s really hard because everything seems so important. “

Mason’s initial 3MT exceeded its original capacity of 40 slots, so it was expanded to accommodate more contestants. Next year, Associate Provost for Graduate Education Cody Edwards, who started Mason’s 3MT,plans to expand to PhD students from every school and college at the university. If you think you’ve got what it takes, visit provost.gmu.edu/3mtinfo to learn more.

John Hollis contributed to this story.

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