Three Minute Thesis

Sharon Idiga

The ability to clearly and concisely articulate complex research to non-specialist audiences is a vital skill for all graduate students. Participating in the Graduate College’s public scholarship competitions helps students develop communication skills, allows them to share and take pride in their work, and offers the chance to compete for prizes. In Fall 2017, Sharon Idiga (right) won the Ph.D. competition. You can view Sharon's presentation, and the presentations of all of our finalists, on the 3MT spotlight page.

2017 Results

Winner & Peoples' Choice:

Sharon Idiga, Pharmacology

Honorable Mentions:

Katherine Perschbacher, Pharmacology
Rawa Alammari, Oral Science


Ali Al-Jumaili, Pharmacy (Pharmaceutical Socioeconomics)
Anh-Vu Do, Chemical and Biochemical Engineering
Behnoush Khorsand, Pharmaceutics and Translational Therapeutics
Brandon MacDougall, Geographical and Sustainability Sciences
Caitlin Marley, Classics
Emily Malcolm, Biochemistry
Eric Emmons, Neuroscience
Ernane Souza, Pharmacy (Medicinal & Natural Prod Chem)
Jessica Gregson, Microbiology
Lalita Oonthonpan, Biochemistry
Lucas Bon Durant, Molecular and Cellular Biology

Finals will be held Friday, November 10, in the Art Building West Room 240 from 3-5pm.

ELIGIBILITY: Participants must be currently enrolled in or recent graduates (within one calendar year) of a Masters or PhD degree program that requires the student to conduct their own research.

Three Minute ThesisThesis In-focus


The Graduate College is happy to announce its first Research in Focus competition. Research in Focus invites students to submit entries consisting of an image and brief text that articulates how the image relates to the research.


Each submission selected to be printed for the Final Round will win a $100 cash prize, and a printed copy of their submission. There will be an additional prize of $250 for the "People's Choice" winner, selected by audience ballot at Three Minute Thesis Finals.
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Submissions should be emailed to Joe Cannella with a subject of "Thesis In-Focus" by Monday, October 2.
Contestants can submit images in four categories:

  • Photography (including photos of field work)
  • Microscopy
  • Graphics and illustration
  • Archival

Submissions can be in JPEG, TIF, GIF or PDF formats and must be high-resolution.

All images should be unique, well-executed, and effective at communicating information to the audience.
Each submission should include:

  1. A title of 140 characters or less.
  2. A caption or narrative of 100-200 words that describes the connection between the image and your research. The written components should be entered into the body of the submission email, not submitted as separate files.
  3. Your Image file meeting the following requirements:
    • Maximum file size of 100 MB.
    • Minimum resolution of 300 ppi.
    • The image must be at least 10 inches on the longest end.
    • The image must be in JPEG, or JPEG2 format.

If you have any questions or concerns please email Joe Cannella.

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October 2 - Deadline for Submission
October 18 - Notification of Finalists
November 10 - Printed images will be displayed at the 3MT finals. Attendees will vote on their favorites.

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The image submitted should represent your research either concretely or abstractly. You will also be submitting a narrative that articulates the connection between the image and your research. Your narrative should be written in a jargon-free manner that captures the attention and imagination of both specialists and general audiences. The submission will be judged on three criteria (in no order):

  1. Connection between image, text, and research
  2. Originality
  3. Visual Impact

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This is the Graduate College’s first year holding this competition. Please see these other institutions for examples of their submissions.

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The University of Iowa’s fourth Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition challenges graduate students to clearly and concisely articulate complex research to non-specialist audiences.


Each contestant who advances to the Final Round will win a $250 cash prize. There will be additional prizes for:

  • $500 dollars for 1st place (decided by judges), and option for funded to travel to Midwestern Association of Graduate Schools (MAGS) 2018 conference April 4-­6, in Grand Rapids, Michigan
  • $250 for honorable mention (decided by judges)
  • $250 for the "People's Choice" winner, selected by audience ballot

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Registration Deadline: Monday, September 25th

Students: To compete, you must complete the registration form. After the registration deadline passes you will receive an email with instructions on how to sign up for the preliminary competition and submit your slide. Back to top.


  • Registration Deadline: September 25th, complete the registration form.
  • Preliminary Contests: October 6 th, Art Building West, 1:30-6:00pm.
  • Finals: Friday, November 10, time & location Art Building West Room 240 from 3-5pm.

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Distilling Your Research
Thursday, September 21sr from 2:00-3:30pm in UCC 1117
This session will briefly introduce the Three Minute Thesis, and provide opportunities to help you develop your presentation. Participants will learn:

  1. Theatrical techniques including breath, movement, and body language to help improve presentation skills.

  2. How to find a hook to get audiences interested in their research.

  3. How to feel more comfortable speaking in front of groups and how to create engaging oral presentations.

Successfully Speaking
Friday, September 29th from 1:30-3:00pm in the Art Building West, room 240
Practice makes perfect. Join us for a 3MT Clinic, where you will have the opportunity to present your 3MT and to receive feedback from a live audience.

  1. All registrants must come prepared to present their 3MT pitch.
  2. It is optional to provide their PowerPoint slide to the organizer in advance of the workshop.

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Winners will be determined by a panel of judges using the official 3MT competition rubrics. Judges will be invited from the University of Iowa faculty and staff, previous 3MT winners, and the local community.

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 and 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?

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?

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  • Student Resource packet
    Departments: How to encourage and support your students
    • Click here to download a packet with best practice suggestions
    • Encourage student participation. Assist them in preparing and practicing presentations
    • Organize a departmental or inter-departmental competition
    • Volunteer to be a judge at any of the qualifying rounds.

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Past 3MT Winners

Fall 2016
Spring 2016

Three Minute Thesis Spring Finalists:

Fall 2016

PhD Students

Masters Students

Spring 2016

  • Kawther Ahmed, Engineered Cancer Vaccine
  • Amber Bates, Methods to Study Inflammation in the Mouth
  • Caitlin Cosme, The Role of the Insular Cortex in Cocaine Relapse
  • Sebastian De Pascuale, Voyage of the Van Allen Probes on the Shore of Space
  • Michael Freedberg, Reward, Punishment, and Skill Acquisition
  • Richard Ligo, The Mobius Energy of Weighted Knots
  • Katherine Peter, Nanomaterial-Enabled Drinking Water Treatment Technologies
  • Allison Songstad, The Vision to Cure Blindness
  • Shiyi Wang, Preventing Suicide by Understanding Brain Disorders
  • Crystal Wotipka, Embracing the Screen of Mediated Environments: An Exploration of the Buffer Effect's Role in Communication Surrounding Transgressions

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