Three Minute Thesis Competition at the University of Iowa

3MT Overview Register now

The 3MT competition is part of the Graduate College’s career and professional development effort. The ability to clearly and concisely articulate complex research to non-specialist audiences is a vital skill for both academic and non-academic careers. Graduate students who choose to participate in the 3MT competition will develop communication skills and have the chance to compete for prizes.

For the first time at the University of Iowa the 3MT competition will be open to all graduate students (masters and doctoral). These competitions will be seperate with finalists and winners selected from both degree levels.

  1. Prizes
  2. Participation
  3. Competition Schedule
  4. Judging Criteria
  5. Judging Rubric
  6. Official Rules
  7. Past Winners
  8. Registration Form
  9. Plain Talk Workshop - Communicating Your Research Workshop
  10. Guide for Students


Each contestant who advances to the Final Round on November 4th will win a $250 cash prize. There will be additional prizes for:

  • $500 dollars for 1st place (decided by judges), and funded to travel to Midwestern Association of Graduate Schools (MAGS) 2016 conference
  • $250 for honorable mention (decided by judges)
  • $250 for the "People's Choice" winner, selected by audience ballot



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.

How to enter the competition

Registration Deadline: Saturday, October 1th.

Students: To compete, you must complete the registration form . After the deadline to register has passed you will receive an email with instructions on how to sign up for the preliminary competition.

  • Click here to download a resource packet
  • Attend a workshop with communication experts from The Department of Rhetoric.

Departments:How to encourage and support your students:

  • Click here to download a packet with best practice suggestions plus rules, regulations, and rubrics
  • 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
  • Contact us at with suggestions!

Schedule & Competition

  • Registration Deadline: October 1st, complete the registration form.
  • Preliminary Contests: October 14, 21, time TBA in ABW 240.
  • Finals: Friday, November 4th, from 3:00-5:00pm.

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Plain Talk, Tuesday, Sept. 27 from 3:00-4:30 in UCC 1117

presented by the department of Rhetoric and the Graduate College.

Learn to explain your work to the general public!

This workshop is designed to help students:

  • Clarify the important messages of your work
  • Prepare a Three Minute Thesis presentation
  • Practice explaining your work to non-specialists

In this workshop you will learn to:

  • Summarize your research for a general audience
  • Provide your audience with a context for your work without overwhelming them
  • Avoid jargon while retaining necessary content
  • Explain the significance of your work to non-specialists
  • Present your work as interesting, engaging, and beneficial

Judging Criteria

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, Graduate Student Senate, and 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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3MT Official Rules:

  • A single static PowerPoint slide is permitted (no slide transitions, animations or ‘movement’ of any description; 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 and competitors exceeding 3 minutes are disqualified.
  • Presentations are to be spoken word (e.g. no poems, raps or songs).
  • Presentations are considered to have commenced when a presenter starts their presentation through movement or speech.
  • The decision of the adjudicating panel is final.

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Past Winners

Three Minute Thesis Spring 2016 Finalists:

  • 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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