3MT: Three Minute Thesis

3mt logo

The Graduate College is pleased to sponsor the Eighth Annual Three Minute Thesis (3MT) Competition for graduate-student researchers. This annual event is an opportunity for students to build their communication skills by creatively describing their research in ways that make it relatable and relevant to a non-specialist audience. One static slide may be used while speaking for up to three minutes. Timelines and guidelines are listed below. Enjoy the videos of past award winners’ presentations, or an entire final round of competition.


2023 Awardees

Winner: Ashwini Rangaraj

Major: Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology

Presentation: Characterizing a novel DNA element in the placenta

Runner Up: Alexander Volkov

Major: Chemistry

Presentation: Efficient and Recyclable Capture of Rare-Earth Elements by Covalent Organic Frameworks

People’s Choice Award: Oluwatobiloba Aminu

Major: Bioinformatics and Computational Biology

Presentation: Understanding Nanog's role in cell differentiation

Entire Event Video

2023 Final Round Participants

Name Major Presentation Title
Rabsa Naseer Veterinary Preventative Medicine Developing a Predictive Model for Variants of Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome Virus (PRRSV)
Grace Jackson Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Using Long-term Data to Understand Iowa’s Algae Blooms
Binayak Raj Pandey Microbiology Fall into fuel: a concept
Oluwatobiloba Aminu Bioinformatics and Computational Biology Understanding Nanog's role in cell differentiation
Alexander Volkov Chemistry Efficient and Recyclable Capture of Rare-Earth Elements by Covalent Organic Frameworks
Lexi Frese Biomedical Sciences Interspecies Transmission of Chronic Wasting Disease
Ashwini Rangaraj Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology Characterizing a novel DNA element in the placenta
Kale Hawks Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Size, Strength, and Social Skills in Baboons

Participation Timeline

What is 3MT?

Three Minute Thesis (3MT) celebrates the exciting research conducted by master’s or Ph.D. students around the world. Developed by The University of Queensland, the competition cultivates students’ academic, presentation, and research communication skills. Presenting in a 3MT competition increases students' capacity to explain their research in three minutes in a language appropriate to a non-specialist audience. Competitors are allowed one PowerPoint slide, but no other resources or props.


Participants must be currently enrolled in a master's or doctoral degree program that requires students to conduct their own research (dissertation or thesis).


Three participants will be recognized with awards. The winner of the final competition receives a $500 Ubill scholarship and may be asked to represent the university in other 3MT events. A scholarship of $250 will be awarded to the final competition's Runner Up and People’s Choice Award winner. The Graduate College will also raffle off two travel grants worth $200 each, as well as one U-Bill scholarship worth $200 for participants in their final year of graduate school. Every participant will have the opportunity to cultivate their presentation, research, and academic skills.

Judging Criteria

Winners will be determined by a panel of judges using the official 3MT competition rubrics. Judges for the initial heats will be invited from the Iowa State University faculty and staff and the local community. Judges for the final competition will be well-known Iowa constituents.

At every level of the competition, each competitor will be assessed on the judging criteria listed below. Each criterion is equally weighted and has an emphasis on audience.

Comprehension and Content

  • Presentation provided clear background and significance to the research question
  • Presentation clearly described the research strategy/design and the results/findings of the research
  • Presentation clearly described the conclusions, outcomes and impact of the research

Engagement and Communication

  • The oration was delivered clearly, and the language was appropriate for a non-specialist audience
  • The PowerPoint slide was well-defined and enhanced the presentation
  • The presenter conveyed enthusiasm for their research and captured and maintained the audience's attention

Successful competitors will spend adequate time on each element of the presentation without rushing while emphasizing the significance and application of his/her research and leaving the audience wanting to learn more.

Presentation Feedback

For feedback on your 3MT slide or the speech you are planning to incorporate into your 3MT presentation, please make an appointment with a writing consultant at the Center for Communication Excellence.


3MT Committee (3mtcompetition@iastate.edu):