3MT Logo


AU's 2020 Three Minute Thesis (3MT ®) competition

Hey AU GRADUATE students:
The deadline to register for AU's 7th annual Three-Minute Thesis Competition (3MT®) is just one week away!

Are you up for the challenge?

We encourage you to consider participating in AU's 7th annual Three-Minute Thesis (3MT) Competition on Tuesday, March 17th. We will kick off the event at 9:00am (MT). The competition begins at 9:30am (MT).

Registration closes on March 10th!

Questions about rules, eligibility? Contact fgs@athabascau.ca

Watch AU's live competition online on March 17th

AU's Research Centre is sponsoring CASH prizes for the top 3 AU winners. The 1st place winner will also receive travel funds to compete at the Western Regional Competition which will be held at the University of Alberta in April 2020.

  • 1st place award: $1000 (plus up to $800 travel expenses)
  • 2nd place award: $500
  • 3rd place award: $250

So what is the 3MT®?

Founded by The University of Queensland (UQ) in 2008, the competition cultivates students’ academic, presentation, and research communication skills. Presenting in a 3MT competition increases their capacity to effectively explain their research in three minutes, in a language appropriate to a non-specialist audience. Competitors are allowed one static PowerPoint slide, but no other resources or props.

Some history on the 3MT®

The idea for the Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) competition came about at a time when the state of Queensland was suffering severe drought. To conserve water, residents were encouraged to time their showers, and many people had a three minute egg timer fixed to the wall in their bathroom. The then Dean of the UQ Graduate School, Emeritus Professor Alan Lawson, put two and two together and the idea for the 3MT competition was born.

2008 The first 3MT competition was held at UQ with 160 Higher Degree by Research (HDR) candidates competing.
2009 The 3MT competition was promoted to other Australian and New Zealand universities and enthusiasm for the concept grew.
2010 A multi- national event was developed, and the Inaugural Trans- Tasman 3MT competition was held at UQ in 2010.
2013 The first Universitas 21 (U21) 3MT Competition was held with several universities from around the world competing in a virtual competition.
2016 3MT bought about an expansion of the Trans-Tasman 3MT competition to include universities from South-East and North Asia regions. The competition since then has been called the Asia-Pacific 3MT Competition and is hosted annually by UQ.
Now 3MT is held in over 600 universities across more than 65 countries worldwide.

Why should I compete in the 3MT ®?

There are many benefits to competing in a 3MT ® competition. Some of these benefits include:

  • Sharing your research with the public
  • Learning how to frame your research topic
  • Generating an easy to understand statement for scholarships
  • Getting your name known
  • Developing presentation skills
  • Having a 'pitch' ready for a job interview
  • Meeting other people who are part of the larger research community
  • Being part of a research community who is having impact
  • Building your resume/CV
  • Monetary prizes (First Place - $1,000 + $800 travel expenses to travel to Western Regionals Competition, Second Place - $500, Third Place - $250)


  • Any graduate student in good academic standing that has a research component or research capstone project (includes course, project, or thesis based) is eligible to compete.
  • Graduate students at any stage of their program are eligible to participate.
  • Graduate students who have convocated in 2019 are not eligible to participate.
  • Graduate students who have already defended their thesis but have not yet convocated are eligible to participate.
  • Presentations must be based on the primary research the graduate student has conducted or intends to conduct in their graduate program.
  • Graduate students should conduct their presentation in English.
  • Graduate students must present via webcam, agree to be digitally recorded, and allow any recordings to be made public

Competition 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.
  • Student must be visible via webcam throughout the duration of their 3MT
  • 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 either movement or speech.
  • The decision of the adjudicating panel is final.

Judging Panel

  • Dr. Pamela Hawranik - Acting, Associate Vice President Research, Athabasca University
  • Dr. Vive Kumar – Professor, School for Computing & Information Systems
  • Erin Stevenson - Manager, Marketing and Social Media, Athabasca University
  • Guest Judge - Dave Breakenridge, Managing Editor at Edmonton Journal and Edmonton Sun

What our judges are looking for

Comprehension and content

  • Did the presentation provide an understanding of the background and significance to the research question being addressed, while explaining terminology and avoiding jargon?
  • Did the presentation clearly describe the impact and/or results of the research, including conclusions and outcomes?
  • Did the presentation follow a clear and logical sequence?
  • Was the thesis topic, research significance, results/impact and outcomes communicated in language appropriate to a non-specialist audience?
  • 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 and 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 strong 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?

3MT Timeline

18-Jan Registration Opens for AU's 2020 3MT Internal Competition
6-Feb Dustin Purnell (2019 AU 3MT winner) presents webinar "Creating a Winning 3MT"
Watch Recording
10-Mar Deadline to register for AU's 3MT
13-Mar Final day for competitors to submit 3MT slide
17-Mar AU's 2020 3MT Competition
21-Apr The winner from AU's 3MT will go on to compete in the Western Regional Competition taking place at the University of Alberta.
1-Jun 3MT National Competition (Virtual)

Competitor Resources

Intellectual Property and Confidentiality

Students must understand that the presentation of their research in 3MT will be publicly accessible (i.e., in the public domain) via the FGS Presentation Repository

The presentation of the research will not affect any pre-existing rights following the competition, except as stated below:

  • Due to the nature of the competition, we will not ask judges, reviewers, staff, or the audience to sign non-disclosure agreements. If your research is being/has been conducted under contract with an outside sponsor, students should discuss the related contractual terms of confidentiality and intellectual property with their supervisor(s) before entering the 3MT.
  • The competition is open to the public at large, will be recorded, and may be available through a variety of AU media and social media.
  • Any data or information discussed or presented in the competition should be considered ‘public.’ If your research includes confidential or culturally sensitive material, students should discuss their competition entry with their supervisor(s) before entering the 3MT.

Registration Information

Registration form