AU's 2021 Three Minute Thesis (3MT ®) competition

Are you up for the challenge?

Hey AU GRADUATE students:
Are you a research focused grad student?
Are you wanting to refine your presentation skills, enhance your public speaking comfort, and connect with other inspiring researchers?
Do you like CASH prizes?
Now that we have your attention...

We encourage you to consider participating in AU's 8th annual Three-Minute Thesis (3MT®) Competition on Tuesday, March 16th. We will kick off the event at 12:00 p.m. (MT). The competition begins at 12:30 p.m. (MT).

AU's Research Centre is sponsoring CASH prizes for the top 3 AU winners. The 1st place winner will also compete at the Western Regional Competition which is being hosted by AU on May 13, 2021.

  • 1st place award: $1000
  • 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


  • 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 2020 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


Brittany Hollett

MN Program & Winner of AU's 2020 internal 3MT competition


Brittany Hollett is a Registered Nurse on the Extracorporeal Life Support team at the Stollery Children’s Hospital in Edmonton, AB. She is currently completing her Master of Nursing degree at Athabasca University, with the hope to complete her PhD in Nursing and continue pursuing her love of research.


Dr. Andrew Perrin

Associate Vice President Research, Athabasca University


Dr. Andrew Perrin is Associate Vice President, Research at Athabasca University. He studies ancient scribes and scrolls to recover lost or forgotten aspects of Jewish & Christian thought, culture, and life in antiquity.


Erin Stevenson

Manager, Marketing, Athabasca University


Erin Stevenson is the Manager of Marketing at Athabasca University and has been with the university since 2013. She is also a two-time graduate and alumnus of AU (BPA Comms ’08 and MAIS ’16). Erin has been a part of the 3MT competition as a judge and coach for the last two seasons and looks forward to being a part of it again!


Joshua Whitehead

Athabasca University Writer-in-Residence


Joshua Whitehead is a Doctoral Student in the Department of English at the University of Calgary and AU’s 2020-2021 Writer-in-Residence. Joshua is an Oji-nêhiyaw, Two-Spirit member of Peguis First Nation. He is the author of full-metal indigiqueer (Talonbooks 2017) which was shortlisted for the inaugural Indigenous Voices Award and the Stephen G. Stephansson Award for Poetry.

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

8-Jan Registration Opens for AU's 2021 3MT Internal Competition
9-Mar Deadline to register for AU's 3MT
11-Mar Final day for competitors to submit 3MT slide
16-Mar AU's 2021 3MT Competition
13-May The winner from AU's 3MT will go on to compete in the Western Regional Competition taking place virtually at Athabasca University
TBD 3MT National Virtual Competition

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