2021 3-Minute Thesis Competition Details

Watch the videos from this year’s 3-Minute Thesis finalists!

Do you have difficulty explaining your research projects to friends and family? Do you wish you could describe your work more clearly in seminars and interviews?  Improve your ability to distill your main ideas, demonstrate the relevance of your research and creatively engage your audience. You will have 3 minutes and 1 slide to describe your research project to a broad audience.

Due to restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic this year, the competition is virtual for 2021.  Students are asked to submit a 3-Minute video using the Panopto platform. Please read the video formatting guidelines carefully as described below.

Students will compete within 4 divisional preliminary rounds:  Humanities, Social Sciences, Biological Sciences, and Physical Sciences/Engineering. Three finalists from each divisional group will proceed to the final round where they will have the opportunity to win one of the following prizes!

  • 1st Prize:  $1000
  • 2nd Prize:  Apple Watch
  • 3rd Prize:  $200 gift card
  • Audience favorite – Humanities/Social Sciences: $300
  • Audience favorite – STEM: $300

How Do I Participate?

Eligible Yale PhD students are eligible.   This year’s competition is currently closed to submissions.

Who Is Eligible?

All current, matriculated students enrolled in Yale’s PhD programs are welcome to apply and compete.

Dates & Deadlines

  • Sunday, March 7, 11:59pmRevised video submission deadline
  • Friday, March 19:  Finalists will be selected to move onto the championship round
  • Sunday, April 4th, 11:59pm ET:  Revised presentations by finalists due (modifications based on feedback from the preliminary round will be welcome and expected)
  • Thursday, April 17,  3:30pm ET:  Zoom Awards Celebration with Dean Lynn Cooley and judges

Video Formatting Requirements – Please Review Carefully

Students must submit video presentations using the Panopto, Yale’s video and lecture capture platform. For examples, see the 2020 finalist videos.  If you have any questions, please contact Brian Frenette at brian.frenette@yale.edu.

Click here to see our easy, step-by-step instructions on how to create your Panopto 3MT video!

Note:  Please read these instructions carefully to ensure proper formatting.  Any videos that do not follow the required format will need to be revised.

Video Presentation Rules

  • Only 1 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. notecards, laser pointers, 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 (i.e. no poems, raps, or songs).
  • Presentations are to be recorded using Panopto, using the ’tile all streams’ layout.
  • Presentations are considered to have commenced when a presenter starts their presentation through movement or speech.
  • The decision of the adjudicating panel is final.

Additional Presentation Tips

  • While there are no specific requirements for the color of your background/wall/etc., we do recommend aiming for a simple, clear background for your video that will not distract from your presentation.
  • Set your camera so that you are looking straight ahead and not from above or below.
  • Regarding body positioning, stay far enough away from your camera so that you appear in the shot from roughly the bottom of your rib cage, much like a newscaster would on television.  Appropriate usage of hand movements or gestures is allowed.
  • Presentations must be no more than 3 minutes in length.  Since you can record multiple takes, breaking this rule will result in disqualification.
  • Ensure your recorded presentations are properly lit so you can be clearly seen and that your voice is loud enough to be clearly heard.

For more tips, see this tutorial: Strategize Your Staging & Lighting in Online Presentations:  A Toolkit with Yale Broadcast Studio

Resources to Improve Your Presentation

Student participants have had access to a series of workshops and programs offered jointly by the Office of Career Strategy and the Graduate Writing Lab in the Poorvu Center for Teaching & Learning. Selected recorded sessions are available via the links below:

One-on-One Consultations

All participants are encouraged to schedule one-on-one advising appointments with Hyun Ja Shin from the Office of Career Strategy.  Available appointments can be seen and scheduled via Yale Career Link.  Participants can also schedule writing consultations with the Graduate Writing Lab.

PitchVantage Public Speaking Studio at the Graduate Writing Lab

PitchVantage is a program designed to help improve public speaking skills in a variety of different sectors of life.  Easily navigating the space between boardroom and lecture hall, this program focuses on different aspects of public presentation, from pacing to pitch, and evaluates performance in real time.  For more information and to book time in the studio please email the PitchVantage coordinator, Amelia Kennedy, at amelia.kennedy@yale.edu to receive registration and evaluation instructions.

For more resources to help you with your presentation, click here!

Judging Criteria

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?
  • Did the presentation recording appear clear and free of distracting elements (unnecessary noise, background clutter, etc.)?

The Poorvu CTL Certificate for Public Communication

3MT participants who take advantage of GWL, OCS, and Poorvu CTL professional development resources and compete in the 3MT semi-finals are eligible to earn the Poorvu CTL Certificate for Public Communication. The Certificate aims to recognize the commitment and key skills developed by students who continue through the semi-finals and actively leverage the resources available to them in the areas of professional oral and written communication, peer-to-peer collaboration, and interdisciplinary networking.

Requirements for earning the Certificate:

1. Use at least 2 resources in each of the “3 Themes” Categories (list of resources emailed to all who enroll – early enrollment is encouraged)
2. Use the GWL PitchVantage Public Speaking Studio to polish your speech before the preliminary competition
3. Participate in the 3MT preliminary competition by submitting your application and Panopto recording by the deadline
4. Complete a brief self-reflection form after the competition is finished

Enroll in the Spring 2021 Certificate Program here as you prepare for the 3MT Competition!

For questions about the Certificate program, please email Julia Istomina, Assistant Director of The Graduate Writing Lab, at julia.istomina@yale.edu.


Please contact Hyun Ja Shin, Director of Graduate and Postdoctoral Career Services.