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Three Minute Thesis

An 80,000 word thesis would take 9 hours to present. Your time limit...3 minutes.  Your prize...up to $1,000.

The 7th annual Three Minute Thesis competition took place virtually on Oct. 26 at noon. This year’s competition was once again held online via YouTube Livestream.

2021 NC State Virtual Three Minute Thesis Competition Livestream

Founded at the University of Queensland, 3MT® is your opportunity to hone your capacity to effectively explain your research in language appropriate to a non-specialist audience. Participating in 3MT will help you develop skills for teaching, pitching an idea to business investors or communicating your research to the media and policymakers.

Cash prizes will be awarded to first-place ($1,000) and second-place winners ($750) and to a “People’s Choice” winner chosen by audience members ($500).

2021 finalists / 2021 winners
2020 finalists / 2020 winners
2019 winners and finalists
2018 winners and finalists
2017 winners and finalist

Thanks to our 2021 Virtual 3MT Judges

  • Dr. Katey Ahmann, Head of Immersive Experiences, North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences
  • Dr. Rebecca Davis, Associate Laboratory Project Services Manager, Q2 Solutions
  • Dr. Haritha Malladi, Assistant Professor in Civil and Environmental Engineering and the Director of First-Year Engineering, University of Delaware (Haritha is an NC State alum and winner of our inaugural 3MT contest)

Thank you, judges, for your time and support of our GradPack!

This video includes important contest rules, dates, deadlines, video tips, and more.

Get Involved: Key 2021 3MT Contest Dates

  • Try Out for Prelims (Aug. – Late Sept.)
    • Read and get familiar with the “Competitor Information” and “Contest Rules” below
    • Submit your 3MT video and slide here by Sept. 20 at 5 p.m. to be considered in the preliminary rounds
      • To give everyone the best chance to place as a finalist, you will submit a 3-minute video recording of your 3MT talk and a separate PDF image of your slide
      • For example, you could film your talk using your camera phone or record in Zoom using a neutral background (ex. not your slide).
      • Submit the video as .mov or .mp4. The maximum file size is 1GB.
      • To save space, you can post your video as “private” to Youtube and upload the private Youtube link to the submissions form.
    • Check back on this site for additional information and tips on creating a strong 3MT prelim video
    • Schedule an appointment with one of our team members (info below) for more individual advice on creating a strong 3MT prelim video.
    • If you have been chosen as one of ten (10) finalists, you will receive an email from the Graduate School Professional Development Team no later than Sept. 29
    • Questions? Email Dr. Katie Homar on the Professional Development Team
  • Congratulations, you’re a finalist! Now what? (Sept. 29 – Oct. 15)
    • Finalists will be required to schedule a Zoom coaching session with a member of the Professional Development Team to refine their video talk (details TBA)
    • Finalists’ revised video submissions are due Oct. 15 at 5 p.m. to allow for compilation and judging
  • The Big Day: Oct. 26 at noon
    • Watch the contest via Youtube Livestream
    • Cheer on your colleagues and vote for them in the live people’s choice contest
    • Finalists, invite your family and friends from around the world to tune in

Competitor Information


Active graduate students — both Ph.D. and master’s students — are eligible to compete in 3MT at NC State.  We are looking for contestants who can speak about an independent research project that they are currently pursuing in their programs. For Ph.D. candidates, this could mean that you have completed preliminary or comprehensive exams and are in your dissertation phase. For master’s candidates, this means that you are in your second year of your program and have made significant progress on your research thesis. More successful 3MT presenters have done enough research that they can speak about the goals of their project to a broad audience as well as explain the potential significance and/or applications of their work.

Past 3MT finalists are not eligible to compete.

Alumni are not eligible.

Questions? Email Dr. Katie Homar on the Professional Development Team

Individual Coaching Appointments

Schedule a 30-minute virtual Zoom coaching session with a member of the Graduate School Professional Development Team if you would like more advice on creating a strong 3MT prelim video. Click on the links below to reserve a Zoom appointment:

Video Production Resources

Here are some basic video production tips:

  • shoot in landscape, not portrait
  • use a tripod or lean your camera against something steady when shooting your video
  • Light your subject and don’t shoot video with a bright light behind you (like a sunny window)
  • Try to angle the camera so it’s not looking up or down on you.
  • Avoid background noise when filming
  • Don’t wear clothes with patterns or clothes that will make you blend into the background color
  • Sign up for a technology consultation with the NC State Libraries for additional support.

Check out these resources from U of Calgary*, U of Guelph*, U of British Columbia* and U of Alberta* for more video-making tips.

Check out these sample virtual 3MT videos from U of Waterloo and U Calgary.

3MT Competition Rules and Scoring

Presentation Requirements and Guidelines

  • A single static PowerPoint slide is permitted. No slide transitions, animations or ‘movement’ of any description are allowed.
  • No additional embedded 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 three minutes maximum, and competitors exceeding three 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.


Click the links below for the official 3MT Rubric.

  • 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?
  • Did the oration make the audience want to know more?
  • Was the presenter careful not to trivialise or generalise 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?


Contact Dr. Katie Homar on the Graduate Professional Development Team

Resource Acknowledgements

U of Guelph resource credit: Johan Torres, Digital Content Designer, University of Guelph

U of Calgary resource credit: UCalgary Virtual 3 Minute Thesis – Presentation Tips. Tara Christie, PhD. Manager, My GradSkills. University of Calgary. Member of GPDN.

U of British Columbia Resource credit: Jacqui Brinkman, UBC Studios, University of British Columbia

Thanks to our colleagues at UAlberta and “Jeff Allen Productions” for the resource on lighting tips.