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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 Graduate School hosted our 6th annual Three Minute Thesis, which took place virtually on December 2 at noon. This year’s competition was held online.

View the 2020 Virtual Three Minute Thesis YouTube Livestream

Founded at the University of Queensland, 3MT® is your opportunity 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.

Plus, 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).

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

Thanks to our 3MT Judges!

We greatly appreciate the time, feedback, and expertise of our 3MT final contest judges. Click each judge’s name below to see a brief bio.

Barclay Satterfield is the External Innovation Technology Manager for Eastman Chemical Company. She helps to lead an office on the NC State University Centennial Campus that supports the execution of three multi-year research partnerships with NC State, UNC Chapel Hill, and the University of Tennessee. In this role, Barclay and her teammates connect industry and university researchers to drive collaborative innovation.

Prior to joining Eastman in 2013, Barclay performed life cycle assessment studies as a consultant and was a Science Policy Fellow in the American Chemical Society’s Office of Public Affairs.

Barclay earned her Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from Princeton University and her B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Yale University.

Sarah Windsor is a STEM community builder. She has leadership experience in the non-profit, academic, and government sectors. She most recently served as the Director of STEM RTP, the STEM education initiative of the Research Triangle Foundation. While there she led partnership development, fundraising and program strategy and was the primary liaison to educational, non-profit, government and corporate communities.

Sarah has an extensive mix of Triangle flavor. Sarah earned her undergraduate degree in Biology from NC State, her PhD in Microbiology from UNC Chapel Hill, and completed a postdoc fellowship at NC Central University and at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences in the Genomics and Microbiology lab. She has also served as the local RTP president of Graduate Women in Science (GWIS) and is a member of Sigma Xi. She is passionate about societal scientific literacy, creating beneficial partnerships, fostering intellectual curiosity, faith and science, women in STEM, and of course, bacteria.

Originally from France, Nelly graduated from University of Florida with a MS in Biomedical Engineering in 2003 and a PhD in 2009. Following eight years in Gainesville, FL, she accepted a postdoctoral position at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, UT. In 2014, Nelly was hired by GE healthcare MR as an advanced project engineer in Florence, SC. She has been involved in medical & imaging hardware device development for over 15 years particularly in Magnetic resonance imaging. She has managed innovative projects and organized laboratories/test areas in industry, academic and clinical research settings with multi-disciplinary, multinational, and cross functional teams. She has authored several peer-reviewed papers, patent applications, conference abstracts, and grant applications.

Special Thanks to our Prelim Judges!

We appreciate your time, expertise, and feedback in helping us choose the top ten finalists. Thank you to the following members of the Wolfpack community who served as judges in our preliminary rounds:

  • Joe Aldinger
  • Greer Arthur
  • Nate DeGraff
  • Laura Demarse
  • April Kedrowicz
  • Brent Lancaster
  • Mollie Rappe
  • Matt Shipman
  • Chris Smith

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.

Video Production Resources

Here’s 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?

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!