The Three Minute Thesis competition is coming

REPRESENT YOURSELF: The Three Minute Thesis competition teaches students how to put their epic work in plain language in an engaging manner.

(Edmonton) The Faculty of Engineering’s Three Minute Thesis competition is open for registration and will run on February 24, 2017 from 10 a.m. to noon.

The top three competitors from Engineering are guaranteed spots at the University’s semi-finals to run March 21 to 24. Winners of the University 3MT receive cash prizes and go on to the Western Canada 3MT competition.

But the prizes aren't even the best reason to compete, says Hugh Gillen, a second year MSc student in Civil and Environmental Engineering and the winner of last year’s FEGRS Three Minute Elevator Pitch, a similar competition. “It’s valuable experience. You learn a lot about how to present your work and yourself, which is really good to know for conferences and meeting future employers.”

That is exactly the spirit behind the 3MT competition, which started at the University of Queensland in 2008. The aim is to help graduate students develop their presentation and communication skills, which are increasingly important in the workforce.

“We recognize people who speak well as experts in their field,” says Gillen. “So to be recognized as an expert, you need to be able to present well.” Even though he learned about the Elevator Pitch competition at the last minute, he signed up anyway because he wanted the chance to practice his presentation and public speaking skills. “I know from my time in industry that communication skills are really important so I wanted the chance to practice,” he says.

The judges for 3MT competitions are non-specialists and so the competition requires students to translate their very technical research into language that people outside their field can understand and appreciate. A good 3MT talk will leave the audience wanting to know more. Thinking about his audience was key to Gillen’s successful elevator pitch as well. “It’s not a thesis defense. You have to cater to your audience,” he says.

Beyond that, success comes with practice. “And practice. And practice,” says Gillen.

JUST TRY IT: To register for the Faculty of Engineering 3MT competition, which happens on February 24, 2017 from 10 a.m. to noon, email Find more about developing your 3MT at the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research.