3MT competition a learning opportunity for graduate students
Presenting your research to a non-academic audience in just three minutes may not be easy, but past participants have seen the benefits first-hand
Thousands of graduate students from around the world have taken part in Three-Minute Thesis (3MT®) competitions since the inaugural event at the University of Queensland in 2008. The competition requires graduate students in research-based programs to communicate what their research is about, and why it’s important, in just three minutes.
Since 2017, about 80 Athabasca University graduate students have taken part in the AU 3MT competition, hosted by the Faculty of Graduate Studies (FGS).
Those who have taken on the challenge have said the experience helped them learn how to communicate their research succinctly. It also improved their understanding of the significance of their work and how to apply that knowledge to advance their career prospects.
Discover what past winners have said about the experience and learn more about the AU 3MT competition on April 24, 2024.
Skyler Todd, 2023 AU 3MT winner
Skyler Todd, a student in the Master of Counselling program, won the 2023 AU 3MT competition with their presentation, “What are you having?”: The lived experiences of gender creative parents.
Todd spent the bulk of their studies learning how to best support gender non-conforming people in counselling. But when Todd became pregnant, they started questioning whether there were proactive practices to better support their child’s gender health—meaning living in the gender that feels most comfortable, and freely expressing that gender.
They said winning the competition and advancing to the Western Regionals competition helped them affirm that more people would be willing to listen and learn about their work.
When asked if they had any advice for future student competitors, Todd said “just take the plunge.”
“Whether you win or not, it’s really useful to be able to plainly summarize your research in three minutes. And it was also really fun to listen to other people’s research!”
Todd will present a one-hour webinar March 14, 2024, A Guide to a Winning 3MT!, with some helpful tips for creating a 3MT presentation.
Karli Jahn, 2022 AU 3MT winner
Karli Jahn won AU’s 2022 3MT competition with her presentation, Fat is not a bad word: exploring weight stigma and its effects on treatment outcomes in counselling interventions.
Jahn began her presentation by stating, “What if I told you everything we know about weight and health cannot be backed up by the most recent evidence-based research?”
“If you don’t have the curves in the right places, a flat stomach, or don’t look borderline starving, you’re fat,” she said. “I’m trying to use that as a neutral descriptor because I think if we start using it in a way that is broader, we can start making the changes that need to happen.”
Jiun-yi Zullo, 2021 AU 3MT winner
Jiun-yi Zullo (Master of Nursing ’21) won the 2021 competition with her thesis about emergency nurses’ experiences of occupational disappointment—the feeling of disheartenment with career choice. Zullo’s work focused on disappointment resulting from prevalent and unaddressed verbal abuse from patients and/or their visitors. It was inspired by her own experiences working as an emergency room nurse in Ontario at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
She said she was stunned by the win and credited the ongoing support of her thesis supervisor for encouraging her to pursue her research topic. As for the competition itself, she said it was helpful to have an opportunity to present among her peers, rather than in a more intimidating environment with senior researchers.
“I saw it as a way of understanding and connecting with other like-minded students, to see research at other levels and different stages,” she said. “When you watch other people present, you’re able to take tips about how to improve your own presentation.”
Brittany Hollett, 2020 AU 3MT winner
Brittany Hollett (Master of Nursing ’22) likewise drew on her experience working as a nurse as she developed her thesis topic. Her work focuses on how families of children in the pediatric intensive-care unit experience added stressors that require additional support when their child is near the end of their life.
She said the success she experienced during the competition, and in fact the whole process of the competition itself, helped reinforce her passion for the work and research she does, and helped fuel her as she completed her work.
“No matter what your background is with public speaking, or how far you are with your thesis, it is such a great experience,” she said. “Competing in the 3MT really draws on your passion and that will help fuel you into beginning your thesis and culminates in that passion and momentum you need when writing it.”
Dustin Purnell, 2019 AU 3MT winner
Dustin Purnell (Master of Counselling ’19) won the 2019 AU competition with his presentation based on a simple question: What would it be like for a mental-health counsellor to work with a client who is using child pornography?
This question, among others, guided work on his thesis, Ethical Tensions in Sex Addiction Counselling. His work explored the kind of tensions a counsellor might feel in counselling patients whose behaviours and attitudes might be drastically at odds with their own.
He described the experience as “a fantastic piece to add to my resumé.”
“I was pretty hesitant to enter the competition and waited until the last minute to actually register,” he said. “I’m glad a few people from FGS kept encouraging me to enter.”