2020 Three Minute Thesis Competition

The Doctoral College, University of Surrey, invites postgraduate research students to participate in the 2020 Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) Competition. The 3MT is an academic competition that challenges PhD students to describe their research within three minutes to a general audience. 3MT celebrates the discoveries made by research students and encourages you to communicate the importance of your research to the broader community. Don’t miss this opportunity to develop your presentation skills, meet other doctoral students, and have a chance to win a £100 Amazon Voucher prize in the final and a £50 Amazon voucher in the Faculty Heats! The Surrey 3MT Final will be held on 4 June 2020, with Faculty Heats held w/c 27th April. We encourage all postgraduate research students to participate. The winning student will be entered into the semi-finals of the national 3MT competition.  

Here’s some words of advice from last year’s Surrey winner, Gavrielle Untracht:

Why did you decide to sign up for the 3MT competition last year – what persuaded you?

I decided to participate in 3MT for a few reasons. I am really fortunate to have a supervisor who encourages me to get involved in the university community beyond my research and to pursue professional development opportunities whenever I can. I tend to get really nervous when speaking in front of crowds, so I try to take every opportunity I can to practise, and push myself out of my comfort zone to try to desensitize myself to the stage fright. Additionally, I think it’s really important to be able to communicate your research to a public audience – this can be useful for grant applications, generating public interest in your research topic, and engaging with people at conferences to name a few examples. You need to be able to communicate your research to a broad audience if you want to have an impact beyond your small research community. Especially being in science it’s easy to get caught up in jargon and technical details, so 3MT is a useful exercise for helping to focus on how to communicate the main points of your work. 

How did you prepare?

Once I wrote my speech, I practised over and over again whenever I had the opportunity – when I was walking to campus, cooking, pacing in my office, looking in the mirror, etc. I practised until the speech felt like second nature until I could recite it without thinking to make sure that I wouldn’t forget it when the nerves took over. I split up the speech into small sections each with a specific topic to help with memorization. 

What have you learnt from your experience?

Since participating in 3MT, I have gained more confidence in my public speaking abilities and learned more about how to prepare myself before giving a talk. 

How has taking part in the 3MT helped to support your research?

I’m not sure I would say it has helped support my research, but it has helped me be able to communicate my research in many different situations. I can always pull out a few sentences from my speech when at a conference to describe my work in a brief conversation with a researcher outside my field. Also, my family feels like they can understand what I am doing now, which is a nice bonus. 

What was the most enjoyable part of the 3MT competition….And the most challenging?

The most challenging part for me is overcoming my nerves to speak in front of large groups of people, but succeeding in this also the most rewarding part. 

What would you say to someone considering whether to take part in the competition this year?

Definitely give it a go! It doesn’t take that much time to prepare, and it is great practice for networking and speaking at conferences. 

Finally, what 3 tips would you give participants of this year’s 3MT competition?

-Try to think of an analogy that you can work into your speech that will make the discussion of your research more accessible to someone who knows nothing about your field. 

-Think about hand gestures and whether you plan to move around during your speech – I choreographed hand gestures to go with certain words. They can help make your speech more dynamic and also help with memorization. 

-Don’t worry about describing your whole PhD – it’s better to choose one specific topic and make sure you communicate your point effectively. 

University of Surrey Finals The 2020 final will take place on 4th June, 12:30-14:00. Judges will include Prof David Sampson (Vice-Provost, Research and Innovation). Faculty heats will be held the week commencing 27th April.  

Training / preparation sessions Training sessions are offered on: Fri 3rd April 10:00 – 12:30 Mon 6th April 14:00 – 16:30 In the RDP Training Room   Find out more about communicating your research at the

Public Engagement event on 11th March 2020more details.  

To learn more about the competition history, rules, and gain valuable preparation tips, visit the 3MT website.

If you are interested in taking part in this year’s competition, please email rdp@surrey.ac.uk. Training and support will be offered to all participants.