The 3MT Success Story

3mtlogoLast week I was visiting the University of Queensland, which aside from having a beautiful campus, is the home to an astonishing success story, the three minute thesis.

It’s astonishing because the first three minute thesis competition only took place at UQ in 2008 and now just eight years later 350 universities are involved in 18 countries. And when I visit universities around Australia or New Zealand or the UK they are all busily getting ready for faculty heats or university finals or for the national and international competition. And the term three minute thesis is in common usage as though it had existed forever.

So while I was at UQ I thought I’d find out more about how it had come about. I spoke to Selina Weller, Engagement and Development Coordinator, who is responsible for organising the 3MT and also a good friend Tony Miscamble who was there at the start. Tony told me that the Dean of the Graduate School at the time, Alan Lawson, had the original idea and then Alan, the Deputy Dean Christa Critchley, and Tony workshopped the design to be more-or-less what it is today.

The first competition was in 2008 with 160 participants. The concept was presented to other universities at an ARTA conference and at the Quality in Post-graduate Research conference in 2010. Here’s a link to that paper:

In 2010, 27 Australian and four New Zealand universities took part in the first trans-Tasman competition. And now it’s spread to 350 universities and 18 countries.

9hoursThe idea is simple. You get three minutes and one slide to explain your research to a non-specialist audience. The challenge is to condense two or three years work into something meaningful in three minutes.


From the UQ 3MT website:


I’m a great supporter. I think it’s a great chance for research students to develop their presentation skills, to learn how to make their research accessible and to develop their confidence. Of course it’s nice to win but with the 3MT the real benefit is the experience and confidence you develop.

It’s happening at a university near you right now. If you don’t know much about it go along to the competition and see how it works. Maybe next year you might give it a go. And if you are involved good luck and enjoy the experience.

Find out more about the 3MT at


This entry was posted in 3MT. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *