‘Three Minute Thesis’ Competition Held for First Time at Lehigh

Graduate students have three minutes to explain their research in virtual event.

Story by

Christina Tatu

Lehigh's campus

A Three Minute Thesis competition was recently held for the first time at Lehigh.

Imagine having just three minutes to deliver your thesis without any props, and without using any industry jargon.

Several  Lehigh students were up to the challenge recently as part of a Three Minute Thesis competition (3MT) held for the first time at the university. Developed by the University of Queensland in Australia, the competition cultivates students’ academic, presentation and research communication skills.

It challenges students to effectively explain their research in three minutes in a language appropriate to a non-specialist audience. Although the word thesis is in the title, the competition is open to Ph.D. students presenting a dissertation as well.

Lehigh hosted the competition virtually. There are plans to hold another event in the fall, said Yvonne Lee, assistant director of the Graduate Writers’ Studio, who also holds a Ph.D. in literacy, rhetoric and social practice from Kent State University.

There were six participants in the competition with awards for first, second and third place, along with the “people’s choice” winner chosen by the audience.

Artemiza Martinez won first place, a $500 prize, and the people’s choice award, a $100 prize. Martinez, a graduate student from Mexico, is studying biological sciences and presented her thesis, “Yeast, a Tale of Many Hybrids.”

The second-place winner was Annie Sanchez, a Ph.D. candidate studying biological sciences. She won $400 for her dissertation, “Drugs, Genes and Developmental Disabilities.”

The third-place winner was Swati Lakshmi Palghat, a graduate student in healthcare systems engineering. She won $200 for her thesis, “Efficient Scheduling in Dental Practices.”

“It can be quite difficult to distill an entire graduate research project into one static slide and a three-minute speech,” Lee said. “The six competitors were courageous and stepped up to the challenge. I am so proud of all of them.”

The five judges were Kate Bullard, senior research program development officer; Alan Snyder, vice president and associate provost for research and graduate studies; Teresa Cusumano, language specialist and English instructor with the International Center for Academic and Professional English; Almut Hupbach, associate professor of psychology and director of graduate studies, and Kelly Hochbein, director of strategic and research communications.

When Lee started at Lehigh in 2020, she said hosting a 3MT competition was included in her job description because it was something the university had not hosted at that point.

University administrators saw great value in the event, as it provides multiple benefits for students and the university.

“Graduate students practice talking about their work to an interested and educated, but non-expert audience, which is a skill they will need to continue to build throughout their graduate years and into their employment,” Lee said. “It also provides an opportunity for the university and its surrounding community to learn more about the exciting work that is happening here.” 


Story by

Christina Tatu