Atlantic Coast Conference to Host Inaugural Three Minute Thesis Competition on Capitol Hill

Presenting a master’s or doctoral thesis involving months or years of research can take hours. Imagine delivering a thesis in three minutes or less — and in a way that anyone can understand.

That is exactly what graduate students from around the country will do when they face off in the first annual Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Three Minute Thesis Competition (3MT).

The competition will take place from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on July 22, in Room 2060 of the Rayburn House Office Building, 45 Independence Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. 20515.

Patterned after the University of Queensland’s 3MT competition in Australia, the competition will feature 13 master’s and Ph.D. students explaining their research before an audience of their peers and other guests on topics ranging from occupant comfort in high-rise buildings and maternal postpartum depression to the screening of plutonium in water and off-the-shelf, tissue-engineered vascular grafts. Three judges will choose a winner.

The criteria students will be judged on includes whether they avoid scientific jargon and effectively describe key results, including conclusions and outcomes for their research. Judges will also critique the students’ ability to engage the audience by conveying enthusiasm, good stage presence, and eye contact.

One student from each of the following universities will present:

  • University of Notre Dame
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • University of Miami
  • Syracuse University
  • University of Louisville
  • North Carolina State University
  • University of Pittsburgh
  • Florida State University
  • University of Virginia
  • Wake Forest University
  • Duke University
  • Clemson University
  • Georgia Institute of Technology

Bonnie Ferri, vice provost for Graduate Education and Faculty Development at Georgia Institute of Technology, is excited about partnering with other ACC schools for the 3MT competition.

"It's so inspiring to think that the research that each of these graduate students present during the 3MT Competition could one day change the world," Ferri said. "Since we launched the Georgia Tech version of the competition in 2015, we've watched the popularity grow. So, I’m thrilled to join forces with fellow ACC institutions to offer winners from across the conference another opportunity to share their research with the public and further hone their communication and presentation skills."

In 2008, the 3MT competition was established by the University of Queensland around the time when Queensland was suffering from a severe drought. To conserve water, residents were encouraged to time their showers, prompting many people to use three-minute egg timers to track the time, according to the university. A dean of the school borrowed the three-minute idea and combined it with his desire to shine a spotlight on the importance of cultivating students’ research presentation and communications skills. The goal of the competition is to increase students’ capacity to effectively explain their research quickly in language appropriate to a nonspecialist audience.

The success of the contest took off around the world. Today, the 3MT competition is held at over 600 universities across more than 65 countries, including dozens in the United States.

For more information or if you would like to cover this event, please contact Tracey Reeves at or 404-660-2929.

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  • Atlantic Coast Conference to Host Inaugural Three Minute Thesis Competition on Capitol Hill

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Tracey Reeves, Institute Communications