Showcase your research … but do it quickly

Showcase your research … but do it quickly

The Three Minute Thesis graduate student competition tests the ability to present one’s research projects in a clear, concise way in only 180 seconds.

By Catarina Chagas

April 1, 2022


It is often challenging for researchers to summarize their findings into a paper to be published or into a short presentation for a meeting, let alone to put years of work into a three-minute pitch. But that’s exactly the challenge proposed by the Three Minute Thesis Competition (3MT) organized by Queen’s School of Graduate Studies.

Each year, masters and doctoral candidates are invited to present their research and its impact in front of selected non-specialist judges and a live audience. The winner gets to represent Queen’s in an Ontario-wide 3MT event and can be among the few selected to participate in national and international competitions. This year marks the 10th year Queen’s has hosted a 3MT.

On March 24, the 10 finalists who made it through qualifying heats showcased their ability to communicate research in a clear, engaging way. The winner of the $1,000 grand prize was Amtul Haq Ayesha, a master’s student in the School of Computing. She will represent Queen’s at the Ontario-wide 3MT competition to be hosted at the University of Guelph on May 4.

Working on methods to allow remote measuring of vital signs – heart rate, oxygen saturation, blood pressure, and others – using online video calls, Ayesha has dived deep enough into technical knowledge to understand how challenging it can be to talk about her research in a way non-experts can engage with.

“When you have spent such a long time on one project, everything in your mind is crystal clear. This makes us think that whatever we are talking is very simple to understand,” she says. “But when someone hears your subject for the first time, it takes time to absorb and understand. That is the most challenging part – to infer how much a person hearing about it (and for only three minutes) comprehends. As presenters, we want the audience to understand everything clearly”.

Ayesha believes participating in 3MT helped her practice “the art of explaining the technical jargon in such simple words that the audience relates with it” – an ability she foresees being very useful in her journey as a researcher.

Watch Ayesha's winning presentation:

Lessons learned on how to communicate research

Another presenter that stood out to the judges was PhD candidate Navjit Gaurav (Rehabilitation Science), the runner-up for this year’s competition. He presented his project on new ways to design schools in India to promote inclusion of children with disabilities.

For Gaurav, the main challenges of the research communications exercise were managing time, speaking in a jargon-free way, and knowing what not to communicate.

“Most of the time we have a lot to convey, and we think each piece of information is indispensable. We had to reflect on what is the most important thing that we want the audience to know about our research,” he explains.

To prepare for his presentation, Gaurav practiced with family members who are not familiar with his area of expertise. He believes this was very useful to help him craft his pitch in plain language to engage non-expert audiences.

Watch Gaurav's presentation:

People’s choice voting is open

The 10 finalists that participated in Queen’s 3MT final event are now competing for a People’s Choice prize. Voting will be open today from 4 p.m., until April 6 at 4 p.m. For more information and to cast your vote, visit the website.

Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs